Alumna Arah Ko ’18 Awarded Lilly Graduate Fellowship

June 17, 2021

Ko one of just 10 graduate students selected for prestigious fellowship. 

Alumna Arah Ko 380x253Arah Ko ’18 wrote her first poem at age 8. She was reading E.E. Cummings at age 12 and winning Scholastic Art and Writing Awards by age 15, but she said the education and affirmation she received from the Wheaton College English Department gave her the confidence to pursue her poetry.

Ko is now a graduate student in The Ohio State University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing, and she was just recently awarded the prestigious Lilly Graduate Fellowship from Lilly Endowment Inc.—after encouragement from Wheaton faculty members Dr. Jeffry Davis and Dr. Miho Nonaka.

“Arah is one of the most talented writers I had the pleasure of working with, and her warm, thoughtful presence was a sheer delight,” Nonaka said. “I have no doubt that, as a Lilly fellow, she will be a great guide for students in exploring the nuances of integrating their scholarly and artistic interests and their Christian faith.” 

The Lilly Graduate Fellows Program is part of the Lilly Fellows Program that supports outstanding students who want to explore the connections among Christianity, higher education, and the vocation of the teacher-scholar as they pursue graduate degrees in humanities and the arts.

The fellows will meet together regularly both in-person and virtually, as well as participate in four conferences and in mentorship opportunities with program mentors Dr. Martha Eads of Eastern Mennonite University and Dr. Charles Strauss of Mount St. Mary’s University. 

“It’s very cool to be able to connect with a cohort of believers in my field,” Ko said. “I’m excited about that.”

In addition, the $9,000 fellowship—delivered as a stipend over three years—will free Ko to concentrate on her writing.

“Instead of getting additional jobs, the fellowship will enable me to focus on the work and to become a better writer,” Ko said. “This will support my end goal of writing a book-length thesis.” 

Ko said she can’t underscore enough how well Wheaton equipped her for graduate school and winning awards like the Lilly Graduate Fellowship. From the rigorous classes to the expansive reading lists, participation in literary journal Kodon and the personal encouragement she received from Dr. Nonaka, Ko said she was more than prepared for the next step in her writing life. 

“All along the way, I’ve felt affirmed by the English Department and from Dr. Nonaka, who was my thesis advisor and my school mom,” she said. “She encouraged me in pretty much everything I did.”

--Emily Bratcher 

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