A&S Class of ’24: Lawnie Maddie Stokes Builds Community Through Poetry and Debate

Maddie Stokes

Maddie Stokes graduates this year with a double major in English in the area program in poetry writing, which allows talented undergraduate writers to pursue serious study of poetics and the craft of poetry writing, and she completed the requirements for the Distinguished Majors Program in modern and global studies, where she explored the intersection of contemporary literature and global culture.

A Jefferson Scholar, a Lawn resident and winner of the English Department’s Michael Wagenheim Memorial Scholarship, Stokes feels that the most fulfilling moment for her at UVA was the night she invited a few friends to her Lawn room to experience the Lighting of the Lawn, an event that proved to be more meaningful than she could have guessed.

When Stokes began her studies at UVA during a global pandemic, she had never visited Grounds, and the Lawn seemed foreign and intimidating.  UVA was larger than she expected, and she had no ties to the area.  As one of seven siblings, however, Stokes was eager to experience something entirely new and different from the home she knew in Louisville, Kentucky.

Soon after arriving on Grounds, she discovered a wealth of opportunities to join the University’s clubs and communities of students who share her interest in exploring new things and new ideas, and after experiencing her first year under lockdown, she has focused on activities that bring people together.  She also discovered her passion for poetry.

“I came to UVA thinking I was going to be a politics major and go straight to law school, but I never thought I was going to be a poet,” but her role as a poet and an advocate for poetry has helped her forge unexpected connections to her fellow students.

In her second year, she took on a leadership role in the Jefferson Literary Debating Society as chair of the probationary process for new members, a community-building position that allowed her to make the group more welcoming to new members.

And when she opened her Lawn room doors to a few friends for her last Lighting of the Lawn as an undergraduate…over 300 people turned up.

“It was such a fulfilling experience,” Stokes said. “It was really a culmination of my time here.”

After graduation, Stokes is deciding between pursuing a master’s degree or teaching abroad, but eventually, she’ll return to higher education for a Ph.D. with a focus on contemporary climate poetry.


Read more about the A&S Class of '24