Jami Hirsch

Jami Hirsch, a graduate student in English at UMSL, won an “Emerging Voices” Scholarship in June from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation and the Ford Motor Company Fund. (Photo by August Jennewein)

For University of Missouri–St. Louis student Jami Hirsch, filling a blank page is nothing new. She’s been crafting short fiction since grade school, when her tale about a figure-skating basset hound took top honors in a children’s writing contest. But until recently, Hirsch mostly kept her stories to herself.

“I’ve always been a writer, but I didn’t often share it with anyone until the last couple years,” Hirsch said.

Then, in her senior year at UMSL, she began to explore her voice among fellow students in a course called Writers at Work, led by Assistant Teaching Professor Jeanne Allison, coordinator of the Writing Certificate Program.

“From the start, it was obvious that Jami was a strong, engaging writer,” Allison recalled. “Her writing is memorable, insightful and graceful. It was just a matter of getting into the writing process and sharing with a peer group, which can help writers gain confidence.”

Providing Hirsch with the time, space and encouragement to discover her strengths, the class coincided with Hirsch’s growing interest in the media and entertainment world. In early 2013, just as the then-29-year-old was becoming the first woman in her family to graduate from college, she heard about the Alliance for Women in Media, a nonprofit devoted to advancing the influence and impact of women in all forms of media.

“AWM is just a burst of energy,” Hirsch said. “It’s about regular women empowering each other, saying, ‘You should go for that, whatever that is.’”

She flew to Los Angeles that spring to attend the organization’s annual gala, partly to celebrate the completion of her liberal studies degree and partly in search of courage and inspiration for what was next. Upon her return to the St. Louis region, she continued taking steps toward her dream of one day writing for television. She wanted to further hone her craft and began pursuing an MA in English with a writing studies emphasis in the fall.

“I have had such a great experience across the board at UMSL, especially with the teachers in the English department,” said Hirsch, who will begin tutoring and teaching writing on campus as part of her graduate assistantship this academic year.

In the meantime, she kept up on the work of AWM. A few months ago, the organization’s e-newsletter announced its “Emerging Voices” Scholarship program funded by the AWM Foundation and the Ford Motor Company Fund. Initially, Hirsch didn’t give the mass email a second thought, but her partner, also an AWM subscriber, pushed Hirsch to apply for the award.

“She saw the email and said, ‘You’re going to do this, right? Right?’” remembered Hirsch, who ended up not just applying but also winning.

AWM formally announced Hirsch as one of two recipients of the “Emerging Voices” Scholarship, a $2,500 prize made payable to each student’s educational institution, at a June 11 awards luncheon in New York City.

Along with contributing financially to Hirsch’s graduate studies, AWM is showcasing her original writing on its blog and social media channels. Among the pieces she has already produced is a reflection on her recent trip to New York to accept the scholarship.

“To have a room full of my peers and role models acknowledge that my voice is, indeed, emerging was astounding,” Hirsch wrote in that post, “but to feel the call to pay my experiences and good fortune forward was the true gift.”

The UMSL Experience

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill