To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing regarding Sara Tan’s application for the Covid Undergraduate Research Scholars Educational Development scholarship, which seeks to reward students exhibiting extraordinary academic skills, creativity, and leadership abilities during this time of uncertainty. I met Sara this fall semester as she was enrolled in my first-year composition class. In the time I have known her, she has proven to be a hard-working student worthy of your consideration.

You may wonder how I have come to know Sara so well when our college has been virtually shut down save for essential staff, such as our finance department, the volunteers that feed the feral cats on campus, and the occasional faculty member who wanders onto the grounds looking for a sense of a connection to the past he once had in order to fight feeling completely untethered during this pandemic. I’m not saying that person is me, but I digress. This is about Sara. Sara has been very active in our Zoom classes. She never turns her camera on, but it is always a delight to see her black box log in with its three dancing dots struggling to establish audio and find a connection, any connection – physical, spiritual, emotional – in the dark void that is the new college classroom. I’ve come to expect Sara’s disembodied voice, floating through my speakers, to offer pithy observations about the day’s text. Her contributions in the chat are equally insightful, always complete sentences or at least a clause with a subject and a verb, far more than her classmates’ single-word utterings.

It’s hard to establish relationships with students you only see virtually, but I have gotten to know Sara’s personality and creative side through her use of GIFs. For example, when I try too hard to sound hip by referring to the class as “Tiktok teens” in an email announcement, she will reply with the gif of Steve Buscemi holding a skateboard and wearing a cap backward saying, “How do you do, fellow kids?” in the Announcement thread. When she aces a quiz, she celebrates by posting GIFs and emojis of Wonder Woman. The Linda Carter one, because that’s the “one from your generation, prof lololol!!!! [happy face emoji, heart sign].” I was born in the ’80s.

Sara is also very well-rounded or was very-well rounded before COVID-19 sent us into our homes and gave us a new reason to fear strangers. She is the captain of a synchronized swim team. Unfortunately, the lockdown closed all public pools, so they no longer have a place to practice. Nevertheless, Sara and her teammates were undeterred, moving their practices to the local park’s splash pad. When the mayor closed all parks to cap rising infection rates, they practiced their choreography in their bathtubs over Zoom. It’s far from a real pool, but it’s wet, and a sign of Sara’s leadership and ingenuity during this time of crisis.

I highly recommend Sara for your scholarship. She is funny and intelligent. She is the type of student you want to see enter your Zoom class as you fixate with a hawk’s intensity on the menu bar hoping to God that the number of participants climbs higher than one. Kids like her make it all worth it.

Let me know if you stream the ceremony. I’d like to see her face someday.

Knott Fine
English Department
Associate Professor on Zoom