Former Lewis Center resident Myrial Holbrook has been awarded a scholarship in Stanford University’s prestigious Knight-Hennessy Scholars program. Holbrook, a 2015 graduate of the Columbus School for Girls, will head to Palo Alto, California, in September to pursue a Ph.D. in English at the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences.
According to the school’s website, “The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program cultivates and supports a highly-engaged, multidisciplinary and multicultural community of graduate students from across Stanford University, and delivers a diverse collection of educational experiences, preparing graduates to address complex challenges facing the world.”
The 2021 cohort of scholars selected for the program includes a total of 76 students representing 26 different countries.
For Holbrook, the scholarship adds to an already impressive list of academic accomplishments that includes graduating magna cum laude from Princeton University with a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature. Currently, Holbrook is finishing up a two-year Marshall Scholarship that has included stops at the University of Cambridge in England for an MPhil, or master’s degree, in education and at the University of East Anglia for a master of arts degree in creative writing.
Holbrook said she was drawn to Stanford University’s English program, first and foremost, adding the “entrepreneurial mindset there is unparalleled.” But more than just studying at Stanford, Holbrook said she was interested in the prospect of doing more in the public communities, which led her to apply for the scholarship.
“That’s what really drew me in,” Holbrook said of the Knight-Hennessy program. “It’s more than just getting a degree in your discipline and kind of being in academia, cloistered in your little sphere. I wanted to do something more outside the university.”
The idea of studying English as a discipline was not on Holbrook’s radar when she first stepped foot on Princeton’s campus. In fact, Holbrook said there were many different paths she considered taking, including international relations or perhaps even chemistry. But after being drawn mostly to her humanities classes, and having studied Spanish, Chinese, and English, she landed on comparative literature as a major.
“I just love reading, and I love working with words,” Holbrook said. “I’m doing a creative writing course right now, so I love both writing, reading, and just exploring language.”
Asked what she hopes to do once she’s accomplished her Ph.D. from Stanford, Holbrook said she would love to be a professor at a university, teaching English and research. However, Holbrook said she also has a broader interest in literacy, literature and education.
“I have an interest in earlier literacy,” Holbrook said. “Primary school but also high school and the early exposure to literature because I do think we are in a crisis where literacy has been going down; humanities kind of just get the shaft, even at higher institutions. There are fewer and fewer humanities majors, and I think there is much room for academics in the humanities to go beyond academia and into the public sphere. Not just to evangelize literature but to learn how people read more broadly, even if they’re not doing literary analysis or research. Just how they read and how texts work with and inform them, and how they work upon texts.”
Holbrook went on to say she can envision herself working in publishing as well, continuing to write creatively. Holbrook shared she is currently working on her first novel, although she added it could take a few more years to finish as work begins on her Ph.D. Perhaps even starting a nonprofit organization centered on early childhood literacy could be the path to pursue, she went on to say.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.