Shannon Velasquez, a UNH English major graduating this month, is one of only 12 students from around the country chosen to participate in a special literary program at Rutgers University this summer.
Velasquez, of Newington, Conn., will participate in the Rutgers English Diversity Institute (REDI), a weeklong program designed for advanced undergraduates from underrepresented groups who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in English. The Rutgers program provides participants with a $500 stipend and takes place from June 2 to 8.
The 21-year-old, who is a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, will begin work on her master’s degree in Hispanic studies at the University of Puerto Rico in the fall.
“The English department is extremely proud of Shannon and the wonderful opportunity she will have to study with some of the most influential literary scholars doing criticism today,” said Randall Horton, assistant professor of English, who nominated Velasquez for the program. “The REDI program will help her tremendously in her pursuit of a Ph.D. in literature and with her own creative writing. To be one of a few select students speaks volumes to Shannon's academic career and personal ambition.”
Velasquez says UNH helped her determine what she wanted to do with her life.
“The courses in the English program are not just the basic courses,” she says. “There were a lot of interesting courses like African-American literature, immigrant literature, graphic narrative and others.”
Active in public service, Velasquez volunteered for the Alternative Spring Break program and in 2011 worked at Life Haven and this year at The Children's Museum, both located in New Haven. She also was the only student on the UNH Common Read committee that choose the book "Make the Impossible Possible" by Bill Strickland, which was read by the University community this year.
In addition, she spent a semester in England in fall 2010, where she not only took four English classes but attended 21 plays – four in one week. She also worked one summer on a cruise ship that traveled up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
“I love reading books about different cultures,” said Velasquez. “Going to England shaped me as a literature major and the semester abroad allowed me to experience a whole world dedicated to English literature.”