Alanna Gillis

The campus is beautiful, and the classes are small, which makes for a great learning environment.

Major: Creative Writing

Minor: History

Hometown: Dillsburg, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: Provost’s Award, Corey N. Farrell Memorial Scholarship, Clarence and Eugenie Smith Fund.

On choosing Behrend: Behrend is the only Penn State campus where you can earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, which was really important to me. Plus, the campus is beautiful, and the classes are small, which makes for a great learning environment.

On choosing her major: I’ve been writing stories since I learned how to write, and I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. Pursuing a major that would allow me to grow my skills and talents, as well as teach me about the professional world of writing and editing, seemed natural to me.

Her proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Becoming a fiction editor for the campus literary journal, Lake Effect, is my proudest accomplishment. I got to represent the journal and the college at the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference, which is the nation’s largest marketplace for literary presses and journals.

Campus involvement: I tutored at the Learning Resource Center, held an executive board position in two different clubs, and served as a Humanities and Social Sciences Ambassador.

What makes her unique: It’s always hard to identify your own talents, but I’ve been told that I’m a good communicator and that I have a knack for teaching. I would also like to think I have a bit of a talent for writing!

What you might be surprised to know about her: I really like all kinds of music, but my favorite genre is rock. I’ve been to five rock concerts by some of my favorite artists, including Breaking Benjamin, Halestorm, and STARSET.

Her definition of living a good life: Happiness is paramount. If I am happy, healthy, and financially stable, then I will consider it a very good life indeed.

Her highest priority for the coming years: My highest priority is finding a job that fulfills my creative desires while also providing me room for growth. Eventually, I would like to publish the novel I have been working on for my senior thesis project.

Her passions: I am passionate about reading and it never takes much to convince me to visit a bookstore (even less if you promise me an iced coffee with the trip). There are also many political causes I am passionate about, including women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, and environmental protections. Often, my passion for reading and my political passions overlap in the stories, essays, and nonfiction pieces I read.

Advice for first-year students: College is full of change. Your style might change, or your major, or your friends. Learning that change isn’t always a bad thing (especially when it comes to growing into an adult) is one of the hardest lessons I had to learn, but it helped alleviate so much stress and bring me so much joy.

Alanna plans to find a job in the writing or publishing field.