Finding Greatness: Sierra Stark Stevens

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Monday, March 15, 2021 12:00 AM
Categories: Faculty/Staff | Pressroom | Finding Greatness | School of Arts and Letters | Students

Macon, GA


English major, poet, Macon Magazine intern, and aspiring professor Sierra Stark Stevens found “mentors, friends, purpose, and joy” at MGA.  

Full Name: Sierra Stark Stevens.

Age: 27.   

Hometown: Royston.  

Residence: Macon.  

High School: Franklin County High School.  

Family: “I am about to celebrate our two-year wedding anniversary with my husband, Bradley Emerson Stevens. My mother, Deborah Herring, my father, Tim Stark, and my sister, Hannah Stark, have supported me in every dream I’ve ever had, and their unconditional love and encouragement has made me who I am; John Herring, too. My parents are both incredible examples of the kind of professor I want to be. My Grannie, Nana, and Grammies, my grandfathers, great-grandparents, my in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles, all deserve recognition as people and as leaders - whether in ministry, teaching, or activism.”

Employment: “I work as the student coordinator for the Honors Program, I intern at Macon Magazine, and I work at Dovetail in downtown Macon.”  

Degree Objective: Bachelor of Arts in English.  

Class Rank: Junior.  

Primary Campuses: Macon and Online.

Activities: “I am the content editor of The Fall Line Review. I am the vice president of Alpha Rho Sigma (our local chapter of the International English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta). I am vice president of the English Studies Organization. I also tutor in the Writing Center on the Macon Campus.”  

Career Goals: “I plan to teach English at the college level and continue to publish my creative work.”  

She chose Middle Georgia State University because … “At first, I chose Middle Georgia State for the convenient location and incredible value (I was given a $25,000/year academic scholarship to another university, but I chose Middle Georgia State).”  

The greatest thing she discovered about Middle Georgia State was … “To be honest, I underestimated MGA. I thought I would come here and finish my bachelor’s degree just to have it, very casually. Instead, my classes, professors, and classmates reignited my passion for academia. I have always loved learning and have been passionate about the arts. When I was seventeen, I was accepted to Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where I studied poetry, film, and French. I had to leave for health reasons after three semesters. I have a few chronic illnesses, and hospitalizations and surgeries made me feel like I could never finish school. I dropped out of college three times - at three different schools - after getting overwhelmed with health concerns. It has been a long road.   

“Last year (spring 2020) I had the biggest surgery of my life, but the English department, MGA’s Accessibility Services, and my film professor rallied ’round and supported me, worked with me, encouraged me, and I was able to finish all my classes with As. I now have a 3.97 GPA. Two of my essays from spring ‘20 have been submitted to “Knighted,” and my research project, ‘Shakespeare’s Socioeconomics of Sack’ was accepted to this year’s Georgia Collegiate Honors Conference. I can’t thank Dr. Morton, Dr. Rogers, Dr. Muth, Dr. Whiddon, and Dr. Brennan enough for their support. I sent them all really sappy emails - and I’ll get sappy with anyone who asks me about why MGA has been such a great place for me.   

“I thought I’d get in and get out with my degree. Instead, I’ve found mentors, friends, purpose, and joy.”  

Her greatest academic experience as a Middle Georgia State student has been …

“That’s a difficult deliberation - which to choose? Conferences are pretty high up there. My research on Emily Dickinson, ‘She Dwells in Possibility: Emily Dickinson as an Intermedia Artist,’ was accepted to the Southern Regional Honors Conference (which was cancelled due to COVID last year). I completed my Shakespeare presentation for the Georgia Collegiate Honors Council conference this year, and that felt amazing. It’s going live the weekend of March 13.  

“I also found my academic obsession - Emily Dickinson. I plan to write my dissertation on the research I started on Dickinson in Dr. Morton’s class. I’ve been able to talk with a few Dickinson scholars via email, including one from Cambridge. Talk about a geek high!  

“Editing the literary magazine this year has been such a rewarding professional experience; I plan to get my Master of Fine Arts in creative writing, so this is great practice.   

“I think, though, that overall, my greatest academic experience at MGA has been rediscovering my confidence in my intellectual abilities. After dropping out so many times, I deeply doubted my capabilities. I have always wanted to be a professor, but I had given up on that dream. Without knowing my plans, Dr. Dubuisson asked me if I was planning to teach college, because I was the kind of person the world needed as a teacher of the next generation of college students. I don’t think she realized how much that meant to me—how I cried great globs of happy tears—that kind of validation and support is a priceless gift.  I want to be that kind of teacher.”  

To her, “greatness” means … “I’ve defined that many different ways in my life. When I first started college in 2011, I would have settled for nothing less than national acclaim as a poet (ah, to be young and deluded!). I worked at some film festivals in New York, and that award-centric environment appealed to me. Then, I worked on organic farms for a few years, and that felt like a kind of greatness; it felt like I was doing something right for the world. Now, greatness means continuing the legacy that has lifted me out of self-doubt (not that I don’t relapse sometimes) by encouraging other people to trust in their hard work and individual abilities. I especially want to be able to encourage queer, neurodiverse, or chronic-pain-suffering students.  I want to do that for my students, but I also hope always to be doing that in my everyday life. If I get published or gain prestige in other ways, that’s just a lovely bonus. I want to pull passion, excellence, and empathy into the world.”  

In five years … “I plan to graduate next spring. After that, I will see what kind of programs accept me. I may be able to get funding for a creative writing MFA (poetry is a chronically underfunded pursuit, which is part of why I’m glad I enjoy teaching so much). If I get good offers, I will be able to focus on my creative work for two years before I enter into a doctoral program in English literature. If not, I’ll jump straight into that doctorate!

“Personally, I hope to write a full-length poetry collection; continue participating in and leading in community service initiatives; plant a lot of flowers; watch a lot of Marvel movies with my husband, and nurture my relationships with my family and friends.”