By University Development
Since becoming Chair of the Creative Writing Department in 2018, Nona Caspers has worked with her faculty and staff to make the program more relevant and accessible to diverse students. With her lead, the department has hired faculty from historically underrepresented communities and has broadened the program’s offerings. “The goal of our faculty and staff and also of our current students is to make the program attainable to students from diverse communities and perspectives,” says Nona. “We want the College of Liberal & Creative Arts (LCA) to be the go-to place for emerging voices in creative writing who have historically struggled to be heard.”
A key component of Nona’s plan is to offer scholarships to students who may not otherwise be able to study creative writing. Responding to a public request for student support which she made during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, an anonymous family foundation has stepped up with a life-changing donation. The newly created $150,000 Bernice Ruben Arnold Scholarship Fund will award two $5,000 scholarships a year with preference to first-generation students in the Creative Writing Department’s MFA program, through the academic year 2025/26. As long as students remain in good academic standing with the department, they can receive the scholarship for a total of up to three years. Although any student can apply, preference is given to those who are first in their family to attend college. Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), and LGBTQ students are encouraged to apply.
Nona and the Creative Writing faculty and staff are elated that the program’s students will receive this support, which she believes will be a huge financial relief for students and will help remove barriers to their creativity. “Students who are first-generation, who have lived in this white supremacist system, we hope this gives them an opportunity to flourish,” says Nona. “A little more ease, a little more cushion, and confidence that THEY BELONG HERE. The scholarship gives all BIPOC students an invitation and the message that we welcome and value them."
“Students who are first-generation, who have lived in this white supremacist system, we hope this gives them an opportunity to flourish”
—Nona Caspers, Chair of the Creative Writing Department
The scholarship is named after Bernice Ruben Arnold, who fiercely identified with anyone who was unseen, under-appreciated, or struggling against prejudice of any kind. The Bernice Ruben Arnold scholarship is offered in honor of Bernice’s understanding and appreciation of valuable students for whom things do not come easily.
The Bernice Ruben Arnold Scholarship will be awarded to two students starting this semester. Six new creative writing scholarships have also been created in the department by the Marcus Funds for Excellence in the Liberal & Creative Arts, which was made possible by a $25 million gift from alumni George & Judy Marcus in 2018. Together, the impact on the program and its student body from these gifts promise to be transformational.