[caption id="attachment_16806" align="alignleft" width="321" caption="Photo is from http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/incubator/2012/04/10/introducing-kristina-ashley-bjoran/"]
Scientific American has a regular feature on its website, “SA Incubator” that profiles “the next generation of science writers and journalists.” As it turns out, one of that next generation is Clayton State University alumnus Kristina Ashley Bjoran, a native of Stockbridge, Ga., who has already had two articles published by the distinguished scientific journal.
According to the Scientific American website, http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/incubator/2012/04/10/introducing-kristina-ashley-bjoran/ SA Incubator is “a series of Q&As with young and up-and-coming science, health and environmental writers and reporters. They have recently hatched in the Incubators (science writing programs at schools of journalism), have even more recently fledged (graduated), and are now making their mark as wonderful new voices explaining science to the public.”
Bjoran graduated summa cum laude from Clayton State in December 2009 with a B.A. in English with an emphasis in writing (specifically, creative writing.) She came to the University as a homeschooled student, thus she had very little in the way of school records.
“I had SAT scores,” Bjoran says. “I had sample work. The Admissions Office set my expectations very high for the school. I wasn't let down. While I started off ready to commit to biology and chemistry, I wound up majoring in English; best decision I ever made. The English department was small enough to actually affect change if necessary; it was small enough to actually be a part of, rather than just a piece within it.”
People often ask Bjoran why she didn’t complete her undergraduate studies at a big name school.
“My answer is simple,” Bjoran says. “I got an education from world-class professors in a setting small enough to be a book club meeting. How lucky is that? I felt at home roaming the halls of the Arts and Sciences Building.”
During her experience at the University Bjoran says she had several mentors and professors who encouraged her .
“I was able to connect with professors one-on-one, which I'd argue is more valuable than the readings and essays. Though I'm sure my professors wouldn't like hearing that,” Bjoran admits.
She adds that three people in particular stand out from her time at Clayton State, though in no apparent order.
“Joe Johnson. Simply put, he's one of my favorite people to this day. I took four grueling semesters of French with him, where he put up with my feeble attempts to speak a beautiful language. But past French - during his time as interim head of the department - he became a friend and mentor. He'd listen to me complain, express fears about my future, and simply shoot the you-know-what. And he taught me to love graphic novels, which is clearly the most impressive thing.
“Next, Susan Rashid Horn. I owe much of my development as a critical writer to her and our work at the Writers' Studio. When I was a sophomore, I decided to apply for a senior internship with the English department; the task - develop a lab where peer tutors could help out fellow students with the daunting task of writing. I played my own small part in helping her and Dr. Hunter, who was head of the English Department at the time, get the Writers' Studio up and running, and I continued to tutor there for most of my time at Clayton State. Susan, like Joe, was a great friend and mentor to me, both professionally and personally. The Writers' Studio became my home away from home, if you'll pardon the cliche.
“Last, but not least, would be Brigitte Byrd. I can't say enough to do this amazing person justice. I was a writing-focused English major, and Brigitte was my thesis advisor. She tore my writing to pieces when I first started in her classes. I thought she hated me… or that I was just an awful writer. I used too many adjectives. And adverbs. And abstractions. My God, what was wrong with me, I wondered? Of course, this is what writers have to put up with, if they want to ever write for a living. Writers are edited. Writers need to collaborate with people whose opinions they trust. And that is something I deal with every day of my life now.
“Brigitte was also one of the first people I approached for advice about getting into MIT. As my thesis advisor and friend, she talked me through the ups and downs of that application process, and vowed to do anything she could to help. She played a big part in the impossible: getting a home-schooled English major into the world's top engineering school. If that doesn't speak well to her abilities, I don't know what will!
“There were many, many other memorable fixtures of Clayton State, who I can't imagine my life there without; Philip DePoy, who taught me to love theatre and mystery novels, Kathryn Pratt, who showed me how the grotesque is beautiful in Critical Theory, Greg Flail, who I learned a ton from by listening to him tutor students in the Writers' Studio, and many more I know I'm forgetting.”
When Bjoran was, in her words, wandering the halls of the English department at Clayton State, she came across a poster for MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing (GPSW).
“As a former biology major turned English major, I knew at once this was what I wanted to do,” she says.
“She has been an absolutely wonderful student and is a great young person I feel very fortunate to have crossed paths with. I am terribly proud of her,” said Byrd, a Clayton State assistant professor of English, at the time of Bjoran’s graduation from Clayton State. “I think this is wonderful news and such a great achievement, one which says quite a bit about our English program at Clayton State University.”
Since graduating from GPSW, Bjoran has gone on to internships at Technology Review and WIRED, and is now freelancing and blogging.