Graduating senior SaMya Overall is the 2023 recipient of the Louis B. Sudler Prize presented by the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. This award recognizes outstanding achievement in the performing and creative arts, including fine arts, music, creative writing, theatre, and electronic/photographic arts.
A member of the Honors College, Overall will graduate in Spring 2023 with a B.A. in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and minors in French and Women and Gender Studies. She has served as Editor-In-Chief of The State News since May 2022 and has had internships with Simon & Schuster, Macmillan Publishers, and The Feminist Press.
“SaMya has displayed exceptional artistic ability, intellectual curiosity, dedication to her area(s) of study, and professionalism during her time at MSU,” Robin Silbergleid, Professor of English, wrote in her nomination letter. “SaMya’s artistic interests and abilities span Creative Writing (fiction and poetry), as well as French and Gender Studies. As a writer, she excels at characterization and world-building; perhaps more impressively, her work showcases the perseverance it takes to work on a long-form project. She stands out as one of the strongest seniors in the Creative Writing Program. It’s been a pure delight to work with her.”
In her writing, Overall has devoted herself to work that focus on the Black community. This past year, she started working on her capstone creative writing project, which is a dystopian young adult novel that is loosely based on the issues of the Black community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The piece centers on the basic themes of coming of age, identity, racial and economic oppression, and public health.
“SaMya has displayed exceptional artistic ability, intellectual curiosity, dedication to her area(s) of study, and professionalism during her time at MSU…She stands out as one of the strongest seniors in the Creative Writing Program.”Robin Silbergleid, Professor of English
“The work is intended to be a commentary on the COVID-19 pandemic and how our lack of preparation for a public health emergency demonstrates the ineffectiveness of our current government,” Overall said about her capstone project. “Outside of this, the piece focuses on themes of oppression for poor Black and Brown people and how survival, public health crises, race, and poverty are interconnected.”
Overall’s writing has earned her the 2020 and 2022 Arthur Athanason Scholarship for Excellence in Creative Writing. She also was nominated by her peers to perform her work at Live Lit, the undergraduate reading series sponsored by the Department of English and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities for Poetry.
In addition, Overall recently received the 365BLACKPRINT scholarship, which aims to help close the achievement gap Black students face in the United States. The scholarship honors graduating seniors who are dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in their fields and provides funds to help ease the post-graduation transition.
“I found my home in the English Department, specifically the Creative Writing Program,” Overall said. “I have many memories of attending ‘Live Lit,’ workshopping my fiction and poetry and developing my writing purpose. I love writing, specifically fiction, and have blossomed as a writer. I have a clear life goal of empowering Black and Brown voices in my writing and the book publishing industry as a whole.”
“I love writing, specifically fiction, and have blossomed as a writer. I have a clear life goal of empowering Black and Brown voices in my writing and the book publishing industry as a whole.”SaMya Overall
Overall’s nomination for the Louis B. Sudler Prize was supported by Tim Conrad, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in the Department of English.
“The confluence of art and identity can be tricky for anyone to navigate, let alone a young artist, but I have been impressed by the skill and maturity with which SaMya discusses and executes her vision. In my class, SaMya discussed how difficult it can be to write unique content as a Black woman that won’t be seen as ‘too political,’ and while she’s certainly not wrong to recognize this prejudice, I see her making impressive strides toward counteracting and complicating it,” Conrad stated in his letter of support, adding that he wrote his letter “with the hope that it can be understood as partial glimpse of SaMya’s achievements as an artist and that, by extrapolation, one can see what nearly everyone in our program sees: SaMya has already accomplished great things, and as she leaves MSU, she seems destined for even more.”
Nominees for the Louis B. Sudler Prize must be members of the senior graduating class. However, they do not need to have majored in the arts, but rather must demonstrate outstanding achievement in the performing or creative arts and show promise of future achievement.
A first-generation college graduate, Overall plans to take at least a month off after graduation and then would like to get a job in communications near Detroit and dedicate time to working on her novel. She hopes to have a rough draft by the end of September. Eventually, after saving some money, Overall would like to move to New York to pursue a career in book publishing.
To read more about Overall and her experiences as an MSU student, see the article “Student’s Resume Includes National Award, Prestigious Internship, and State News Editor-in-Chief,” which was published by the College of Arts & Letters on March 23, 2023.