To Heidi Kaloustian, every story she writes is merely an entry in a typical 17-year-old girl’s diary. But according to The New York Times, each word this LSA freshman puts to paper is seen as a stroke of genius.
Last summer, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development Foundation named Kaloustian a Davidson Fellow – a student who has completed extraordinary academic work in the areas of arts and sciences – and granted her a $50,000 scholarship. The foundation considers most of the selected students to be “gifted,” and because of this, in a Nov. 20 article, The New York Times reported on Kaloustian’s new found fame as a prodigy.
But the soft-spoken blonde says: “I just don’t like the idea of being called a genius.”
She feels just like any other girl, she added.
“She wasn’t writing her name in sand at the age of two or anything like that,” said her mother Lynn Kaloustian. “Heidi is simply a genius in her writing.”
Kaloustian won the scholarship money for her creative writing portfolio titled, “The Roots of All Things,” making her one of four Davidson Fellow laureates this year. She is the first student to be honored as a laureate for work in literature.
“It’s something I’ve always done,” she said. “I think there’s different mediums through which people connect with others and writing is mine.”
Her parents deny that Kaloustian fits the qualifications of a prodigy, adding that her childhood was no different from anyone else’s. She just had a lot of freedom and independence to pursue her own interests, they add.
At age seven, Kaloustian developed a love for writing, but her parents said she didn’t begin to receive recognition until high school, when she won many academic awards. Her teachers eventually submitted a collection of poems and essays to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development Foundation.
In one of her favorite writings she submitted, “The Woman With The Paint, Japan,” she wrote:
“We are the women men dream of. They dream our faces dipped white, smiling Kabuki masks. They dream our heron’s necks with serpent tongues of unpainted flesh at the nape – Their wives are too real for dreaming, so husbands in their business suits come to our Floating World. We are the women men dream of, we are real only at night.”
“This longer piece was a really long learning process for me and I got the most out of it,” she said.
Most of Kaloustian’s works explore women’s issues, feminism and the treatment of women in Asia.
Kaloustian, who plans on becoming an English major, said the University will foster her writing skills. For example, she takes everything she learns from her classes and relates those learned skills to her writing.
“This Japanese class I’m taking is a total re-examination of language itself,” she said about Residential College Intensive Japanese 196. “Japanese is straight-forward, concise and sparse but extremely poetic. So it’s helped my writing develop because my writing tends to not always be concise.”
While members of the Davidson Institute have urged her to publish her works, Kaloustian plans on learning more in her collegiate studies before considering a career in print.
Eventually she hopes to become an English professor and maybe write a book or publish a few essays. Although she values her work, she still balks when critics call it the work of a genius. Kaloustian just hopes she can keep it up.
“My greatest fear is losing that curiosity and drive to learn,” she said. “A lot of adults lose their imagination and will to learn. Even kids do. But not me.”