Jessie Li '15

Major: English
Hometown: State College, Pa.

"The summer stipends from the Belk Scholarship enable me to take summer internships I otherwise wouldn't be able to take."

Belk Scholar Jessie Li  has a voice, and she's not afraid to use it. The soft-spoken junior is a voracious writer and has had work featured in multiple publications both nationally and abroad. But she doesn't stop there: Li also works with others to help them find their own voices.

During the school year, Li is the poetry editor for the annual literary review Hobart Park, and has written for The Davidsonian college newspaper as well as the Libertas literary magazine. She just launched a new publication, a Davidson chapter of the online magazine for college women, HerCampus.com. She also is a psychology ambassador for Wikipedia, has served as a fiction reader for The Adroit Journal and worked as an intern for Winter Tangerine Review.

For the last two summers, Li has worked with students in Asia, teaching English and writing. The summer after her freshman year, she traveled to Guangzhou and taught as a visiting scholar at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies; and the summer after her sophomore year, she used part of her stipend money from the Belk Scholarship and traveled to Hong Kong. There she worked with Breakthrough Collaborative, a nonprofit supporting education for low-income middle school students, teaching poetry to underserved children in seventh and eighth grade.

"In that kind of classroom, I wasn't just teaching poetry, I was teaching life skills and confidence as well as the writing," Li said.

At the end of the program, she created a literary magazine in which she published her students' work, and she organized a poetry recitation during which they shared their pieces with others.

"The summer stipends from the Belk Scholarship enable me to take summer internships I otherwise wouldn't be able to take."

"I love working one-on-one with people and helping them find their path," adds Li.

And she continues to forge her own path too. She has used part of her second stipend to travel to Rome and Venice, touring the country and writing poetry. This summer, she will use the rest of the second stipend along with a Dean Rusk grant to do investigative journalism in China through the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Teaching writing is just one way Li gives a voice to those who might not otherwise be inclined to "speak up." She also serves as co-president of Changing Minds, a campus group that advocates for and raises awareness of mental health issues. As a member of the group, she has helped organize various talk-backs, a PostSecret public art and awareness project, and other events for students battling mental health difficulties.

Ultimately, Li would like to pursue a Ph.D. in English but first aims to earn a M.F.A. in creative writing.