By Jake Weiner
This year, thanks to a generous contribution by an anonymous donor, Kenyon will begin offering a merit-based writing scholarship aimed at attracting some of the nation’s best young writers.
The S. Georgia Nugent Award in Creative Writing will be granted to one exceptionally gifted participant in The Kenyon Review’s Young Writers Workshop, according to Kenyon Review Editor David Lynn. The award will confer a minimum award of $12,000 annually. Dean of Admissions Jennifer Delahunty described the new scholarship as “a wonderful opportunity to recognize one of our Young Writers alumni.”
In spite of (or perhaps because of) Kenyon’s rich literary history and penchant for attracting aspiring writers from around the country, the College previously offered merit-based scholarships for writing only through The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program, according to the Kenyon website. The Office of Admissions already grants merit-based scholarships to distinguished applicants in the sciences, studio art and music, but until now, unless they participated in The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program, aspiring writers and English majors have had to hope for a more general merit-based based award, like the College’s Distinguished Academic Scholarships. That situation changed this past year when a Kenyon Review trustee “heard about our Young Writers program [and] wanted to find a way to support bringing talented young writers to Kenyon,” Lynn said. That trustee’s one million dollar donation will soon begin doing just that.
The Young Writers Workshop is a 22-year-old summer program that is “an intensive two-week workshop for intellectually curious, motivated high school students who value writing,” according to The Kenyon Review’s website. “Every year we bring about 180 high school students to Gambier, and most of them are really tremendous students and people and writers,” Lynn said. The program is not only an opportunity for aspiring writers to hone their skills but has also proven to be mutually beneficial both as a springboard for applicants hoping to gain Kenyon admission and financial aid, as well as a chance for the College to become acquainted with some of the most promising members of the applicant field.
While the Young Writers Workshop gives Kenyon a head start in courting some of the country’s most gifted high school graduates, the problem is that “some of the very best of them get lured away to Ivy Leagues or to Stanford, schools that can give them not just need-based aid but merit-based aid,” Lynn said. The real purpose of the scholarship is to attract those writing students “who might otherwise go somewhere else.”
The recipient of the S. Georgia Nugent Award in Creative Writing will be chosen through a careful review of admissions essays by the staff of both the Office of Admissions and The Kenyon Review, and the winner will be announced at the Young Writers Workshop, according to the Kenyon website. Lynn said, “Over the last 20 or 30 years, Kenyon has gotten better and better students across the board, but our big challenge always is financial aid.” With this new scholarship, Kenyon will be able to attract one more exceptional young writer each year.