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Jamie-Lee Josselyn Featured in Penn Today

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Who, What, Why: Jamie-Lee Josselyn on her passion for creative writing and Penn 

Josselyn says her goal is ‘to find people who will thrive at Penn who might not have found Penn otherwise.’


Jamie-Lee Josselyn came to Penn from New Hampshire and stayed after her 2005 graduation, finding a home at Kelly Writers House and a purpose in recruiting and teaching young people who are drawn to creative writing. A first-generation student, she learned about Penn from a representative she met at a summer program. For 10 years, starting in 2012, she has been that representative, with the title associate director for recruitment and instructor for Penn’s Creative Writing Program in the School of Arts & Sciences. She also is the director of the Summer Workshop for Young Writers at Kelly Writers House, a program she started for high schoolers in 2017. And she is a pre-major advisor for Penn undergraduates. In addition to her bachelor’s degree from Penn, Josselyn earned a master’s in fine arts in writing and literature from Bennington College in a program with a schedule that allowed her to continue working.


Josselyn travels around the country visiting high schools to speak to students who are interested in writing about applying to Penn, explaining the opportunities for creative writing and financial aid. She has a portfolio of 20-30 schools and writing programs and travels between mid-September and the end of October, until the early decision application deadline, and a bit in the spring. She also meets with students visiting the campus who come to the Writers House. 

“My goal is to find people who will thrive at Penn who might not have found Penn otherwise,” Josselyn says, perhaps because they are a great poet and think they should go to a small liberal arts college or because they think an Ivy League university is out of reach because they don’t know about the financial aid available. She explains to prospective students that the work-study student staff at the Writers House “is really at the heart of our community,” an important factor in its ability to support first-generation and low-income students. “It’s also important for first-gen, low-income students to understand that the arts are viable for them,” she says. The RealArts@Penn program is an important Creative Writing Program partner, she says, offering internship and mentorship opportunities that are key to helping students launch their creative careers.

Josselyn keeps in touch with the students she meets. “I send many, many emails,” she says. “And I read many, many writing samples.” Once the students apply to Penn, Josselyn works with Penn Admissions “to make sure they know who we’ve been in touch with and how we can see those students fitting into our community here,” she says. And when admitted students arrive on campus, she helps them find and choose their classes and writing-related activities, sometimes serving as their advisor and/or instructor. “There’s something really nice about being able to bridge the admissions portion of their interaction with Penn,” she says. 


It’s important for creative students to know that Penn can be a home for them, Josselyn says, and sometimes it takes somebody showing up in their high school creative writing classroom and talking about not just the community, opportunities, and courses, but also the financial aid and the faculty mentorship and the professional connections that Penn can offer. 

“Some people know of Penn as a great place if you’re business-minded. Some people know of Penn as a great place if you’re science-minded. But not everybody knows that Penn is a great place if you’re a writer or if you’re creative-minded,” Josselyn says. “So that’s my job, to make sure that that people know that and to make sure that, if you are science-minded and you’re a poet, guess what, we also want you to come hang out here at the Writers House,” she says. “I want them to know that in coming to Penn you gain not just some of the best creative writing opportunities in the country but friends and lifelong collaborators and mentors, too.”

As admitted students are making their choice this month, Josselyn says she hears from those she has been connected with the past several months and years. “We work with Admissions and serve as an ambassador and partner to reel them in,” she says. “I’m always happy when the students get to be the ones making the call on their college choice for themselves.”