Emma Chisholm never thought she’d be one to go to college. It was such a large initial investment and higher education comes with a lot of bells and whistles. For the public school graduate, it was hard to justify the cost.
So when she graduated from Chaminade University in 2019, thanks to the help of scholarships, it was a big moment. But it was also a scary moment.
“I had no idea who I was and what I actually wanted,” says Chisholm. “I knew what I enjoyed, but I didn’t know who I wanted to be.”
Like so many new graduates, Emma suddenly felt the whole world open up. “The truth is, the road is all over the place and you can go in any direction.”
Chisholm has always had a passion for writing. Upon graduating, the English major did a short stint teaching English online before taking on a few freelance writing jobs. And when she did, it was as though something clicked inside.
“When they decided to hire me, I was extremely happy,” describes Chisholm. “I was thrilled at the prospect of writing professionally. It would be a job where I could call myself a writer.”
Although she didn’t have a clear cut path after graduating, Chisholm took solace in the fact that she found strong mentors in her Chaminade professors.
She initially established a connection with Dr. Allison Paynter after taking one of her classes. She recognized a shared analytical mindset and a sense of enjoyment for reading. She shared the same mindset with other professors as well, but there was something about Dr. Paynter that kept her coming back.
“She thought more about me,” says Chisholm. “It seemed as though there was a developing relationship between us where we could talk easily about our interests and build on that, but she also pays attention to me. She heard me, and she saw me.”
And the feeling was mutual. Dr. Paynter saw a talent in Chisholm that she was excited to help her explore.
“I had told her during the Honors Ceremony at graduation to stay in touch,” says Paynter. “And she was one of those students who actually took me at my word. For probably close to a year I would meet with her every few months.”
The two spoke frequently about Chisholm’s future goal and next steps, and Dr. Paynter’s guidance helped lead Chisholm to explore graduate schools.
“I had a friend at the time who had just gotten her Masters in Fine Arts in poetry,” says Dr. Paynter. “I wanted to share that with Emma to see if that was something that would interest her. We started looking at New York University publishing programs, and in the process Mills College in California started to appeal to her.”
It was partly the location that attracted her. “I don’t feel like I see myself in a state like New York,” says Chisholm. “I’m more in tune with the atmosphere in California. Ultimately, I’m looking for a place where I can establish myself with a career.”
Chisholm has since been accepted to both the MFA in creative writing program at Mills College and the MFA program at the University of San Francisco for this fall and is deciding between the two. She plans to continue freelance writing on the side while pursuing her degree.