An Umbrella of Support

Word Count? Check.

Bibliography? Check.

Title? Check.

Last minute read through for errors?

Nah.

Submit!!

You’ve just spent six, ten plus hours on that final paper, and when your grade comes out you’ll be elated with that “A” or – um – seriously disappointed with that “C” or “D” or…”F.”

When you’re really proud of your work and your grade reflects that, you can’t help but give yourself a pat on your back. But no one knows about your hard work and sleepless nights except your professor and yourself.

At the Sigma Tau Delta Convention, I got the chance to show off my hard work and appreciate the brilliance of other English majors like me, from all over the country. I presented my essay, “Thoughts from the Security Room.”

My essay was a formal analysis on the graphic novel We3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. The UO is the first in the nation to offer a minor in Comics and Cartoon Studies, so I knew my audience would most likely have no experience with comic analysis and theory. As such, I was nervous that no one would care.

But boy, were they attentive! I have never had people seem genuinely interested in a paper about something they had never read before. My own father had asked to read my paper when he heard it had been accepted for presentation, but he didn’t quite understand it. During my presentation though, I had one guy in the front row, nodding along as I read my paper, smiling encouragingly as he followed along with the handouts. After the panel, a woman even came up to me, asking for a copy of my paper for her son, so that she could show him that comics was something he could study in college. My family was not initially supportive of me being an English major, and to think that my essay garnered that kind of reaction from strangers, is mind-boggling; I still get a happy-bubbly feeling whenever I think about it.

My panel also exposed me to so many different subjects. I learned about Chamorro literature, about Emily Bronte’s poem, “Remembrance,” and more. The quality of their papers was also astounding. I felt like I was listening to graduate students at times.IMG_0979

Yet, above all, this convention gave me a huge umbrella of support – from my chapter members and complete strangers who became friends. My fellow convention attendees have inspired me to work hard, taught me so much, and given me praise for work that has largely gone uncredited. I only hope that my presentation has inspired the same in them.

-Grace Shum

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New Friends, New Connections, New Opportunities

11075237_489524654527987_284236195560294224_nWhen our chapter’s incoming president, Sean Pebler, leaned over and told me that we should get our region’s Student Representative’s phone number, I didn’t anticipate actually having Matthew Drollette’s number by the end of the trip. I didn’t anticipate being one of two students who would be taking over his position, either.

As a chapter, we’ve managed to make so many new friends and new connections over the past few days. We were left breathless when Ryan Horner of Wabash College (Crawsfordsville, IN) read his beautiful award-winning short story “Pepper Run State Park” to the crowd and then came back to sit and talk with us. Sarah Peterson of California Lutheran University (Thousand Oaks, CA) was the lone member of her chapter at the convention, and our chapter quickly adopted her into our own. We connected with Oregon State students Kaila Blaydon and Travis Chambers (and we also connected them – neither actually knew the other was at the convention until we brought them together). That’s just a small sampling of the wonderful people we’ve met and come to care about over these short few days, and they alone have made the convention worthwhile.

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I was also able to connect with many of the members of the Board, who work hard to run the society – and I became one of them. During the business meeting, I was elected Associate Student Representative for the Far Western region, making me one of two students who will represent and assist the 89 university chapters in our region. This is not a small position by any means. I’m going to be working my tail off for the next year as I work with Student Representative Mercedes James and Regent Andrea Ivanov-Craig, both from Azusa Pacific University in California, and the new and former Student Representatives, Associate Student Representatives, Student Assistants, and Board Members from the other regions to improve the society as a whole, and it’ll be worth every minute.

This trip has meant the world to me because without it, I never would have met all of these amazing people, I never would have gotten more involved in leadership, and I wouldn’t have come home with all these new ideas about how to make my own chapter better. I’m excited to represent the University of Oregon at a larger capacity, and to interact with all of our new friends from Sigma Tau Delta.

IMG_1019-Amber Rose

The Devil Went Down to Albuquerque: Creative Writing at the ∑T∆ Convention

IMG_0983Throughout my time at the convention, it seemed like there was never enough time, always trying to figure out which panels to go to. At any given moment there were usually ten to fifteen different panels or roundtables that I could be at. One of the first panels that I attended was called “The Devil Went Down to Georgia: Representations of the Devil in Southern Gothic Literature.” It was chaired and presented by all Southern students, and the discussion went from representations of Voodoo religious practices to the role of the landscape in these hellish novels. One of the students from Kuwait even asked about whether Voldemort from the Harry Potter series could be read as a representation of the devil. I loved it. I am currently working on my thesis for Honors in English, and my focus is on the use of violence specifically within Southern Gothic literature. It was an amazing opportunity to see other students who shared my passion for the genre and to have a chance to discuss how our different experiences of the geographical space itself shaped our perspectives on the literature and the history of the genre.IMG_0979

As a Creative Writing minor, I was also very interested in the creative readings that they had throughout. There was creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry that were arranged into panels by theme, and a reading on the opening night from the Sigma Tau Delta journal of creative work called The Rectangle. After the reading, I got to spend a great deal of time with one of the writers from Indiana and talk about the different works that inspired us in our writing, and, needless to say, I left with quite an extended list of new books to check out. When I left Oregon, I knew I was going to find a great group of scholars and writers, but I have to say that this trip exceeded all expectations. After this convention, I have never been more proud to be a member of Sigma Tau Delta.

