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Headshot of Jenna Gartland

Before starting at Carolina, Jenna Gartland wasn’t sure she was comfortable calling herself a writer. 

“I saw writers as a ‘capital W’ — an unattainable profession only fit for the Suzanne Collinses and Ocean Vuongs of the world,” she said.  

Being part of the English and comparative literature department’s creative writing program has helped to change her mind. 

“I quickly realized that writing was a tool that can be used by anyone, a tool for extracting the truth from the depths of your human experience.” 

Jenna, a senior from Bay Shore, Long Island, is a Thomas Wolfe Scholar, an opportunity that allowed her to join an “incredibly inspiring and talented community of writers who take their craft seriously and take themselves completely unseriously.” 

In the English and comparative literature department, Jenna’s favorite class has been Advanced Creative Nonfiction. Taught by Stephanie Elizondo-Griest — who Jenna names as a mentor — the course helped to sharpen Jenna’s craft. 

In ENGL 404, I’ve teared up, fumed in anger, laughed until my face flushed red and shocked myself with the vulnerability that came out of my pen,” she said. 

Jenna is also a rhetoric and public issues major in the communication department, an area of study she found through her passion for social justice work and reform.  

Through her coursework in the communication department, “I’ve learned about the ins and outs of political propaganda, archiving oral history, creating eye-catching multimedia projects, and debating topics passionately and persuasively,” she said.  

“Creative writing taught me that anything was possible, and communication showed me how to make it happen.” 

Outside of her studies, Jenna started UNC’s first-ever student drag troupe, Chapel Heelz, to create more opportunities for queer performance at Carolina. Through the organization, she’s been able to work with student groups and small businesses to raise thousands of dollars for gender-affirming healthcare and the Drag Defense Fund. 

“It’s one of my favorite things about being a Tar Heel — if you have an idea, you can absolutely make it happen here.” 

By Jess Abel ’19

Tar Heels of the Week are nominated by professors in their department. Follow us on Instagram to explore more College Up Close.