Mia Willis

Poetry is passion for ECU's Mia Willis.

Since high school, senior Mia Willis of Charlotte has had a passion for performing and debating. When she arrived at East Carolina University, her talent and drive only deepened.

"I went to open mic night as a freshman and met the nicest people. I shared a poem that night and was at the Word of Mouth poetry meeting the next Sunday, and I've been there ever since," said Willis.

Willis is pursing a double major in anthropology and multidisciplinary studies with a focus on classical civilizations. Though she was initially drawn to ECU for medical school, she decided that anthropology was a more fitting field. She credits ECU's diverse and open environment for allowing her talent for poetry to flourish.

"I came into a poetry organization that had many seasoned members, and they made me feel comfortable addressing difficult topics. They also taught me the importance of responsibility, of being intentional with one's words, which is especially vital in poetry," said Willis.

The topics that Willis chooses to write about are ones that relate to current, global affairs, such as the Black Lives Matters movement. She also writes about her own personal experiences.

In April, Willis won the Haiku slam during the Association of College Unions International College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational.

"There is no energy like a competition. The energy and creativity is palpable. It's a free art zone, and going to these events has provided me with a wealth of positive experiences with other poets and artists," she said.

Willis has grown as an artist and scholar because of her professors and range of classes at ECU, which have been invaluable, she said.

"One of my professors showed me that you can glean something new from a book each time you read it," Willis said. "I used to just read it because I felt connected to the plot, but now that I make new connections with each reading, I apply the same methods to my writing. I try to evaluate literature and writing in the same way." 

Following graduation, Willis plans on applying to graduate programs in classical archaeology. She hopes to eventually be a museum curator for classical selections.

What advice do you have for other students?

Stay the course! Nothing worth having is easy to get or find, so never despair. Never surrender. Go forth and patent your passion.

What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year?

That the Writing Center reviews papers for free!

Written by: Sophronia Knott
Photography by: Cliff Hollis


College: Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences

Major: B.A. Anthropology, B.A. Multidisciplinary Studies

Age: 21

Classification/Year: Senior

Hometown: Charlotte

Hobbies & Interests: watching Netflix, playing with my puppy named “Squirrel,” reading poetry and Roman art museum collection catalogs, hiking, rock climbing, cooking 

Clubs and Organizations: Dept. of Foreign Language & Literatures Council for Student Ambassadors, Classical Studies Association, Word of Mouth, Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity, Inc.


Favorite Hangout: Crave Uptown

Favorite Place on Campus: Cynthia’s Lounge, Mendenhall

Favorite Place to Eat: La Ribera

Favorite Class: Latin 1001-1004 with Tricia Wilson-Okamura

Professors who influenced you the most: David Wilson-Okamura, Tricia Wilson-Okamura, Lisa Ellison, Steve Cerutti

Favorite TV Show: Arrow

Favorite band/musician: Beyoncé

Favorite Movie: Clue (1985)

Favorite Website: Tumblr


Dream job: Museum curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The one thing you cannot live without: My books

Role model: Toni Morrison, Claudia Rankine, Angela Davis

Your words to live by: Everything flows, nothing remains unchanged. – Heraclitus

Words of Wisdom
“Go forth and patent your passion.”

- Mia Willis