Growing up, Timika Elliott longed to see herself in the books she read. With five eager readers now calling her “mom,” she’s ready to write her own stories. Timika’s bringing these tales out of her head and onto paper because of her experience in the creative writing program.

“Friends would read my work and tell me ‘it’s great,’ but now I know how to identify what’s really working and what’s not,” says Timika, who served in the Army as a photojournalist. “As a writer, I finally feel like I belong.”

After completing her military service, Timika earned both her BA and MFA degrees from Rutgers–Camden. She received the Ralph Johnson Bunche Distinguished Graduate Award for being an exceptional, full-time student. Named for the Nobel Peace Laureate, the award provided Timika with a $15,000 stipend plus tuition remission.

“I was humbled in receiving such an honor,” Timika says. “It allowed me to focus on my writing goals and shape my plans for my future in writing.” She aims to publish her book-length thesis which features fiction inspired from her childhood, like the short story “Della,” drawn from Timika’s relationship with her grandmother.