Carnegie Mellon University

Alumni: Mackenzie Evan Smith

mackenzie evan smith

Mackenzie graduated in 2011 with a major in Creative Writing. During her academic career she was a 2011-2012 Luce Scholar in India, a Gilman Scholar in Morocco, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa National Honors Society. She was awarded the Adamson Writing Award for Creative Nonfiction, the Donna Greer Memorial Award for Creative Writing, and the Rosenthal Margaret Morrison Creative Writing Scholarship. She currently lives in San Francisco and working on her first novel.

Title of Undergraduate Research Project / Type of Support:  "The Appalachian Trail: Understanding Its Impact and Meaning in Pennsylvania Communities through Creative Nonfiction" as part of a SURF project.

When did you become involved in undergraduate research at CMU?   I began my creative writing research project in June 2010.

How did you find your mentor?   My advisor, Jane McCaffery, was one of my creative writing professors.

How has your idea/project evolved through the academic years?   My SURF project became the basis of my Senior Honors Thesis, a creative nonfiction essay collection called, "The Naked Note Taker." Since graduating from Carnegie Mellon, I have been working to revise and publish some of the essays.

What successes or difficulties have you encountered in this project or others?  My SURF project was my first opportunity to write on my own and complete a longer creative work. Writing on my own, outside the classroom, was overwhelming, exhausting and exhilarating, and taught me a lot about managing my time and goals as a writer.

If you could summarize your experience in one word, what would it be?  Exciting

How did your undergraduate research projects help to shape your future after CMU?  My SURF project was my first exposure to writing on my own and learning to manage a manuscript. Upon graduating from CMU, I moved to India where I was a Luce Scholar and writer-in-residence at an arts foundation in New Delhi. As a writer-in-residence, I was free to dedicate myself to writing. The lessons I learned while working on my SURF project--the importance of revision, time management and the determination to stay focused on a longer creative writing project--served me well and continue to as I keep writing and learning.