UH Hilo English major Emily Burkhart receives scholarship recognizing excellence in writing

The budding scholar says her return to academic study was brought on by an intense desire to grow and push herself intellectually. Her academic journey as an English major at UH Hilo is giving her that chance.

By Susan Enright

Emily Burkhart with aerial view of UH Hilo campus.
Emily Burkhart

Emily Burhart, a double major in English and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, is this year’s recipient of the annual Matthew Somchai Therrien Memorial Award. The award is now increased from $500 to $1000 at the request of the donors.

“I am very honored to have been selected for a Therrien Award,” says Burkhart. “As someone who has taken a non-traditional path through college, my return to academic study was brought on by an intense desire to grow and push myself intellectually. My journey at UH Hilo as an English major is giving me that gift.”

Matthew S. Therrien
Matthew Therrien

The award is particularly meaningful to recipients because Matthew S. Therrien was an aspiring English major UH Hilo at the time of his tragic death in a car accident in 2014.

“He was a gifted poet and writer with a dream of becoming an English professor,” says Kirsten Møllegaard, professor and chair of UH Hilo’s English department.

The award was established through a generous donation by Stephen and Gloria Gainsley, longtime friends of the Therrien family. The $1000 annual award recognizes an outstanding UH Hilo student majoring in English.

Burkhart takes to heart the meaning behind the award. “With the guidance and support of UH Hilo’s talented faculty and my peers, I hope that I honor the legacy of Matthew Therrien and what he represented to those who knew him,” she says.

Kirsten Møllegaard, wearing glasses and smiling at the camera
Kirsten Møllegaard,

In addition to being an English major, the recipient of the award must have demonstrated academic merit with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher.  The awardee must also have demonstrated excellence in writing, preferably through published work.

“Burkhart fully meets the criteria for the award,” says Møllegaard.

With a 4.0 grade point average, Burkhart works as general editor for UH Hilo’s Hohonu Journal of Academic Writing. Recently she presented an original literary research paper on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the Hawai‘i International Conference on English Language and Literature Studies at UH Hilo. Her paper was titled “Lessons from Monster(s): Postcolonial Feminism in Frankenstein: The 1818 Text.

The budding scholar is originally from Oregon and came to UH Hilo as a transfer student. Her goal is to attend graduate school.

“This award is received with incredible shock and delight, at a point in my story when I’m finally choosing to author it,” she says.


Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.