Lenaya Stewart Awarded 2014 Arts and Humanities Dean’s Senior Scholar Award

November 11, 2014

The English Department is proud to announce that English major Lenaya Stewart has been awarded the prestigious 2014 Arts and Humanities Dean’s Senior Scholar Award for academic excellence in undergraduate studies, dedication to lifelong learning, exemplary leadership and commitment to community involvement.

Lenaya, a senior English major with minors in creative writing and rhetoric, has always held an interest in working with students, especially in public city schools. At the age of fifteen, Lenaya became financially independent. She spent most of her life as a ward of the state and in the temporary guardianship of various family members. Lenaya attended four different high schools, three of which she attended during her junior year.

Lenaya’s achievement and involvement at the University is exceptional. She is the recipient of an honor from the Incentive Awards Program Fund, a full scholarship program. Lenaya served as an awards chair and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Theta Nu Chapter. She also completed the Jimenez-Porter Writers’ House Living and Learning Program, and is the poetry editor of STYLUS - A Journal of Literature and Art, the president of the OMSE Academic Excellence Society, and a member of the English Honors Program. Lenaya served on the editorial board for The Paper Shell Review from the fall of 2012 to the spring of 2013 and participated in the McNair Research Program, as well as the Folger Shakespeare Library Seminar.

In addition to her on-campus involvement, Lenaya is also involved in local community outreach. Lenaya participated in the Young Scholars Program and served as a teaching assistant in a poetry and fiction class taught to high school students. At Northwestern High School, she was an SAT tutor in the Verizon Mobile Learning Lab. She was also a tutor-counselor at Upward Bound and a mentor and team leader at America Reads America Counts.

Lenaya’s experience in the Department has taught her invaluable lessons.

“Due to the support of the English Program and the multiple seminars and advanced classes within the English major, I have been able to meet and build relationships with the faculty. I feel confident in my ability to conduct research and craft ideas in a graduate school environment. I have learned the power of research, especially its place in a global world. I have developed a strong eye for noticing patterns and themes in poetry and prose. As a lover of scholarly and creative writing, the English department has helped me merge both of these loves, and has trained me in both,” said Lenaya.

At the University, Lenaya’s greatest influences are Dr. Linda Coleman, Dr. Mary Helen Washington, Dr. Laura Rosenthal, and Professor Michael Collier. Lenaya says that Coleman pushed her to put more care and quality into her writing. Coleman’s rhetoric course changed Lenaya’s perspective on discourse. Rosenthal was Lenaya’s mentor last summer during the McNair Research Program. Lenaya says Rosenthal introduced her to a writing process that is necessary to complete a graduate-level thesis paper. Rosenthal’s course on eighteenth-century literature reshaped Lenaya’s interests and exposed her to an advanced level of critical analysis. Washington solidified Lenaya’s interest in African American literature. Collier is Lenaya’s mentor for her creative writing project for the English Honors Program. He has encouraged her to write, research, and read on her own, especially outside of a workshop environment.

“Over the years, I’ve had plenty of students who are self-directed and know how to work hard—qualities Lenaya Stewart has in abundance—but it is rare to have a student who is able to internalize what she has learned as quickly as Lenaya does,” said Collier.

“In her case, this has resulted in poems of increasing sophistication and a widening range of forms and styles as well as a deepening of their emotional necessity. Everyone who has worked with Lenaya will tell you that she is one of the best of our English majors.”

Post-graduation, Lenaya hopes to attend an English Ph.D. Program. She is currently applying to programs and wishes to become a researcher and professor. Lenaya is interested in the concept of “renaissance” and plans to focus on African American literature, specifically the Harlem Renaissance in comparison to the English Renaissance.

Congratulations, Lenaya!