Spotlight on Seniors: English Major Katie Clelland Writes Her Way to Community

Student Katie Clelland

If you ask Katie Clelland what her favorite book is, she would be hard pressed to give you an answer. Quite simply, she has too many.

“I love These Is My Words by Nancy Turner. It’s about travel and how moving involves vulnerability, and it focuses on women’s experiences. I also love Wide Sargasso Sea—it centralizes the story of Antoinette Cosway from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and we get to hear the side of the ‘madwoman in the attic’ with greater complexity. I’ve read it four to five times.”

If you’re noticing a theme of stories that center women’s experiences, it’s by design. Clelland recalls that at her all-girls Catholic high school, she felt that the curriculum was dominated by male-centered stories and male authors. “I didn’t like literature that much for that reason,” she says. But a writing camp in Ireland the summer before her senior year changed everything. “We read lots of female authors—I loved Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and we learned about female narratives.”

Nevertheless, when she returned stateside, she started college as a computer science major. “Computer science seemed just like another language, and I love languages,” she explains. “But you aren’t working with people’s stories, so I applied to become a transfer student and take advantage of Scripps’ stellar Department of English.”

Now, Clelland spends her days thinking about how writing and community support one another. During her junior and senior years, she had on-campus employment as an editorial intern for the College’s Office of Marketing and Communications, interviewing students, staff, and faculty and writing stories about the Scripps community. “I’ve always believed that writing can connect communities and create experiences for readers, and I’ve always appreciated writing. I knew that the MarComm office did that work, and so when I saw the editorial intern position, I knew I had to apply,” she recalls. While a student, she also held a marketing internship at the Heard Museum of American Indian Art, the public relations firm LAVIDGE, where she helped with campaigns for authors and publishing companies, and Echo Lake Entertainment in Beverly Hills, where she wrote score sheets of books to develop pitches for movies.

This fall, Katie will take her love of writing and community engagement and head to Chicago for graduate school to study integrated marketing and communications at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. “I’ve always been interested in the creative side of business marketing and public relations,” she explains. “You get to use your creative mind to promote something that’s important to you. And I think with the right company, marketing campaigns can effect positive change in the world—they can inspire confidence and healthy lifestyles and an appreciation for nature.”

Until then, Clelland spends her days working on her senior thesis, which explores how fiction destabilizes distorted and false narratives through close study of Haitian American author Edwidge Danticat’s novel The Farming of Bones, and attending virtual classes while enjoying time with friends. But as she eagerly awaits Commencement, she fondly recalls her time on the Scripps College campus, reading on the porch of her residence hall with fellow English major Sarah Halabe, and drinking London Fog—Earl Gray tea sweetened with steamed milk—at the Motley Coffeehouse.

“Going to a liberal arts college, I got to take classes outside of my major. I loved going to Scripps Presents events and learning from all the distinguished presenters. At Scripps, no matter where you go, people want to talk to you and get to know you. Especially as a transfer student, I got a community I had never experienced. I love Scripps.”