Announcing the 2022-2023 Phyllis Gebauer Scholarship Recipients

The Writers’ Program joyfully announces the latest recipients of the Phyllis Gebauer Scholarship in Writing. We had many qualified applicants this year, resulting in more grantees than traditionally awarded. We are very excited for these passionate students to embark on a writing journey with us that might not have otherwise been possible. Here they share experiences with the Program and what receiving the scholarship means for their goals.

Autumn Oyemade
When people ask me about myself, I’m proud to tell people that I’m a first-generation college graduate. I happily tell them that I am and want to continue to be a writer. The fact that I was able to follow my dreams and graduate from UCLA with a degree in English Literature is something I hope never to take for granted. However, telling people that I never took a creative writing class was not something I was proud of. As I registered the shock on their faces, I couldn’t help but feel like I had messed up. As though someone is waiting to rip the degree out of my hands and tell me, “You’re not done yet.” I knew that taking creative writing classes would help alleviate some of that feeling. So I started slowly, taking courses through the UCLA Extension Creative Writing Certificate Program when I could. The classes I took inspired me to continue reaching for my dream of becoming a novelist. Talented peers and incredible instructors constantly surrounded me and gave me the boost I needed to start writing again. But, as is true for many of us, I couldn’t always afford classes. I was fully prepared to take another leave of absence from school when I was notified that I was a recipient of the Phyllis Gebauer Scholarship in Writing. With it, I’ll be able to finish my certificate program, which will allow me to complete two of my primary goals: be accepted into a Ph.D. program for English Literature and finish (and publish!) a novel. I’m incredibly grateful to have received this award and to Jennie Seidewand for being a lovely guide through the scholarship process.
Congratulations to my fellow 2022-2023 scholarship recipients. I can’t wait to see what we do.

Demond Washington
Thank you so much to Jennie Seidewand and the UCLA Extension program for this invaluable opportunity to learn and grow within my craft. I don’t have any previous experience with UCLA, but I’m greatly anticipating the many possibilities that this scholarship will allow me to explore.
I have an immense passion for storytelling. My writing is informed not only by having to move through the world as a Black gay man, but my experiences such as having both of my parents be incarcerated and having to financially provide for them while trying to keep a roof over my head. Its led to me having to donate plasma just to survive. I write to express myself, and to escape into my characters. I am a community organizer who works in nonprofit spaces and on electoral campaigns to help uplift the voices of marginalized communities.
My writing often centers on characters who are marginalized, but doesn’t allow this to stop them from living their lives on their terms. As a creator who is marginalized, with my voice, I try to write stories in a vacuum in a way that I’m not heavily influenced by entertainment media that comes prominently from a white world and a white infrastructure or a system that is controlled by white people. I write to show that marginalized communities are defined by more than their racial, sexual identities or economic circumstances. I want to push the representation of queer POC past the stories that focus solely on struggling with being gay, trans or Black and show us as existing with fully complex emotions and experiences that don’t cater to the preconceived notions or comfort levels of largely heteronormative white audiences.
My ultimate goal is to become a screenwriter and possibly a film director. As an openly gay man, I view it as my responsibility to uplift and spotlight my community through sharing my stories and theirs.

Natalie Delpino
I am honored to be a recipient of the 2022-2023 Phyllis Gebauer Scholarship in Writing! This scholarship will allow me to take writing courses that will hone my skills in a formal setting and focus on writing the first draft of my novel. I can’t wait to start my first class, Young Adult Novel I! At the end of this class, I will have a first chapter and a rough outline of my YA novel. I’m excited to continue my writing journey with advanced classes next semester. With this scholarship, I will build a strong writing foundation and write stories my friends and I would have enjoyed in high school: fantastical stories about girls of color and LGBTQ+ youth.

Kari Melton
Thank you, UCLA Extension, for the award provided. I am so inspired by your belief in me. After having graduated from law school in San Francisco, I thought my path had been set. Then that paved path turned into nothing but forks made up of gravel. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 36 after which I had to proceed with an awake craniotomy. Post surgery, I had to learn how to walk, talk, read, and write all over again. In just five months my world warped into a rabbit hole where the thicket of survival manifests itself. My brain was my own worst enemy. I thought it was plausible that I was settled into a life of paralysis and a 3rd grade level of reading. With tenacity, an appreciation for life, and most of all community support I am progressing, like all of us.
With my award I want to learn about the lives of our writing community. I want to focus on the stories of the marginalized. Especially, those stories never spoken of before or are being newly revealed. As I do know the lessons of the courses presented before me are coming, the need to become a respected writer is at the tip of my opportunity to do so, thanks to the UCLA Extension program provided by the Phyllis Gebauer Scholarship.

Kellianne Jordan
I’m so excited to begin UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program! Receiving the Phyllis Gebauer Scholarship in Writing will allow me to reach my writing goals, which are to continue expanding my knowledge and perfecting my writing skills in order to create excellent feature films and TV scripts that are focused on the diversity of Black culture across the diaspora, faith and the universality of love. Having access to formal instruction through UCLA’s writing program will help streamline and accelerate my journey, providing me with the knowledge necessary to become an esteemed writer in the company of great storytellers. Achieving my writing goals are very important to me, but I also desire to become better equipped as a writer to strengthen my community. Investing in my community gives me a sense of purpose – whether by telling stories that have a positive, honest, and diverse reflection of the Black community, or by mentoring youth who are interested in filmmaking, or by helping the world at large to become an audience that has an expanded worldview. I’m grateful for the opportunity to expand my knowledge and grow as a writer; letting the stories that have been ruminating in my mind spill over onto the page.

Suzan Mikiel
I have had the great pleasure of taking Memoir I with Eileen Cronin, where I made some wonderful friendships, and Memoir II with Elizabeth Silver, instructors devoted to their craft. On top of circling around the theme of grief and loss in my work, this past year I’ve had multiple surgeries and radiation to address a large- but thankfully benign- brain tumor I’ve been walking around with for at least 20 years. After the initial shock of diagnosis, my first thought was, no wonder. It feels good to reignite my writing journey with a bit more clarity. Being a recipient of the Phyllis Gebauer Scholarship, means applying the legacy and spirit of a well-loved writer to my own craft as I pursue Memoir and Half-Hour Television Writing. I’m honored and grateful for the opportunity.

Additional recipients of this year’s scholarship are Abbesi Akhamie and Leena Kurishingal.

Congratulations to all the awardees!

The Phyllis Gebauer Scholarship in Writing was designed to foster the talent of diverse and promising writers who lack the financial resources to study their craft formally in a supportive environment. Funded by the late Phyllis Gebauer, a beloved Writers’ Program instructor of many years, the scholarship is awarded to several students annually who are given the opportunity to enroll in three full-length Writers’ Program courses. Applications for the 2023-2024 scholarship should open in March of 2023.

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