Hamster stories and essays – English majors share work

Sigma Tau Delta, the College’s English Honor Society, traveled to Kansas City on March 16 to attend the annual Sigma Tau Delta (STD) conference. Roughly 500 students and 100 faculty members attended, representing dozens of schools.

Six students from the College went on the trip – senior English majors Tierney Dwyer, Christina Maffa and Matthew Miller and junior English majors Jessica DeLisi, Jessica Gill and Courtney Rydel. The students were accompanied by Diane Steinberg, assistant professor of English and one of the group’s three chapter sponsors.

All six students who attended the conference submitted essays to the National English Honor Society prior to the trip and all were selected to read their essays at the competition. The essays ranged from critical essays on literature to fiction, poetry and non-fiction. A faculty team organized by the national organization was responsible for selecting essays for the convention.

Dwyer, Maffa and Miller submitted critical essays on James Joyce, Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” and “King Lear,” respectively. DeLisi submitted a linguistics essay on synonyms, Rydel wrote on Jane Austen’s “Emma” and Gill wrote a fictional story from a hamster’s point of view.

It was quite a feat for all of the College’s students’ works to be accepted.

“Many other chapters had attendees who were only there to listen since their works had not made the cut,” Steinberg said.

In addition to having everyone’s essays chosen, the College’s chapter of STD was asked to prepare a display for the “Outstanding Chapters” room at the conference. The College’s chapter was one of 10 schools asked to do this. Steinberg speculated that this was because they have a very large chapter, journalists from STD had sent in articles reporting on their activities and they have won two out of the three national awards for which they had applied.

Another positive outcome of the conference was Gill’s election to the governing board. Gill, co-vice president of STD, attended a leadership workshop while at the conference. After mentioning that the College’s chapter had 120 members, she was approached by the President of STD, who encouraged her to run for a position on the governing board. Once she spoke with other members of the board, Gill, along with DeLisi, both ran for positions.

After giving a short speech in front of a large crowd of people, each college voted and Gill was elected associate student representative from the Eastern Region, which is comprised of 161 chapters. With her new position comes new responsibilities.

“I have a say in what happens in next year’s conference in Portland, Oregon and I help put together a newsletter from the schools in the Eastern Region,” Gill said.

To add to the already long list of accomplishments of the group, Rydel was also a runner-up in the “Best Critical Essay” category at the conference. Rydel’s essay was based on Jane Austen’s “Emma,” but focused on a minor character, Harriet Smith. The essay was entitled, “‘More conversable than I expected’: Harriet Smith’s Miss-education.”

“I was surprised and thrilled to be chosen as one of the top five essays at the convention,” Rydel said.

Although STD members did have to pay for some of the trip, it was funded primarily by Susan Albertine, dean of the School of Culture and Society. The students were very appreciative, since the trip would not have been possible without help from Albertine.

“It’s an honor to have our students present their work in such venues, and we are proud to assist as much as we can,” Albertine said.

The group returned from the conference with a newfound confidence in their work (along with plenty of “Wizard of Oz” memorabilia), and both the students and their advisor were pleased with the outcome.

“This conference showed them that they could hold their own with everyone there, and that they were stronger than most,” Steinberg said.

“Having the quality of writing and scholarship that goes on in the College’s English department recognized at a national convention was very exciting for all of us,” Rydel said.