By Roman Orsini
Thirty members of the College’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society, attended the Sigma Tau Delta 2016 International Convention in Minneapolis, Minn., from Wednesday, March 2, to Saturday, March 5. The event hosted 612 students from 189 colleges around the country who presented their original works and participated in roundtable discussions.
This annual conference centered around the theme “Finding Home,” something the written works and activities intended to reflect. This year’s theme was chosen by the College’s own Diane Steinberg and Felicia Steele, assistant professors of English and co-chairs of the conference. English Department Chair Glenn Steinberg and Associate Professor of English Emily Meixner also attended the conference in support of the College’s chapter.
The conference hosted two main guest speakers, chosen by Steinberg, who have authored books relevant to the theme. The first speaker was author Charles Baxter, whose novel, “The Soul Thief,” was a recommended reading for those who attended the conference. Baxter spoke to the theme of finding home by saying that through literature, one develops the ability to empathize and feel connected to people he otherwise considers strangers, Steele said.
The second speaker was Kao Kalia Yang, whose work, “The Latehomecomer,” recounted the resettlement of her people, the Hmong — a southern Chinese minority persecuted for aiding the U.S. during the Vietnam War — as political refugees in the U.S.
The conference also provided students with a platform to network with one another through professional development workshops. Students gained a further understanding of the job opportunities associated with the English major, all while appreciating each other’s work.
“Students could really get a sense of the range of careers that are accessible to them,” outside of more conventional professions one typically expects to find English majors, like editing and teaching roles, Steele said.
Students were exposed to professionals who applied their English education toward more diverse fields such as nonprofit work, research and development and writing for developmental agencies, according to Steele.
Several students from the College were recognized at the conference for their work. Senior English major Andrew Ryan won third place for the Diversity Award for his critical writing. Senior English and marketing double major Julia Woolever won first place in the Critical Essay category for British or World Literature.
“Winning was especially gratifying because last year my submission wasn’t even accepted. Going from one extreme to the other was totally unexpected for me, and I’m thrilled that I was able to do so,” Woolever said. “I couldn’t have done it without the help of the English Department here at TCNJ.”
In addition, junior English and secondary education dual major Samantha Miller and junior English and secondary education dual major Caitlin Mannion won second and third place for the English Education and Pedagogy awards, respectively.
The conference also awarded students with leadership positions. Miller was elected to a student advisor position and will sit on the Sigma Tau Delta Board of Directors for two years. Junior English and secondary education dual major Jenna Burke became an associate student representative for the chapters in the eastern region of the U.S.
“The profile of the College… amongst active Sigma Tau Delta chapters is very high… We have managed to create a very high reputation for ourselves at the convention,” Steinberg said.