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The scholarship was established in 2001 with a gift to the College of Arts & Sciences from alumnus Frank Borden Hanes Sr. of Winston-Salem.

The Thomas Wolfe Memorial on the UNC campus.
The Thomas Wolfe Memorial on the UNC campus.

Incoming first-year student Jenna Gartland has been awarded the 2020 Thomas Wolfe Scholarship, a full, four-year merit scholarship in creative writing in the College of Arts & Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill. She was born in and adopted from Chita, Russia, but grew up in Brightwaters, New York.

Jenna Gartland stand outside under trees.
Jenna Gartland

The scholarship program was established  in 2001 with a gift to the College from alumnus Frank Borden Hanes Sr. of Winston-Salem. It honors Carolina graduate Thomas Wolfe, best known for his 1929 novel, Look Homeward, Angel. Twenty-one students have been awarded scholarships since the program began.

Gartland graduated from Bay Shore High School. She was a part of her school’s creative writing club and has had her work published in The Writer’s Block, the high school’s nationally ranked literary magazine, and Her Campus, Stony Brook University’s Literary Magazine.

She won the statewide NCTE Achievement Award in Writing in 2019. She has also won multiple writing awards from The Writer’s Block and in the Ethnic Pen Writing Contest.

In high school, she traveled to Denmark with her school’s IB Diploma Programme as a part of a cultural exchange program. Before that trip, Gartland had never left the country. She writes that “this experience was game-changing for me and greatly widened my international perspective.”

The Thomas Wolfe Scholarship reading committee wrote: “Jenna Gartland writes about her forebears with a tenderness and understanding that most high school authors find difficult to summon. The subjects of many of her poems are displaced people, immigrants in strange or difficult situations beyond their control, but worthy of love. Her work also shows traces of her slam poetry background and provides her poems with a conversational looseness. She has the potential to be a star in the creative writing program.”

Gartland, who shared that “I’ve been known to devour entire book series in one sitting and sit for days relishing the place it took me to,” counts Soman Chainani, Langston Hughes and Denice Frohman among her favorite authors.

In her scholarship essay, Gartland wrote: “I write like a child scribbles with crayons; blindly, colorfully, authentically and without any regard to conformity. I write often and unabashedly, because it allows me to clarify my most difficult life experiences, gain new perspectives and articulate my deepest truths. I write, not only to illuminate the darkness I find myself in, but to shine a proverbial flashlight throughout the often forgotten depths of my community. I write for personal enjoyment, self-expression and the thrill of existing in my most authentic form: me.”

Amid the pandemic, for the first time since the creation of the scholarship, the advisory committee interviewed Gartland via Zoom.

“Virtually, we met a bright, lively and personable young woman whose radiant enthusiasm for writing inspired us,” said Marianne Gingher, professor of English and comparative literature and co-director of the scholarship. “In reading her work (which included a stunning futuristic short story as well as poetry) and in our conversations with Jenna, we discovered a thoughtful, sensitive and empathetic spirit that is certain to flourish at Carolina.”

Gartland wrote in her scholarship application that Carolina was her first choice school.

“I believe that the programs and atmosphere at UNC-Chapel Hill are a perfect fit for me and will allow me to challenge myself and influence the university community as a whole.”





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