Meet Graduate Student Commencement Speaker Monique D. Clark
by Sarah Hojsak
May 23, 2023
Monique D. Clark will represent graduate students as a student speaker at the 2023 College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony on Thursday, June 15. Clark graduates with her MFA in creative writing. She holds an MA in English from Arcadia University and a BS in paralegal studies from Peirce College. She has also established a successful career as a paralegal in both the private and public sectors. During her time at Drexel, Clark has served on the English Student Advisory Council and been a member of the Black Writers’ Circle. Learn more about her in the Q&A below.
35 years ago, you gave your high school graduation speech. What do you remember about that day?
We graduated in the gym, and it was sweltering. I gave the farewell address, so I went last. Initially, I was afraid that nobody would listen to my speech or that everyone would be bored. But people tuned in. Although it was an honor to give that speech, I didn’t keep it. This was pre-internet, so there’s no way that I’ll ever have a copy of it. However, I remember the first line because it seemed so profound to me as a teenager. And I also remember that I had fallen in love with the word “stymied” and found three places to plug it into that speech. I just had to use it—at the time it seemed like a cool and important word.
When did you first become interested in writing?
In third grade, we were assigned to write a story with a moral—a fable. I remember sitting on the school bus when I had this idea about a girl named Maria who wanted to be a queen. However, she was not born into royalty. She surmised that if she got stung three times by a queen bee, then she could become a queen. So, she agitated the bee nest in her backyard, got herself strung three times by a bee, only to end up with a badly hurt arm. The moral of the story was “be happy with who you are.” I was just in love with writing after that.
What kind of writing do you focus on? Where do you find inspiration?
I’ve been a paralegal for 28 years, and I’ve done legal and business writing. But my love is fiction. Everything inspires me—conversations, gazing, people watching, and the list continues. But the act of wondering especially inspires me because when you wonder, anything can be.
How did you find out about Drexel’s MFA in creative writing program? Why did you decide to apply?
It was during the midst of Covid, spring 2020, when the world blew up. The spark for me was watching the murder of George Floyd and of being directly impacted by the turbulence caused by the pandemic, not just in America, but globally. The instability of everything caused me to reflect deeply about my life. The result: Safety became an illusion and living purposefully became my only option. I’ve always wanted to spend my life writing, so I committed to doing it. And literally, the moment I decided that my purpose was to write, I opened my email and saw an advertisement for the Drexel MFA program in Writer’s Digest.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the MFA program?
So many! But my favorite memory is and will always be experiencing this journey with my amazing cohort. I’m so privileged to be among people who were willing to be vulnerable. We’re all primarily fiction writers, but we write in different subgenres. Yet, we didn’t come in pretentious. We entered the program not knowing what we didn’t know, and we immediately realized we had a lot to learn. We remained committed to the journey and to helping each other grow stronger as writers. We spent time together inside and outside of the residences. We created ways to stay connected, and to the end, we remained a very cohesive, tightknit group. I could not have come in at a better time or with a better group of writers.
What advice would you give someone who is considering applying to the MFA program, or going back to school in general?
The Drexel MFA is a low-residency program, but with high standards. Yes, it’s hard work. Do it anyway. This is definitely cliché, but no one’s going to escape life alive. So, whatever it is that you want to do, whatever it is that your heart truly desires, whatever will make you more kind, more compassionate, and more impactful in this world, do it! And if you believe that can be achieved through an MFA program, apply to Drexel’s!
What are your future goals as a writer?
My future goal is to transition into writing and publishing. The end goal is to become a full-time writer and literary agent.