2022 Cheuse Center MFA Travel Fellows

The Cheuse Center for International Writers is pleased to announce its MFA Travel Fellows for 2022. The fellows this year are: 

Headshot of Emilie KnudsenEmilie Knudsen is a second-year candidate in Fiction Writing and holds a BA from the University of Richmond’s Theatre & Dance Department, where she worked as a scenic painter and studied stage management and scenic design. Currently, she is the assistant nonfiction editor at Phoebe and is teaching English 201 at Mason. Every year, she attempts to read 250 books. 

With her fellowship, Knudsen plans to travel to the islands and upper Highlands of Scotland, including the Island of Skye and the Outer Hebrides. Knudsen’s thesis centers around a small island community that has been isolated from the rest of the world for a long time, and she aims to research individuals and societies isolated by geography during her travel through the Highlands. 

Headshot of Chelsea LebronChelsea Lebron is a first-year MFA student in Fiction Writing and holds a B.A. from Rutgers University where she studied English, Cinema Studies, Visual Arts, and Creative Writing. Lebron will travel to South America to study the relationship between Latino culture and ghost stories. Through time spent in Argentina, Peru, and Chile interviewing locals about ghost stories passed down through generations and exploring locations haunted with speculative histories, such as Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, she hopes to explore what ghosts say about Latino communities, ideals, and identities. 

Photo of Ashlen RennerAshlen Renner is a first-year MFA student studying Creative Nonfiction Writing. A former journalist and video producer from North Carolina, Ashlen was a finalist in the Hearst Journalism Awards for multimedia storytelling and the winner of the Robert Ruark Award in Creative Nonfiction at her alma mater, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

 Renner’s research and writing are focused on Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth-century abbess and one of the few female authors of medieval Europe. With the Cheuse Center fellowship, Renner will travel to Germany to walk the 83-mile Hildegard Trail so that she can walk where Hildegard walked and better understand Hildegard’s legacy as an icon in Germany. 


The applications were evaluated by Jung Yun, a writer and Cheuse Center Board member, Catherine Olien, Associate Director of the Center for Humanities Research here at Mason, Elizabeth Gutting, Assistant Director of the Cheuse Center and Mason MFA alum, and Matthew Davis, Director of the Cheuse Center. 

Since 2017, the Cheuse Center has sent 10 Mason MFA students on travel research trips. These fellowships fund students’ international research for creative projects of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction (2021 trips were conducted domestically because of international travel bans due to COVID-19). The fellowship program is designed to enable students to actively engage with the people and culture in the country where they travel. In exchange for funding, students deliver both a creative work inspired by their travel and a form of literature—oral history, translation, or interview—that directly engages with the local population. 

At its core, the Cheuse Center facilitates the exchange of international creative writers and writing to help foster the tolerance and empathy a more connected world requires. The MFA travel fellowships are just one such example of our programming that accomplishes this goal. The Cheuse Center also brings emerging and established international writers to Mason through a residency program, and hosts events featuring international writers and translators in Fairfax, VA and Washington, D.C. in collaboration with embassies, bookstores, and cultural institutes. 

The Cheuse Center is pleased to award these travel fellowships to the selected 2022 MFA students and is excited to see the work and art created by these fellows from their travels.