By Peter Scamardo
Lindsay Tigue (ΦBK, Michigan State University), a PhD student studying English and creative writing at the University of Georgia, was selected for the P.E.O. Scholar Award in October. Tigue was one of 100 individuals to be selected for the $15,000 award, which is being used to further her studies.
The Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) Sisterhood grants the awards to a select group of women in the United States and Canada, chosen for their high level of academic achievement and their potential for having a positive impact on society.
“I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am for this award,” Tigue said. “The life of a graduate student is often so very precarious financially. Graduate student stipends can be low, and this award took away a lot of the financial stress I had been feeling. It allowed me to take out fewer loans and really concentrate on my work. It also means I don’t have to work another job to help make ends meet.”
After graduating ΦBK from Michigan State, Tigue spent a year in France teaching English, did a publishing internship, and worked for three years at the literary nonprofit and publisher The Great Books Foundation. Eventually Tigue decided to further her education, enrolling in the Iowa State MFA creative writing program, returning to a field she has been interested in since her elementary school days.
“I remember my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Dzuria, had us do creative writing exercises,” Tigue said. “I remember once she lit a candle and turned out the classroom lights and just asked us to describe it in our notebooks.”
Tigue, who describes her writing as leaping across time, found both time to write and a literary community to support her at Iowa State. The result was her first published work, System of Ghosts, a collection of poems described on the University of Iowa Press’ website as “detailing the way landscape speaks to isolation and personhood, how virtual and lived networks alter experience.”
“At first, I was just writing poems, and then I began to see the ways in which their concerns overlapped,” Tigue said. “I began to see I was writing a book-length project. My professors and peers at Iowa State impacted my work tremendously in the reading they suggested, in their feedback, and in their own concerns.”
The excitement of getting the first copy of System of Ghosts almost made her throw up, Tigue said. Now two years removed from that publication, Tigue’s PhD pursuit has continued to exemplify her drive to learn and put in work through her writing.
“I wanted to pursue the PhD because I felt at home in academic spaces, loved teaching, and wanted to make a career out of teaching creative writing,” Tigue said. “I wanted to continue to balance teaching with writing and participating in the literary community of such a program.”
Thanks to the P.E.O. Scholar Award, Tigue is hard at work on her dissertation. Thematically connected to System of Ghosts, the short story collection follows the lives of three women and thinks a lot about how women move through the environment, the deep history and layers of place, and the confrontation of loss in various forms.
Overall, Tigue continues to exemplify Phi Beta Kappa’s love of learning by writing from a place of curiosity and teaching how to write from a place of curiosity, she said. It is Tigue’s hope that she can get her students to realize the way they can connect to the humanities to their lives and worlds.
Peter Scamardo is a senior at the University of Houston majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. He is also interning at the Houston Chronicle this fall. The University of Houston is home to the Mu of Texas Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.