Commencement '22: newly minted graduates tell their stories

Mark Ostow

Mark Ostow

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Charlotte Emerson
South Pasadena, California 

Berkeley College

Did you expect to major in English?
I was going to major in Ethics, Politics, and Economics, like every other Yalie. I was discouraged about my writing when I got here. I didn’t get into my high school newspaper, which I took as a reflection of my merits. Then I took Reading and Writing the Modern Essay, and I was struck by how transportive writing can be. My favorite essay was about place, and it was like watching a rewind of your life; you could jump back to another place and enter it. The writing concentration made me legitimize my writing. For my thesis, I wrote a collection of nine short stories called The Tankini Woman. Maybe I’ll want to apply to an MFA program and teach.

What else has been meaningful at Yale?

There are special moments, maybe early in the morning or late at night, when you can catch yourself thinking about what so many people are doing at that very moment—all the things they’re thinking about or studying.
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about people’s personhood, the way in which they move around in the world and interact with other people. What are the qualities in my friends that I love? How can I borrow those qualities and become this better human being? You can learn who you want to be by watching others being good humans in the world.

What’s your plan for next year?

I’ll be doing a public service–oriented fellowship in San Francisco, the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs. You spend a portion of the year working for a nonprofit, a for-profit, a government office, and a campaign.