A non-traditional Reinhardt student is exemplifying learning, serving, and leading. Olivia Gunn is in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and plans to graduate next summer. She also works in the Center for Student Success (CSS) and writes for the Rome newspaper.
Gunn’s objective is to teach at the collegiate level. She’s previously taught K-12 as an assistant and a substitute and comes from a family of educators. “I have the teaching bug and I love it. I especially enjoy working with students who are nervous about writing.”
At the CSS, Gunn works part-time as the Relations Coordinator as well as a tutor. She loves helping people and wants students to know that the CSS is on campus to help with projects and essays, provide tutoring for any class, or even give guidance to get organized. Use of the CSS has more than doubled since last fall.
Gunn’s critical thesis is on poetry that came out of Hurricane Katrina. She went to New Orleans right after the hurricane and worked amid the devastation. Last year, seventeen years later, she revisited the Ninth Ward and interviewed people who had been through the storm. She also got to meet her favorite author, Patricia Smith, who wrote an award-winning book about Hurricane Katrina called Blood Dazzler, saying, “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
At the Rome News-Tribune, Gunn has a weekly personal column in the weekend edition and is given the liberty to write about anything. Her topics range from mental health to her grandmother’s wisdom. She says it’s an amazing opportunity and is considering syndicating her work. “I'm honored and I'm in awe that I even have a spot and am writing alongside people who have been writing columns I've been reading since I was a kid.”
Gunn’s passion for equal justice helped bring civil rights activist Lynda Blackmon Lowery to campus last spring. As an undergrad, Gunn went to Selma, Alabama for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, met her, and kept in touch. Years later, Lowery invited her for a visit and the resulting interview was included in the James Dickey Review, an annual compilation of creative work published by Reinhardt. This inspired MFA Professor Bill Walsh to invite Lowery to speak at Reinhardt.
A serious illness and surgery last year delayed Gunn’s graduation but it didn’t keep her down. She says individuals like Mrs. Lowery are inspirational, “When you meet these people that have been through trauma and come out forgiving people and full of love, it gives you something to hang on to if you're not doing well, and that gives you something to hope for.”