Published: Dec. 8, 2017

For the second straight year, a CU Boulder student/graduate has been awarded a prestigious Marshall Scholarship that offers a full ride to any university in the U.K. Emma Oosterhous, an accomplished comic artist who graduated from CU Boulder in May 2017, will work on a master's degree in comics and graphic novels at the University of Dundee in Scotland.

Emma Oosterhous

Marshall Scholarship recipient Emma Oosterhous

Oosterhous, creator of the successful webcomic Alphabet Soup, is from Colorado Springs, and received a bachelor's degree in Spanish with a minor in in technology, arts and media. She also was a Norlin Scholar while at CU Boulder.

Enacted in 1953 by the British Parliament and named after former U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the scholarship was developed as a thank-you for U.S. aid in rebuilding Europe after World War II. It is offered to 30 to 40 students annually out of 1,000 applicants and targeted toward “intellectually distinguished young Americans—their country’s future leaders.” This year, 43 scholars were named.

"The highly selective Marshall Scholarship is one of the most prestigious in the world. We are thrilled Emma has been recognized for her creativity, intellectual curiosity, leadership and investment in community," said Deborah Viles, director of CU Boulder’s Top Scholarships office. "She represents the best of what CU has to offer. Hers is the second consecutive Marshall Scholarship awarded to a CU student, a huge honor for CU, and a fact that highlights CU’s commitment to investing in student success."

Students interested in seeking a campus endorsement for the Marshall and other U.K. scholarships should contact well before the April 16 campus deadline. 

Q&A with Emma Oosterhous

What was your favorite part about attending CU Boulder?

My favorite part of going to CU is probably a tie between the TAM program and the Norlin Scholars community. Both of them gave me some fantastic mentors and amazing friends who were always there for me when I needed support.   

Did you have a favorite class/student organization or a professor/mentor while you were at CU?

The class I took with Jim Walker in the Norlin Scholars program last year forced me to do my best work and made it fun. It was a class about exploring myself in relation to the world around me, and I know I came out of there a better person.

I also can’t really answer this question without mentioning Chris Carruth, whose image class taught me that photography is cathartic and powerful and way harder than it looks, and Juan Pablo Dabove, who taught my Argentine literature courses and mentored my research on Argentine graphic novels. They were both incredibly supportive during some of the hardest times of my life. 

What was the application process like for the Marshall Scholarship, and how does it feel to be named a recipient of the prestigious scholarship?

The Marshall application process was pretty intense. In the spring there was a round of applications just to get endorsed by CU, and then I spent all summer working on the actual application. There were about seven different essays and I needed four letters of recommendation. I worked very closely with Deb Viles from the Top Scholarships office, and she always gave me wonderful feedback; I absolutely wouldn't have been able to do this without her. 

I submitted it in early October, and then about a month later I found out I'd gotten an interview. I flew down to Houston with my dad for the interview (during which they read me a passage from a play and asked me to draw it out in a comic), and then that afternoon as I was in the airport waiting for my flight back to Denver, they called me and offered me the scholarship.

I think I'm still kind of in shock . . . Maybe it won't feel real until I'm actually over in Scotland. I’m obviously extremely honored to have been chosen among hundreds of brilliant applicants, and I’m proud to represent CU Boulder, the independent comics community and my queer community going forward. 

How did you become interested in the comics and graphic novels field?

I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a crayon, but the first time I thought maybe I wanted to be a comic artist was two or three years ago when I read Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. It defied every narrative expectation I’d had of comic books up to that point, and it was hilarious and profound and queer in every sense of the word. 

From then on there was really no other option for me. I started my webcomic Alphabet Soup soon afterward, and I've been making comics nonstop ever since. 

What are you most excited about when it comes to studying and living in Dundee, Scotland?

I’m most excited about getting some actual art education. I have no formal training (aside from one or two art classes in high school) because I was already halfway done with my Spanish major by the time I realized I actually wanted to be a comic artist. It was a little too late for me to change my major, but now I get a second chance to study my favorite thing in the world!

I’m also really excited for the weather in Scotland. I love Colorado, but I can’t be a brooding artist in all this sunshine.

Do you have any advice for current CU students when it comes to finding something they’re passionate about?  

I think I got pretty lucky; my passion hit me like a truck relatively early in my life. I guess I want people to know that it’s okay if it takes you years or even decades to figure out what you love. You can’t rush something like this, but it always helps to get to know yourself better. 

Try new things whenever you can! Examine your values and figure out what issues matter to you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or choose the wrong path. Revisit the things that excited you when you were a kid. Be brave. Chill out. Pet a dog. I believe in you!