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Emma Kemp ’20: Setting Her Sights on a Writing Career

Campus Life

Emma Kemp in a graduation gown under the Grecourt Gate

Published May 5, 2020

Emma Kemp ’20 likes writing on deadline.

“I won’t lie, deadlines keep me in shape,” she says, with a laugh.

It’s a skill that will stand her in good stead as she pursues an interest in journalism and publishing that has been nurtured during her time at Smith. 

Kemp’s Smith experience has involved numerous writing adventures, including an internship at the Daily Hampshire Gazette, reporting for The Sophian, and helping to found Emulate, a student-run arts and culture magazine.

“Over the course of my four years, there’s been an increase in journalism classes on campus, which has been really exciting,” Kemp says. “I’ve garnered so many skills at Smith. I know I’ll be able to be resourceful and resilient.”

She first learned about Smith from her grandmother, Susan Lantz of Northampton, who is a member of the class of 1962. 

Kemp’s passion for language and writing emerged during an English survey class she took with professor Floyd Cheung during her first year on campus. 

“I remember feeling like I had found this whole new realm of possibilities—in my own head and in the classroom with my peers,” she says.

At the Gazette, Kemp wrote news stories about topics ranging from nuclear war protesters to book arts exhibits. In a class at Smith last fall with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and visiting writer Susan Faludi, Kemp honed her investigative skills while researching a story about consumer perceptions of chemical-free cosmetics. 

“I got to know these two women really well in the community—one who is vigilant about using clean cosmetics and the other who works for a clean cosmetics brand,” she says. “One of my quarantine goals is to find someplace to publish that story.”

Kemp, who is majoring in English with a minor in Spanish, is drawn to the way journalists give voice to people’s stories.

“As a journalist, you have the power to get to know someone as they share their story. And then you have the power to tell that story,” she explains. “There is something so beautiful about that sharing.”

The work also involves great responsibility, Kemp adds, noting, “As a journalist you also have the capacity to exploit someone. A lot of trust goes into the relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee.”

For Kemp—as for her fellow classmates—leaving campus this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic was unexpected and “wrenching.”

“We had to squeeze all of our senior moments into those last few days,” says Kemp, who is now looking for career opportunities in publishing and journalism from her family’s home in Kittery, Maine.

She appreciates the celebration that members of the class of 2020 organized before leaving campus—an event her grandmother attended carrying a sign that read simply, “Emma!”

Kemp is also proud that her Smith legacy will include a new issue of Emulate focused on the theme of wilderness—and a new group of student editors who will keep the magazine going.

Her advice to new Smithies?

“Take advantage of every opportunity you can!” Kemp says. “It’s hard to wrap your head around how unique this opportunity is when you are just going into it. But at Smith, there is so much that you can do. And no matter what you do, you will grow from it.”