Tag Archives: profile

Emily Pierce- reading, writing, and racism

By the end of my senior year of high school, I was certain that I wanted to be a middle school Language Arts teacher. Now, my last semester of my undergraduate degree, I am certain that I do not.

In middle school and high school, much of my free time was spent writing, and I always loved my Language Arts classes. I entered Piedmont College as an English Education major, but I will be leaving this May with a B.A. in English, plus whatever a minor in Social Justice shows up as, and heading off to graduate school for, yes, more English. It took me a while to realize that the K12 education system was not for me, though I retain my intense respect for educators. The same semester I first spoke at a literary conference, SAMLA, I changed my major. Luckily, I had enough English credits to not be too far behind.

Since changing my major, I’ve had internships and other professional opportunities appear from out of the blue. I got to be the guinea pig for the Lillian Smith Scholars Program here at Piedmont as well as for Reforming Arts’ (a non-profit that provides liberal arts education at Lee Arrendale Prison) internship program. This past summer I stumbled into an internship with Georgia Humanities and got to work on the upcoming Lillian Smith documentary. In February, I’m giving a presentation on Lillian Smith’s Killers of the Dream at the Southern Studies Conference. I am also working on submitting a paper to be published.

Throughout the past couple years, Lillian Smith and her work have made a huge impact on me, and much of what she talked about could have been said yesterday. I have seen the impacts of institutionalized racism on the news and in day-to-day life, but nothing hit me so hard as my internship with Reforming Arts, getting to be in the prison and work with these women one-on-one. Mass incarceration has become a big social justice issue for me, and I have changed from “Miss Community Service” in my high school’s pageant to being someone who marches and affects change. I am writing my capstone on Lillian Smith’s work and the personal, societal, and historical traumas of racism.

These opportunities, combined with the influence of Lillian Smith and the love and support from my family, church family, friends, and boyfriend, have shown me that I made the right decision, and I know that I’m ready for whatever comes next.

Joe Dennis: shaped by journalism


Journalist. Father. Teacher. Husband. Student. Friend. Mentor. Son.

There are many hats underneath the fedora that frequently adorns my head, but at the core of every aspect of me is a passion for people. Whether they are family members, students, colleagues, church members, friends or even strangers, I am fascinated by the uniqueness of each individual and the stories underneath their hats. It’s why I’m a journalist. Every person has a story, and I want to discover it.

My journalistic journey began at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. My summer orientation leader was sports editor of the college newspaper, and he needed a volleyball reporter. I didn’t know much about volleyball, but had a huge crush on one of the volleyball players. Middle hitter Tara, and the promise of free pizza at the newspaper meetings, roped me into journalism.

Little did I know that a little crush and a lot of pepperoni would set up the rest of my life.

The stories I heard, wrote and even lived through shaped who I am today and the hats I wear. I became an organ donor after profiling a man’s unsuccessful wait for a new liver. My respect for police officers grew immensely after spending 20 hours with a unit during a meth-lab drug bust. My compassion for the poor — especially children — was reinforced after visiting the blighted home of a slum-lord victim. My faith was strengthened after witnessing victims of various tragedies be thankful for the silver linings of their situation.

In addition to shaping who I am, journalism has also been a lot of fun. My career has given me the opportunity to hang out with several “stars,” such as musician John Mayer, WWE superstar Chris Jericho and basketball legend Isaiah Thomas. I’ve met several historical figures including civil rights leaders, war heroes and prominent politicians. But the most inspiration came from the everyday people I encountered: the principal of an impoverished school who is doing all he can to stop the cycle of poverty among his students, the nurse who has dedicated her career to providing free healthcare for the poor, the retired couple who are housing and keeping the local Red Cross chapter alive.

I tried my best to tell their stories through an article, later published in a newspaper. But their stories didn’t die there. Although the physical papers may have been trashed, their stories continue to be recycled in every interaction I make, each an individual thread in the hats that make me who I am.