From facilities staff to student: A passion for fiction inspires change
March 24, 2023
Most students at Virginia Tech pass by the bulletin boards on campus without a second glance. But for Millie Yopp, one of the flyers in Shanks Hall advertising Virginia Tech’s creative writing program caught her eye and inspired her to change course.
Yopp, now a sophomore studying literature and creative writing in the Department of English, started her career at the university as a housekeeper in Shanks Hall. Her assignment to Shanks, which is the home of the Department of English and School of Communication, was a random stroke of luck. When she accepted the position with facilities operations through the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities, Yopp began work in Shanks Hall based on building needs and housekeeping vacancies.
This was what led Yopp to the third floor of Shanks and down the quiet hallway of its atrium, where she saw a banner advertising the creative writing program. She decided to apply to the university and followed the signs telling her to become a student in the program.
“We are so excited for Millie and her new opportunities. While we are sad to lose such a valuable member of the housekeeping team, we are always encouraged to see staff get the chance to follow their dreams,” said Greg Canaday, director of facilities operations – housekeeping.
Before coming to Blacksburg, after graduating from high school, she attended community college and studied information technology.
“I felt a lot of pressure to go into a STEM field,” Yopp said, but her passions had always aligned with creative writing and fiction.
From a young age, she was enraptured by Erin Hunter’s “Warrior” series. This middle-grade level fiction is the kind of novel Yopp hopes to write one day. She loves whimsical literature and views it as an escape.
“When I graduated from community college, I didn’t work the best of jobs,” Yopp said, “so I wrote short stories and read fiction as a kind of escape.”
Her creative writing is a mixture between being inspired by her own life and turning those inspirations into fantastic adventures. Influenced by the “Knights of the Round Table,” another literary favorite of hers, Yopp likes to incorporate fantasy into her writing to create a story that appeals to her wanderlust.
Her interest in “Knights of the Round Table” is partially what excites her about one of her classes this semester, Medieval Literature with Kenneth Hodges, a professor in the Department of English. Between this class, British Literature with Tony Colaianne, another professor in the department, and Creative Writing Fiction, Yopp’s spring semester is full of classes that thrill her. Her double major in creative writing and English allows her to pursue two passions at once: reading and discussing literature, as well as writing her own creative fiction.
Since she started taking classes at Virginia Tech in the fall of 2022, Yopp has made instant connections with her professors. Aileen Murphy, one of Yopp’s former instructors, describes her as a joy to have in the classroom. Yopp participates avidly in class discussions, and Murphy said her prose writing is strong. The senior instructor also expressed Yopp’s care for workers’ rights.
“Millie was a bright spot in my days last semester,” Murphy said. “She always stopped by to chat a bit after class. It’s quite an honor to have had her in my class, and I am thrilled to see what comes next in her writing and her life.”
So what is next for Yopp?
She currently works in Newman Library with University Libraries’ technical services, where her duties range from fixing book bindings to digitizing publications. She is considering continuing work in a library upon graduation and is entertaining the idea of pursuing a master's degree in library science. And, of course, she wants to write at least one middle-grade novel.
Yopp’s choice to go back to school offered her what she referred to as a second chance. Studying both literature and creative writing, she is certainly taking advantage of that chance. In the meantime, she is enjoying her classes in the Department of English and looks forward to learning how to write better stories.
Written by Hannah Ballowe, a graduate student in the Master of Arts in English program