Poetic justice: Friends and colleagues honor professor’s legacy with scholarship

Claudia Emerson. Photo by Kent Ippolito.

Claudia Emerson. Photo by Kent Ippolito.

Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry in 2006. Poet Laureate of Virginia 2008–2010. Passionate professor.

Though Claudia Emerson came late to the world of poetry, she embraced the genre and said in a PBS interview shortly after winning the Pulitzer that she processed the world through poetry.

Almost immediately after her death from colon cancer in December 2014, friends and colleagues at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she was a creative writing professor in the English department of the College of Humanities and Sciences, established the Claudia Emerson Scholarship to celebrate her life and her dedication to her students.

The scholarship assists students by providing access to enrichment opportunities such as conferences and workshops. The scholarship monies also help increase the stipends available for graduate teaching assistants.

Emerson was at VCU for a short time only, arriving in summer 2013. But the impression she made has been etched for a lifetime.

“I worked with Claudia during my second year,” said Christie Maurer, now a third-year graduate student pursuing an M.F.A. in poetry. “We would get coffee, and she’d invite students to her home for workshops. She was amazing.”

Awarded to undergraduate and graduate students in the poetry or creative nonfiction program in the department, the Claudia Emerson Scholarship has already benefited five students as they hone their craft. Maurer is one.

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