Micah Dean Hicks
Rho Epsilon Chapter
Florida State University
Winning a Sigma Tau Delta scholarship felt amazing. It also felt surreal. I remember hearing my name announced, and people clapped, and people looked at me, and I sort of felt like I was watching it happen to some other guy, squinting at him in the distance and thinking, “Hey, he sort of looks like me. Good for him.”
It’s hard to measure all the small ways the award, the money, and the recognition helped me arrive here, at the end of a Ph.D. program.
Part of what it gave me was validation. I’ve always been pretty confident about my fiction writing, but less so about my critical work. The academic essay is a form I struggle with. It always demands more. Whatever you think you have to say, it’s never enough. You have to say more, to make it matter, to convince people (and yourself) that what you’re saying is important. I found it exhausting, like clawing a tunnel through stone with my fingernails and just burying myself in a rockslide. When I teach critical essay writing, I see my students confused and frustrated like I was. I know how they feel.
So I worked pretty hard on this essay, for the class where I wrote it (thank you, Dr. Tucker). And then I worked on it again, hours or days or forever, for the scholarship competition. Winning wasn’t just the prize or the money, it was assurance that I could beat this form if I clawed at it long enough.
Not to say the money wasn’t appreciated. For one thing, it was something my extended family could understand. Dollar amounts translate in ways that other kinds of academic accolades just don’t. The difference between an “Oh, that’s nice” and a “Hot damn, son.”
And at the time, I needed it. I’d applied to seven graduate schools, at a cost of around $100 each. The place I ended up, a master’s program in teaching, was great in a lot of ways and I still draw on those tools (thank you, Dr. Dee), but it wasn’t where I wanted to be. So a few months later, I applied to schools again, twice as many this time, to finally end up in a master’s program in creative writing in Mississippi.
Having worked on the essay for the award helped me later, in a way I wouldn’t have expected. When it was time to apply to Ph.D. programs and I needed a good critical sample to send with my fiction, I looked at the work I had done as a master’s student and wasn’t happy with any of it. I’d learned enough to be frustrated with what I had produced. So I broke out my essay from a couple of years ago, the one that at least had been vetted by the award, and sent it to one of my graduate professors for feedback. She went back and forth with me on it for a week (thank you, Dr. Gehlawat). And now I’m here, finishing my dissertation, having relied on that essay all along the way.
Which reminds me. Thank you, Sigma Tau Delta.
Start your scholarship essay now. The Sigma Tau Delta deadline for the following scholarships is November 10.
Scholarships Open to Undergraduate Students
William C. Johnson Distinguished Scholarship
Part-Time Undergraduate Scholarship
P.C. Somerville Awards for Future Teachers
Study Abroad Scholarships
Scholarships Open to Alumni Epsilon Chapter Members
Alumni Epsilon Scholarship