Class of 2020: Grace Baggett finds her bearings in words
Outside the bedroom door, one could hear an unexpected sound — the click-clack of typewriter keys. Grace Baggett, an elementary school student at the time, was well into a creative writing frenzy. When others her age were playing computer games, she preferred to craft her own stories.
It is no surprise that the Virginia Tech senior, who will graduate this week, is an English major. After a brief flirtation with psychology during her senior year of high school, she knew her interest lay elsewhere. She remembered her typewriter days and used that to inform her decision when it came to choosing a major.
“I always felt like there should be some kind of indication from my younger years that would point the way,” Baggett said. “I thought back through my life, and I remembered how much I enjoyed writing, so I thought about majoring in English. And then I got this idea in my head that if I could help other people produce books, then I would still be a contributor, even though I felt like I wasn’t a good enough writer to produce a book of my own yet. I say yet because I still want to someday.”
As a constant reminder of her determination to triumph over obscurity and be of service to others, she had a forget-me-not tattooed onto her right hand.
“I chose the flower for its name,” she said. “Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to make an impact on the world. I don’t know what for yet, but I want others to remember me for doing something really great. That’s why I chose forget-me-nots.”
Baggett found kindred spirits and a sense of belonging in the Department of English, where studying with professors such as Nancy Metz confirmed her choice of English as a major.
“I was thrilled when Grace told me she had enrolled in my senior seminar on the Brontë sisters,” Metz said. “I had loved having her in my Literature and Law course in the spring. Grace reads with discernment and genuine engagement; she’s a good writer and will be a great editor one day. Highly organized and collegial, Grace is a wonderful researcher and collaborator.”
Metz noted that she will long remember Baggett’s presentation this past fall — in collaboration with Cassie Belcher, a master’s student in the Department of English — on religion in the Brontë family.
“It was a standout performance, expertly clarifying the confusing network of 19th-century sects and denominations,” Metz said. “The vivid portrait Grace and Cassie painted of diversity, conflict, faith, and unbelief decades before Darwinism was so interesting and compelling.”
Baggett, who grew up in Winchester, Virginia, said the department surprised her in how welcoming and understanding it was of her personal situation.
“The professors are there for you,” she said. “The community has been very helpful to me for both developing professionalism and who I am as a person.”
During her time at Virginia Tech, Baggett has not been idle. From her first year, she engaged in projects and programs that interested her. She interned with VT Stories, an oral history project focused on Hokies; Virginia Tech Magazine; and the communications team of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. She also joined Phi Sigma Pi, a national honor fraternity, and worked with the Virginia Tech Libraries Special Collections and VT Publishing.
“I felt like I was part of something bigger,” she said, “especially when I was working with Special Collections. I transcribed original Virginia Tech Board of Visitors meeting notes from the late 19th century. I learned the stories of big names in the university’s history who were going through different challenges in their lives such as illnesses and campus fires. This sparked my interest in helping to preserve that kind of information.”
In addition, Baggett served as the business manager for Silhouette Magazine, a student-run literary and art publication for undergraduate and graduate work from Virginia Tech.
“Working with Silhouette was interesting,” she said. “I got to look at the archives side of publishing and organize and publish some of its older magazines from before 2005. I hope I can apply all these skills after I graduate.”
In addition, Baggett honed her proficiencies as a communications ambassador. For two years, she was a member of a team of students who interview and photograph members of the university community for the Instagram feed of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. She said this experience helped her improve her own networks and connect with other students.
Virginia Tech has unlocked so many doors of potential, Baggett said. Although she is not sure what the next phase of her journey will be after graduation, what she gained is a strong background that will lend itself to whatever the future holds. She hopes to write novels, memoirs, or poetry. She is also contemplating joining the Peace Corps to help others learn English.
“I’ve really enjoyed every position I’ve held here,” she said. “The work part hasn’t been as influential to me as the people with whom I’ve worked. It’s been cool to work alongside others who are so passionate about what they’re doing. I’m inspired by them, and I carry a little piece from each relationship with me. And I know I want to feel that energy wherever I end up.”
Written by Leslie King