For Maya, her Penn journey began with a transformative freshman seminar that confirmed her love of art and writing. “Writing About Art”, taught by Professor Susan Bee, brought Maya and her classmates into local artist studios like that of Sarah McEneaney, and into art galleries and museums like The Institute of Contemporary Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since that seminar, Maya leaned in on her creative passions and found numerous opportunities to cultivate her well-rounded knowledge, experience different perspectives, and engage in experiential learning.
Being immersed in a city rich with history and culture like Philadelphia inspired Maya's creative practice and scholarly work. Maya sees Philadelphia and Penn as an ideal environment to grow as an individual. “Writing Philadelphia,” a seminar taught by Professor Julia Bloch, the Director of Penn’s Creative Writing Program, provided Maya with a rich forum to engage with the city of Philadelphia through deep discussion and critical writing exercises. Maya wove these experiences into her creative writing thesis, entitled “Comma, Virginia.” Through this thesis, Maya revisits an important place of her childhood summers in rural, Warsaw, Virginia, to explore the dynamics of identity through the eyes of her grandmother and the networks of small towns and their residents.
Maya found community at the Kelly Writers House, where she has assisted with exhibitions for the Brodsky Gallery and has helped curate stories by Penn alumni writers for a podcast project with Jamie-Lee Josselyn, Associate Director of Recruitment for the Kelly Writers House and an Instructor of Nonfiction Writing within the Penn English Department. During her sophomore year, Maya collaborated with poet and scholar, Rachel Zolf to create a poetry workshop for LGBT students, through the Bassini Writing Apprenticeship Program, run by the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing. When she is not writing her thesis or volunteering at the Victorian-era garden in Woodland Cemetery in West Philadelphia, Maya works as an intern at the Institute of Contemporary Art.
The four years at Penn can feel like a whirlwind, but Maya heeded her supervisor, Alli Katz’s advice to go about her Penn journey at her own pace. Maya channeled this spirit by giving back to the Penn community. As a former co-programming chair for the United Minorities Council, Maya helped host Penn alumna, feminist writer, and mental health social worker, Feminista Jones.