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Using talents to build BYU up, humanities grad stands out

Heidi Moe Graviet “exemplifies the best of BYU,” according to her mentor, Dr. Matthew Wickman. “She loves the Lord and has the mind, drive and skills to succeed at most anything, but she is determined to choose what is most virtuous, lovely and of good report.”

For Graviet, deciding how to develop her strengths hasn’t always been straightforward. When she first set her sights on college, BYU wasn’t in the plan and neither were her English major and philosophy minor. The Honors student, who goes by “Moe,” originally wanted to attend school with her sisters in Pennsylvania but felt inspired to enroll at BYU instead.

“At first I didn’t know why I was here,” said Graviet, who graduates this summer. “I laugh now because Heavenly Father knew exactly where I needed to be. BYU has this really unique holistic approach where they really see learning as a combination of cultivating spiritual gifts as well as intellectual development.” Looking back she said, “I wouldn’t have grown nearly as much at another university, even though the education would have been amazing, because I think the way that I learn is through the combination of those things.”

As it is for many students, figuring out her major was a lengthy, introspective process: “I thought, ‘I need to be serious,’” said Graviet. “‘Serious means STEM, so I’m going to do that.’ But then I realized that my love lies in the humanities, narratives and questions of meaning. I naturally gravitated toward English and philosophy as I started to realize what I actually wanted from my education."

Her choices opened up what she calls “transformative” experiences as a BYU student. These included researching Victorian poetry for a summer at the University of Cambridge, studying abroad at the BYU Jerusalem Center and doing research for three professors’ upcoming books. She is also writing an Honors thesis, “Journey into the Self: Essays of Bi-Culturalism, Religion, and Identity,” in which she explores her own Japanese-American heritage.


Graviet’s interest in the relationship between spirituality and literature deepened after she heard a lecture on the subject by Dr. Wickman, BYU professor of English and director of the Humanities Center. “It just resonated with me, this is really, really, really important,” she recalled. “Something within me said, ‘Yes, please let me be a part of that.’” So she approached Wickman and asked to be his research assistant.

Working closely with several faculty mentors like Wickman has been the hallmark of her education, Graviet said. “I have been in awe of pretty much all of my professors and the way they exemplify being disciple-scholars. They embody everything I want to be as a person.”

For his part, Dr. Wickman describes Graviet’s role in his work as “enormously important”: “Moe’s exceptional insights and courage . . . have inspired me to be a better writer and teacher, especially pertaining to intersections of faith and intellect. Moe thinks with great depth and clarity, drawing from reservoirs of great goodness.”

Graviet’s many contributions to BYU attest to her abilities and desire to serve. Twice awarded the Eliza R. Snow Undergraduate Fellowship, Graviet helped organize two of the Humanities Center’s annual undergraduate research symposia, and she also edited the student-led journal Criterion for two years. As a member of the BYUSA Student Advisory Council, she helped spearhead an initiative to connect students to mental health resources on campus.

Most recently, as the vice president of the Honors Student Leadership Council, Graviet led a successful ambassadorship program to foster unity among Honors students with diverse majors. Her idea was to appoint liaisons for each Honors class who would also form study groups, head up outings and reach out to classmates in need of a friend. As in all of her leadership positions, Graviet’s goal was to build a “community feel” in the Honors program.

In keeping with the path she carved out at BYU, Graviet’s advice to fellow students would be to appreciate others’ role in their education: “We often think of graduation as a culmination of individual effort, but a graduation is a community effort. My message to other graduates would be, ‘Remember all the people who have gotten you here.’ Living that way allows you to live powerfully.”

After graduating, Graviet will be working as a content writer and teaching seminary. Her long-term plans include attending divinity school and pursuing a Ph.D. in English or religious studies.

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