Meet the Majors

Isabel Cruz ’24J

American Studies and English Literature on the Creative Writing Track

About Isabel


Hometown: Paterson, NJ

American Studies and English Literature on the Creative Writing Track

House: Northrop

Other clubs, sports and activities you’d like to mention:
Poetry Center intern, AMS liaison

Describe your major/concentration for someone who has never heard of your field before.
American studies is like history, sociology, anthropology, film and media studies, and economics all wrapped up into one big interdisciplinary field of study. It’s one of the most open-ended majors and allows you to choose your own path more than anything else. English lit (on the creative writing track) is basically the same as being an English major on the lit track, except you get to take way more writing courses. The poetry concentration is practical experience upon practical experience—internships, readings, etc. It’s also just the most tight-knit group of concentrators with really passionate faculty and staff helping to guide us.

What’s your all-time favorite Smith memory?
I think my favorite memories all surround watching silly TV shows like “Bones” or “Gilmore Girls” in my dorm with my best friends Vivian and Lola.

Could you explain a concentration for someone who doesn't know what that is? Why did you choose the poetry concentration for yours?
A concentration is like a minor or certificate but better! What really stands out to me is the concentration’s focus on practical experience: Poetry Concentrators are required to complete two internships, totaling 200 hours each, so there is a real emphasis on real-life experience. The other great part of a—specifically the poetry—concentration is the flexibility designed within the program. We’re really encouraged to follow our own paths. Within poetry, this can mean writing, publishing, editing, teaching, marketing, literally any nexus of poetry and another. As cliché as it sounds, I chose poetry because I’ve always loved it and because the concentration is run by the most amazing faculty and staff (shouts out to Matt and Jen) that I could trust 100 percent with helping to further my academic career.

Did you ever have trouble deciding on a major (or your concentration)? What, ultimately, helped you decide?
When I entered Smith, I was deadset on being a theatre and government double major—as anyone can see, a lot changed. I think the main thing that helped me decide was taking multiple classes in different disciplines. I didn’t even know what American studies was until I took my first class with Professor Kevin Rozario (shout out: AMS Only Joking and Professor Kevin). I loved that class so much that I changed my major from theatre to American studies. In terms of concentrations, Matt Donovan had me hooked on being a poetry concentrator since first-year orientation. I had already had a great foundation in poetry in high school, so when I met Matt for the first time and discussed the concentration I knew it was the right one for me.

Do you have a favorite poem/poet that you'd like to recommend? 
I’m a huge proponent of Puerto Rican and Latine poets so I always recommend Willie Perdomo and Sandra Cisneros.

Is there a poem, line or stanza that you think captures Smith or your time here well?
“There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky.” I feel like college is flying by, especially since I accelerated by a semester, and I’m still looking for a good way to capture it.

I feel like college is flying by, especially since I accelerated by a semester, and I’m still looking for a good way to capture it.

If someone was considering a poetry concentration, what would you tell them?
Take “Reading Contemporary Poetry” with Matt Donovan. It’s one of the required courses, but it’s also a great way to get situated particularly if you don’t have as much experience with poetry. Also, go to Matt Donovan’s office hours; literally any question you could have Matt will help you answer and he’ll help you find the right fit especially if you don’t want to go the traditional writing or publishing route. 

Describe a moment from a class that particularly sticks with you.
One moment that particularly sticks with me is when in our multiethnic literature class, Professor Melissa Parrish encouraged me to push back on the narrative of exclusion that surrounds Puerto Rican people and literature that lives unconsciously in the minds of academics, including at Smith. That one experience informed so much of the work I’m doing as both an AMS and English major and in my poetry—particularly in the body of work I’m curating for my Capstone Chapbook.

What’s your “Big Dream” for your future?
My big dream is to write for a living—poetry, stage plays, screenplays and op-eds. It would be the biggest blessing and greatest payoff to be paid for doing something that I love and would do for free anyway.

What spot on campus will you miss the most?
I’m going to miss the Poetry Center intern office! It was my home away from the house where I could get work done and be comfy without procrastinating—I finished many a paper in the office chair there. It also had the built-in plus of being extremely close to all of my classes, several of them being in Wright Hall where the center is located and Neilson right next door.

If you could tell an incoming first-year anything about Smith, what would it be?
Smith is what you make of it. Meet with your dean regularly and cultivate relationships with your professors. That sort of pursuit makes the academic work much more worthwhile.

What do you think has been the most “Smithie” thing you’ve done in life so far?
I’ve worked and volunteered on several political campaigns, including Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign and the congressional race for Zina Spezakis who ran in NJ-9 and was endorsed by Brand New Congress.

What do you wish older alums knew about the class of 2023?
As a 2024J, I wish older alums knew that we want to connect with them! I personally always love speaking to alums (particularly BIPOC first-gen) to find out about their experience during and after college.