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By Lexi Toufas
Meet Denise Stroud who is an information science major and creative writer. She recently won the spring 2022 Bland Simpson writing award. She also was the winner of the spring 2021 English and Comparative Literature Undergraduate Multimedia Award for her video essay “This Abomination.” This project stemmed from an assignment for Michael Gutierrez’s Life Writing course through the ECL and was published in The Florida Review.

Denise chose to focus her video on a statue that sits in her husband’s office. “It’s the worst! The essay explored my absolute loathing of the piece, but also my slow discovery that some of the reasons he keeps the statue around may also be why he keeps me around…I reconcile myself to the statue’s place in his heart, right next to my own.”

This project required Denise to learn how to use film editing tools, an aspect she describes as leading to acquiring skills transferable into many other areas of career-related development. “Creative writing may be more of an art, using the Adobe suite of media tools may be a craft, and the SILS school may be about the science, but it’s ALL information design. The intelligent application of form and function, style and substance, to information systems. Some classes are about writing, some are about info tech systems analysis, but it’s all related,” Denise detailed.

As a major in information sciences, she found this course to be especially helpful for her interdisciplinary interests. She noted, “it’s all information design, as an art, craft, or science. It’s been interesting to see how my natural interests drift between the formal structures of academic disciplines. I thought the video essay was great, in that it helped erode those arbitrary divides…I think it would be really amazing to have more cross-pollination between these formal disciplines.”

Denise has had a unique journey returning to school after working for years in the corporate world. She was inspired to return to school to finish her degree in order to open up more career-related opportunities. As a non-traditional student returning to full-time, on-campus learning, she noted that finding community with other non-traditional UNC students was a significant comfort: “There’s a GroupMe group for Non-Traditional UNC Students, as well as a Discord group….I’d love to see this demographic raise their profile on campus–I feel like we just kind of live in the shadows. I’ve spent my life in institutions that were not built for me–so I think as students, we should try to take up more space and the institutions should reconsider whom they center and accommodate.”

The ECL is proud to celebrate the hard work that Denise has put forward to receive this special award.