Hannah Ballowe is on the run, feet moving, heart pounding, always pushing herself farther. With shoes laced and muscles warmed up, she is not running away; she is running toward something.

An athlete on the Virginia Tech track and field team, she also is a graduate student in the English Master of Arts program. Ballowe is continuing on at Virginia Tech after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English (pre-law) and professional and technical writing. We recently interviewed her about her interest in continuing her education and how running intersects with her student self. 

Q: What inspired you to become a graduate student here at Virginia Tech?

A: I realized how much I loved to write when I was a senior in high school. I had always enjoyed essays and reading, but I took a memoir writing class that year and it really shifted my focus to wanting to study English in college. I switched my major from Biology to English in my freshman year and never looked back. During my time as an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech, I absolutely loved my classes and professors in the Department of English. I found that those classes, and especially the ones that involved research, were the ones I was most excited about attending. As I moved forward in the program and could pursue research projects with more freedom, I started to realize the passion that I have for those opportunities. In the spring of my last semester as an undergrad, I spoke with Dr. Gerdes and Dr. Pender, who helped guide me into the M.A. program here. 

Q: If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

A: I think Dr. Martin’s British literature class during my sophomore year of high school sparked my love for English. I still believe that he is one of the smartest people I have ever met and can almost guarantee I wouldn’t be studying English if it weren’t for that class. That being said, I think my author would have to pay homage to that class: Jonathan Swift. Specifically, I would love to talk to Jonathan Swift about “A Modest Proposal.” Reading that essay in high school introduced me to writing as more than five-paragraph, analytical papers, and the satire is still relevant and comedic today. I would also love to talk to William Blake because I find his mythology incredibly fascinating. In a less serious conversation, I would love to talk to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald and get to the bottom of the theory that Zelda wrote many of the works that were published under F. Scott Fitzgerald’s name. 

Q: What are you looking forward to the most about being an MA grad student?

A: I am most excited about refining my research and technical writing skills. I know the program tends to be very literature-based, which might not necessarily align with the technical writing focus, but I know that the analytical skills achieved by conducting in-depth literature analyses will translate into other projects. I am also looking forward to the opportunity to complete either a thesis or independent study and to connect with professors whose interests align with or complement my own. 

Q: How does your love of running intersect with the student you?

A: This is a tough one. I started running when I was in eighth grade because I was incredibly competitive. I never expected to still be running, or to be running at this level, nearly eight years later. I think one skill that translates into both mediums is being detail-oriented and prepared for a long process. With distance running, it takes huge amounts of repetition and setbacks to achieve small time increases, especially as the level increases. I think that academics can be similar - the further you progress in your studies, the more time is required to produce deliverables that meet standards. Outside of that (and perhaps most importantly), my love for running keeps me sane. It has introduced me to some of my favorite people and has provided an outlet and intense level of structure to my life. While running in college can be difficult to balance with other workloads, I would never change my decision and cannot imagine where I would be today if I hadn’t been challenged to a mile race back in the winter of 2014.