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Senior Named Marshall Scholar

Literature concentrator earns scholarship to study poetry at Cambridge

Marshall Scholar Emily Vasiliauskas poses for a photo. Vasiliauskas will spend next year studying in England.
Marshall Scholar Emily Vasiliauskas poses for a photo. Vasiliauskas will spend next year studying in England.
By Madeline M.G. Haas, Contributing Writer

Emily K. Vasiliauskas ’07 is the latest Harvard senior to receive a prestigious award to study in the United Kingdom. As one of 43 students nationwide to win a Marshall Scholarship, she will join six Harvard Rhodes Scholars in the UK next fall.

A literature concentrator in Lowell House, Vasiliauskas will study Criticism and Culture in the Faculty of English at Cambridge University.

Lyric poetry has been a focus of her time at Harvard, and she used her personal statement in her application to elaborate on the “value of poetry.”

“Rational knowledge is insufficient to prevent suffering,” Vasiliauskas said, citing the Holocaust as an example. “Sometimes reason can’t help us. Poetry can create sympathy even if we don’t fully know what’s going on.”

Vasiliauskas said she wants to be an academic, in part because the lifestyle is compatible with that of a poet. “You’re always learning and you have a lot of unstructured time,” she said.

She won the $1,000 Joan Gray Untermeyer Poetry Prize last year and her poetry has been published in The Gamut and Persephone, two Harvard magazines.

Vasiliauskas is one of the editors-in-chief of The Gamut, poetry editor of Persephone, a Crimson photography editor, and one of the head tutors at the Writing Center.

“She’s incredibly organized and at the same time incredibly passionate about the poetry that we publish,” said Gamut editor Benjamin L. Purkert ’07. “She sets a great tone that validates what people have to say,” he added.

Vasiliauskas said she values an interdisciplinary approach to scholarship. She said classes that she took early in her Harvard career, notably ones with former art history professor Yve-Alain Bois and Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature Christopher D. Johnson, were “formative” to her interdisciplinary thinking.

Vasiliauskas was one of about 50 Harvard candidates endorsed by the University in September and the only one to win a scholarship. This is the third year in a row that Harvard has had one Marshall Scholar.

The scholarships, which are only open to U.S. citizens, were founded in 1953 in commemoration of the “humane ideals” of the Marshall Plan. They are funded by the British government and cover university fees and living expenses for two years of study in the UK.

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