College of Arts & Letters Outstanding Senior Achievement Award Goes to English Major

Julianna Bruno, who graduated from Michigan State University this past weekend with a B.A. in English, is this year’s recipient of the College of Arts & Letters Outstanding Senior Achievement Award, which annually recognizes a graduating senior for academic excellence, service and leadership, and a commitment to personal and professional development, cross-cultural sensitivity, and diversity. 

Bruno currently is finalizing her student teaching placement at Utica Community Schools, where she also will teach 10th grade American Literature, as well as Yearbook and Newspaper, next academic year.

Headshot photo of Julianna Bruno, who is wearing a knit hat with the MSU Spartan logo.
Julianna Bruno

“I’m really excited about it because I was a big yearbook and journalism kid in high school,” Bruno said, “and I think having those elective classes really helps break up the day from the standard curriculum.”

Before starting her teaching position in the fall, Bruno will travel to Vermont this summer where she will work as a backpacking trip leader to campers ages 9-14.

“I’m really excited to have that breath of fresh air before school restarts,” she said, adding that she loves nature-based schools. “We can all agree that learning doesn’t just take place in a classroom and being outside has so many mental health benefits. I think there are so many ways that we can get students outside more than we do.”

Photo of Julianna Bruno wearing a cap in gown in front of Beaumont Tower.
Julianna Bruno at Beaumont Tower

This past academic year in her Critical Questions in Language and Composition (ENG 413) class, Bruno worked on a children’s book that features a main character with autism spectrum disorder.

“I think it’s really important that we have texts that reflect our population, and neurodiverse literature is sorely lacking, especially those featuring varied intersectional authorship,” Bruno said. “Autistic people read and write books, so it’s silly that we often don’t acknowledge it. Schools need to do a better job exposing their students to a variety of authors, so hopefully my project brings just a little bit more awareness to the issue.”

In her Critical Literacies and Communities (ENG 408) taught by Brittany Brewer, she worked on a grant proposal that she says she will be able to draw from in the future to provide her students with an opportunity to choose their own scholastic book and read to therapy dogs.

MSU graduation photo with several graduates who are all wearing green graduation caps and gowns.
Julianna Bruno with her graduating cohort of Secondary English Education students at MSU’s commencement.

“As educators, we often drop the ball on acknowledging the emotions of our students due to the testing time crunch, but it is so necessary to build in pockets of pauses and joy so our students can continue to be lifelong learners,” she said.

In Spring 2022, Bruno participated in the Reeves Scholars Program, a reciprocal exchange program between MSU and the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, where eight future education students from each university held online weekly discussions with each other, focusing on educational goals, areas for growth, and aspirations within their nations. The students then traveled to each other’s country and visited various schools and observed pedagogical practices.

This past academic year, Bruno also was a member of MSU’s Outdoors Club, which aligns with her interest in eventually teaching at a nature-based school.

“I really appreciate all of the different places I’ve been able to travel to through MSU, whether it be the Outdoors Club or the Reeves Scholars Program. I feel like I definitely have a different worldview since coming to campus.”

Julianna Bruno

“I really appreciate all of the different places I’ve been able to travel to through MSU, whether it be the Outdoors Club or the Reeves Scholars Program,” Bruno said. “I feel like I definitely have a different worldview since coming to campus.”

Steve Rachman, Associate Professor in the Department of English, had this to say about Bruno:

“Julianna was a standout student in my crime fiction class, the first one in person after the height of the pandemic. She would come into class with her John Lennon shades and then proceed to share a wide range of insights about whatever we were reading, supplemented by an amazing breadth of film and literary knowledge. It is such a pleasure to encounter someone who has read so widely and thoughtfully. She plans to be a teacher and I know that any student of hers is lucky indeed.”