Kouma receives fellowship to research Christian martyrs, write poems for UNK | Local

Scotus Central Catholic graduate Cassie Kouma said her faith was strengthened during her freshman year of college, leading her to question how she’s living her faith.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney student said that thought led her into researching Christian martyrs “who lived and died for their faith.”

This research culminated in Kouma writing a poem – in the style of Emily Dickinson – describing the life of St. Perpetua for an assignment in her English class.

Her professor, Marguerite Tassi – who was impressed by Kouma’s poem – told the Scotus graduate about a college undergraduate research fellowship program. The fellowship – which starts next fall – allows Kouma to research more Christian martyrs and write poetry.

“I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I’ve wanted to write poems about saints,” said Kouma, a 2021 Scotus graduate. “I’ve always enjoyed writing poems about religious topics.”

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Kouma also credited Tassi with sponsoring and mentoring her project.

Tassi said she was moved by Kouma’s work after asking her class to do a creative imitation of a poem they enjoyed. Kouma chose Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death.”

“It was a fabulous poem. She did a fabulous job,” Tassi said. “I think it lit a fire under her.”

Kouma said her inspiration began with St. Perpetua – who was told by her father to recant her faith before her death. Perpetua died alongside four others in Carthage, Northern Africa, in the year 203. Her execution of her took place on the floor of an amphitheater for all to see.

Kouma added she’s always been inspired by saints and what goes through their minds when they are facing death and “knowing they will see God.”

Through the fellowship, she will take 10 martyrs and write about what that experience may have been like for them.

“It’s a really exciting idea,” Tassi said. “… The project is partly research-based and partly creative writing. It really evolved naturally through the reading we were having in class and her connection de ella with Emily Dickinson. ”

Tassi said she was happy to have taught Kouma, adding she is the kind of student who teachers love to have in their classroom.

Like her faith, Kouma has been interested in poetry for some time. She participated in poetry contests in high school before writing more in college.

Kouma – who is currently studying secondary English education at UNK – said she hopes to become a high school English teacher.

“I would like to teach at a Catholic school so that way I could bring the faith aspect into it too,” Kouma said, adding she would like to add an emphasis on poetry to her class as well.

She added she’s looking forward to her fellowship.

“I’m really grateful that I can do such a faith-based project at a secular university,” Kouma said. “I’m really thankful for the foundations that were found in my faith with my family, going to Scotus and how that’s been able to grow at college.”

Andrew Kiser is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at andrew.kiser@lee.net.


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