Despite the number of life-changing events coming up for Kristi Murray, she continues to aspire. She won the prestigious Newhouse Award from Binghamton University for the best-submitted portfolio from an incoming student for poetry.
Kristi, a native of St. Louis, Mo., has garnered the graduate student equivalent of the Triple Crown. In addition to the Newhouse Award which includes a cash prize of $1,000, she has been accepted into Binghamton University's doctorate program in creative writing with an annually renewable fellowship award of $22,000 and has been given the opportunity to teach students, plan the "Writing by Degrees" conference and work with Binghamton's national literary magazine, Harpur Palate.
As a teaching assistant for Southeast's English department, she received the Excellence in Teaching Award.
Kristi has been invited to attend an awards luncheon during the second week of classes at Binghamton, where she will formally accept the Newhouse Award. She said she's nervous but excited.
"I have so much nervous energy right now, between getting married, finishing my thesis, graduating, moving and starting school... maybe I can relax in August! My current goal is to finish my thesis on time. Hopefully my head will be intact by the time we make it to New York."
Kristi's thesis for her degree is a creative-nonfiction novel centered on a part of the human condition.
"The novel is about a girl coping with the unreliable boundaries between perception and reality."
Kristi said she has fond memories of Southeast and the experience she's gained has been invaluable. She said her biggest motivation to succeed is because she is a first-generation college graduate.
"The confidence I've derived from my success at Southeast has enabled me to succeed outside the classroom," said Kristi.
Kristi said her favorite things to do in Cape Girardeau are playing tennis with her fiancé Liam, running along the Osage Trail and enjoying a chocolate cobbler from Cup 'N' Cork with her friends.
"I used to do a lot of volunteer work through Alpha Phi Omega - the coed service organization on campus - but now I spend the bulk of my time writing, preparing lesson plans for my classes, watching and quoting movies, reading, spending time with my friends and attending way too many concerts."
While many people believe there is no such thing as too much concert attendance, Kristi has several favorite bands whose shows she can't pass up.
"My students probably have no idea how much of a groupie I am on the side! My favorite bands to see live are Wilco, Raconteurs, Bright Eyes, Fiona Apple and the Barenaked Ladies, to name a few."
Kristi said she has traveled to Ireland and Oregon, but would love to visit more places.
"My favorite place I've been is to the Cliffs of Mohr in Ireland, although I went to a Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Ore., last year and that was a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to my 'delayed' honeymoon in 2008 - my brother, his wife and Liam and I are backpacking around Europe."
Kristi said her best memories of Southeast are hanging out in the dorms.
"I don't think I slept my first two years of college. It was chaotic in the most wonderful of ways. My college friends are truly my second family. We have been through everything - birthdays, graduations, weddings, births, vacations, funerals, good days and bad days."
The best advice Kristi can give to future Southeast students is to work hard and do well from the beginning.
"Don't put yourself in a position where you need to play catch-up. It's important to open yourself up and make new friends because the friendships you form in college are different - embrace them."