Alumni Spotlight: Emma Hetrick


Emma Hetrick, COL ’18, English & History


What was the last book you read? 

I just finished Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. It took me a while to get through because I tend to get caught up in the story, and it’s quite an upsetting one, although ultimately hopeful, I think.


What was your involvement in research as a University Scholar at Penn? 

My involvement with University  Scholars was for my entire undergraduate career Penn, and the research I conducted culminated in presenting a poster at the first Ivy League Undergraduate Research Symposium. Through the funding and mentorship I received, I was able to visit rare book rooms and libraries throughout Philadelphia, and even go to the British Library in England!


What have you done since you graduated from Penn? 

I worked at CURF for a year while preparing grad school materials. In my role at CURF, I got to see how the office operates from a staff perspective, and I had the opportunity to work with the University Scholars and Benjamin Franklin Scholars programs, as well as assist the research and fellowships directors in their programming for students. Now, I am in my second year of a dual-degree Master’s program in English and Information Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.


What are your professional goals for the future? 

Next year, I plan on applying to English PhD programs and archival positions. I would like to have a career working in academia and/or in a cultural institution (like a museum or library). Regardless of where I end up, I know I want to continue working in an environment that prioritizes learning and research, I want to engage in work that prioritizes equity and inclusion, and I also want to look at and read books!


How has the University Scholars program contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development? 

Coming to Penn, I had never done a research project beyond writing a four-paged double-spaced paper for AP European History. However, as someone who desired a career in academia, I knew that it was a priority for me in college. I was so excited to be accepted in the University Scholars program, because I didn’t even know that undergrads could conduct their own research. As a University Scholar, I met faculty and staff who supported me throughout my time at Penn and beyond. I’m grateful to have met some of my closest Penn friends through the program as well. I was able to cultivate my research interest in transatlantic print culture, which I did even know I had, or at least couldn’t articulate, before entering the program. I am thankful to have been (and continue to be as an alum) be part of such a diverse community of scholars—I would always look forward to Fridays (since I was a workstudy at CURF, I usually had a hand in picking out our lunch!), and hearing what one of my peers was researching, even if I had no idea about the topic going in (which was often).


What advice would you give to current University Scholars? 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I look at the times I did ask questions as turning points in my undergraduate career—Asking Dr. Joseph, the advisor of University Scholars at the time in a 3am panicky email how I could handle taking three exams and turning in two papers in one week (needless to say, that didn’t happen); speaking with English professors for the first time about my research interests, and them actually being interested in what I was talking about; asking faculty and staff members connected to University Scholars and CURF about what options were available to me post-graduation and realizing that it was okay to shift from my original plan of going to graduate school right away. At Penn, I sometimes got so caught up in having it all together (or at least appearing like I did), that I didn’t take full advantage of the fact that there are so many great faculty and staff mentors at Penn who can offer insight, guidance, and care. I am so thankful for the mentors I did have, including connections I made through University Scholars, but I wish I had started sooner at forming those connections, and not being so afraid to really dive in and ask how to achieve my goals.