Citizen Scholar Graduates Early with 4.0 GPA and as a Top Award-Winner

After only three years of college, Sophie Schmidt is graduating a year early with a B.A. in Professional Writing, a minor in Asian Pacific American Studies, and a perfect 4.0 GPA. She is the 2020 recipient of both the Alumni Award for Undergraduate Excellence and the Professional Writing Outstanding Major Award. She also joins nine other students who are graduating from the College of Arts & Letters Citizen Scholars program this semester. 

“I worked really hard in high school taking AP classes, so I came in with almost a full year’s worth of credits," Schmidt said. "Working with my advisor and professors, I was able to complete my degree early."

Schmidt says she feels a little sad knowing she won't be returning to MSU's campus in the fall, but is excited about the future and well prepared for her career.

a girl wearing a long white sleeve shirt with short black hair
Sophie Schmidt at Brookside Publishing Services in Dublin, Ireland, where she interned during summer 2019


"The Professional Writing program has given me so much – the skills and tools to feel like I can enter the workplace at an advantage and people who I can count on along the way,” she said. 

The Alumni Award for Undergraduate Excellence is given annually to a graduating senior from the College of Arts & Letters who has demonstrated outstanding academic success and community involvement. Academic excellence and community engagement, as well as success in experiential learning, also are key considerations in determining the winner of the Professional Writing Outstanding Major Award, which is presented annually by the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures

The Professional Writing program has given me so much – the skills and tools to feel like I can enter the workplace at an advantage and people who I can count on along the way.

“I’m really excited to have won these awards. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family. I have the most wonderful department at Michigan State, too,” Schmidt said. “There is not a writing class I’ve taken that hasn’t pushed me and made me a better student. I love getting to know my professors and my advisors. They’ve really set me on a path that helps me achieve more than I thought was possible.”

During her time at MSU, Schmidt started a volunteer program for Citizen Scholars at the East Lansing Public Library with the help of one of her best friends and fellow Citizen Scholar. 

“We work with their Reading Buddies Program, which is an after-school program that helps elementary-age kids with reading aloud,” Schmidt said. “We are both volunteers ourselves and coordinate other volunteers from Citizen Scholars.” 

a girl in an MSU sweatshirt sitting on a rock wall
Sophie Schmidt in Ireland during summer 2019


Schmidt credits the Citizen Scholars program with encouraging her to become involved with the community.

“The Citizen Scholars program definitely got me more involved in the community in Lansing and East Lansing,” she said. “It really pushed me to do a lot more in college than I probably would have originally.” 

Besides service-learning and civic interactions, Citizen Scholars also gain experience in high-impact learning environments with every student who completes the program receiving a $5,000 scholarship, which can be used for study abroad, study away, undergraduate research, internships, and other enrichment opportunities.

Schmidt used this funding for a study abroad internship at Brookside Publishing Services in Dublin, Ireland, last summer. 

There is not a writing class I’ve taken that hasn’t pushed me and made me a better student. I love getting to know my professors and my advisors. They’ve really set me on a path that helps me achieve more than I thought was possible.

“The Citizen Scholars program made that opportunity possible because of the scholarship they provided,” Schmidt said. “With that scholarship, this trip was really affordable, and it gave me six credits toward my major. It was an incredible experience. I got to work in a publishing house in Dublin, and it was really awesome to do hands-on work that I hope to do in the future.” 

A collaboration between all departments within the College of Arts & Letters, the Citizen Scholars program aims to help students identify and achieve their goals while preparing them for meaningful careers and leadership roles in this complex and interconnected 21st-century world. As Schmidt looks back on her time at MSU, she is thankful for the opportunities the Citizen Scholars program has given her.

“Citizen Scholars helped me engage more with things that I am interested in like publishing, and the program really encouraged me to look into all the different things that I love,” she said. “I’ve also done a lot of research and the program really helped me engage with the resources the College of Arts & Letters has to provide.”

a girl in a pant suit and sweater wearing glasses
Sophie Schmidt at The Book of Kells exhibit on the campus of Trinity College Dublin 


Not just a program, the Citizens Scholars are a close group of exceptional students learning to become more involved citizens. 

“I’ve made really great friends through the program and it’s really nice to have that cohort,” Schmidt said. “Having class with other Citizen Scholars and going to events is fun because we all get along so well. I don’t think I’ve met a Citizen Scholar who isn’t genuinely kind. One of my best friends and I met through the program.” 

Schmidt was accepted into the New York University Publishing Institute and the Columbia Publishing Course at Oxford. She plans to attend the NYU program during summer 2021.

“Both are intensive six-week programs that focus on publishing and that bring in publishing industry professionals and offer workshops,” Schmidt said. “The whole thing ends with a career fair that will hopefully bring me in connection with people who will get me a job. I’m really looking forward to experiencing New York City like that and getting to meet other publishing professionals, people who are passionate about similar things.”