Orange Alert

Kim Wolfe, 2010

Agnew and Wolfe

Posted on: June 1, 2010


Anything I Want

When skeptics asked Kim Wolfe, the recipient of the 2010 Carol Lipson Award for Outstanding Major, what she could do with a degree in Writing and Rhetoric, her answer was clear: "Anything I want." And since declaring the major, she has done plenty.

Kim says that she became involved with the Writing & Rhetoric major "by mistake." Carol Lipson, for whom the Outstanding Major award is named, was Kim's freshman year advisor. Lipson's encouragement and advice were instrumental in Kim's choice to pursue a degree in the field. However, it wasn't an easy sell; although Kim had written journals and other creative pieces for most of her life, she still wasn't sure that the major was for her. She attributes part of her decision to pursue Writing & Rhetoric to the persuasive ability of Writing Program Director Eileen Schell. "Eileen really convinced me that creative nonfiction was the way to go."


Once her decision was made, Kim jumped right in, serving on the Student Advisory Board for the major, consulting in the Writing Center, and acting as Editor in Chief of Intertext, the Writing Program magazine that showcases student work. She did well in her courses, and it was in the classroom that she was prompted to become involved in the Syracuse community. For a Civic Writing class with Lois Agnew, Kim began volunteering at the Inner Beauty Parlor on Syracuse's Near West Side, where she helped to create a safe space in which young girls could cultivate their inner strength and beauty.

Though Kim thrived in Civic Writing, she couldn't get Schell's words about creative nonfiction out of her head. While studying in London, Kim took a creative nonfiction course, but she found that she didn't do as well with this genre as she would have liked. Rather than giving up on it, though, Kim kept working and eventually grew to love creative nonfiction. "I was intimidated," Kim says. "I could hide more easily behind something that was fictitious. But through my classes and relationships with Writing Program faculty, creative nonfiction was no longer daunting—it was exciting." Kim is still excited; she's currently working on a memoir she began this summer.

Professors in the Writing Program also encouraged Kim to continue working in the community. At the suggestion of Steve Parks, Kim applied for a prestigious Engagement Fellowship, which provides a year of paid employment and remitted tuition to Syracuse University graduates working to benefit the community. A native Syracusan, Kim was eager to continue to serve the community, beginning work on the Near West Side this fall.

As part of her fellowship, Kim is involved with a collaborative project at 601 Tully, a former residence being converted into a sustainable storefront and community center for art, writing, publishing, and entrepreneurialism. Assisting Parks, Kim is working to create a writing group and establish a press to publish the group members' stories. Kim's responsibilities include working with Say Yes to Education and Mobile Literacy Arts Bus (MLAB), where she will facilitate afterschool programs for Syracuse city school students. Parks is excited about Kim's involvement: "She will bring both a deep knowledge of the community as well as a deep commitment to using writing as a means not only for self expression but for enabling communities to find a collective voice." Schell adds, "Kim was a very civic-minded student searching for a place to bring together her various areas of passion—writing, community engagement, and social justice work. She is always thinking about how global issues play out locally, and she is willing to get involved and make things happen. I'm glad the Writing and Rhetoric major became her home base; we benefited and continue to benefit from her leadership."


Kim is also taking graduate courses, including an independent study with Parks in which she is trying to link her two passions: writing and social work. She urges current majors to follow her lead and keep an open mind, especially with respect to courses and genres that they may find difficult. Kim repeatedly surprised herself as a Writing major, and she knows that she will continue to do that in the future: "No matter where I end up, I have the tools to look at things analytically and to overcome my weaknesses. I can do anything I want to do."  

Images above:

Professor Emeritus Carol Lipson presents Kim with the award that bears her name

Kim with Writing Program Director Eileen Schell

Kim celebrates graduation with her family.