IST student receives poetry prize

Ayushman Khazanchi, a senior information science and technology major at Penn State Harrisburg, of Gurgaon, India, received the Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller Poetry Prize, part of the Academy of American Poets’ (AAP) University and College Poetry Prizes program. This is the first year the college participated in the prize program. The award is open only to Penn State Harrisburg students.

Presented in honor of Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller, a Harrisburg native killed in action while serving in Afghanistan in 2008, the award is funded by a private donation made to the Academy of American Poets. The winning entry is selected by a committee of faculty judges from the college’s School of Humanities.  The awardee’s name is listed in AAP’s annual report.

Khazanchi’s poem, “Half of a Face,” is about a female involved in an acid attack, a form of violence in which acid is thrown at the body or face of a victim.

“Acid attacks on women are a common, if not frequent, occurrence in some countries, and having grown up in India, I have read more than a few news articles on this,” Khazanchi said. “Violence is horrifying but it’s hard to feel the real impact that a scarred face could have on its owner by simply reading it in the news. I guess I was trying to explore a better way to portray the aftermath of such a tragedy.”

One of the judges cited that the poem “manages to turn a horrific act into an occasion for contemplation about violence against women and social (in)justice.”

Jen Hirt, Penn State Harrisburg assistant professor of creative writing, administers the yearly award for the college. For additional information, contact Hirt at