Carnegie Mellon University
November 14, 2019

Fall Speaker Series from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards Welcomes Two CMU Alumnae

By Angela Januzzi

For the second year, Carnegie Mellon University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards brought two distinguished writers to campus for the Fall Speaker Series.

Initiated in 2018, the Fall Speaker Series brings to campus two nationally-recognized authors whose works reflect the goals and values of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards. The writers interact with students in classes, informal small group conversations, and share their work in readings that are free and open to the public.

“The Speaker Series has been an exciting addition to the Writing Awards," said professor Jim Daniels, Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English and the Awards’ director. "We bring in writers who address topics relevant to the awards in the hope that they help increase awareness of our activities both on campus and in the community and inspire students to write about their own experiences and submit their work.”


Department of English alumnae Shannon Gibney (DC 1997) and Sarah Valentine (DC 2000) were this year’s featured speakers. Both Gibney and Valentine held readings and Q&A sessions on their work. Also as part of the visit, Gibney participated in a “Dietrich Dines” lunch with Ayana Ledford, director of diversity and inclusion at the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy and Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. During her time here, Valentine visited and spoke with students at Pittsburgh CAPA K-12.

“It was wonderful to bring former students back to campus who are writing about these important issues of identity and difference and becoming part of the national conversation," said Daniels. "Through their class visits, informal discussions, community outreach, and public readings, they engaged with a wide range of students, faculty, and community members and inspired lively discussions and personal reflections. Shannon and Sarah serve as inspiring role models for current students and also are products of a strong liberal arts education in Dietrich.”

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Pictured top: Sarah Valentine speaks about her new book “When I Was White” in the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion.

Pictured second: Shannon Gibney poses with students, faculty and staff as part of “Dietrich Dines.”