19794_10203793459465964_1018611065670358779_n-Neil Davidson

Enchantment and Borderlines

“but, look now,

there are flowers

and new grass

and a spring wind

rising

from Sand Creek.”

 Following Simon Ortiz’s wonderful speech last night, today, the convention themeIMG_6927_2 of Enchantment and Borderlines percolated into concurrent sessions and speaker presentations. I served as the session chair of the “From Sand Creek Reponses” which included a presenter from American University of Kuwait, an MA student from Louisiana and UO’s very own Sean Pebler, among two others. My duties as chair included talking to the student presenters beforehand and introducing some background of each one before they presented. I found the presentations to be enriching and the discussion to be enlightening and insightful. IMG_6926Each paper was about the Sigma Tau Delta’s Common Reader, Simon Ortiz’s From Sand Creek, which is a collection of poems about the Sand Creek Massacre of upwards of 130 indigenous people by an American militia and soldiers in 1864. Most papers, and Simon Ortiz’s fantastically moving speech last night, had some aspect of the theme of universality, inclusiveness and a shared, collective memory. These themes of colonialism and remembering have unintentionally remained a consistent theme through our chapter’s Reading Group this year. From Alice Oswald’s Memorial, to Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, to From Sand Creek, we have discussed these themes of memorializing and grappling with the notion of progressing forward from a deep trauma both as individuals and as a collective group. To see these themes unpacked further, but with a brand new set of eyes bringing in new opinions and backgrounds, was very intriguing. For example, Dina AlQassar, a student from American University of Kuwait, brought in the comparison of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in relation to Ortiz’s work and it lit up the room. It was as if the captivating conversations we had been conducting all these weeks in Eugene was transplanted into Albuquerque, but expanded and strengthened with a variety of perspectives and approaches. Personally, it was really rewarding to see these ideas we had been talking about reevaluated in a new light with ideas from around the country and across the world. As chapter president and friend, I was so proud to see my fellow Ducks’ performances and witness the role we played, representing the University of Oregon, in these conversations. I would even go as far as to say my experience was enchanting.IMG_6925

-Alison Goodwin

English Majors ARE Job Ready!

Pebler sigma tauAs an English major, I am all-too familiar with facing skepticism about the practicality of my chosen field. Because of this, I have searched for different ways to explain my academic interests, feeling the need to communicate the validity of my demanding course load. What I learned today, though, is that this hard work has already qualified me for more jobs than I thought possible. The “Job-Ready Seminar” was refreshing because it reassured us English majors of what we already knew: we have been developing emotional intelligence, analytical and written communication skills throughout our undergraduate career. According to communication consultant Susan de la Vergne (pictured with me to the right), this gives us a competitive advantage in the job market, specifically in the business environment. In her words, this is the “Liberal Arts Advantage.” While I had learned about emotional intelligence before, de la Vergne’s real-life examples were fascinating. She argues that, because we are familiar with close reading of literary characters, those skills translate to reading real people. We understand human behavior—better than psychologists, she stresses—because we are accustomed to analyzing complex human interactions. Specifically, de la Vergne believes these assets prepare English majors particularly well for Business Management. Another take-away from the session is the importance of developing the “Elevator Speech.” This is essentially the ability to explain your career aspirations in 30 seconds or less. As English majors, de la Vergne stresses that we must never lead this pitch with “I am an English major.” Because of the stigma surrounding the real-life applicability of our major, she explains that we must hook employers with our specific skillset. By instead starting this pitch with “In my academic career, I’ve developed writing, analytical, and verbal communication skills and I’m looking for a company that values those,” and then closing with “skills I crafted while earning an English major,” we will become much more attractive in the business environment. De la Vergne, a fellow English major, has 30+ years of experience in the tech world. Now, she assists young professionals in the art of communication, of knowing how to “sell yourself.” On the most basic level, English majors already have a comparative advantage entering an interview because employers are always looking for “excellent oral and written communication skills.” If we know how to sell our story to employers, we have far more tools at our disposal than we realize.

-Sean Pebler

Greetings from the Land of Enchantment!

Borderlands_logo-theme-page Thank you for donating to the English Undergraduate Organization to help send UO English majors to the 2015 Sigma Tau Delta International Convention. Over 1,000 members representing 238 chapters from Oregon to Kuwait are in attendance. Each day of the conference, the blog will be updated with a different student’s post about the conference so you will be able to see the impact of your donation. This is a unique opportunity for our students to engage with a lively academic community and to share their own research, and we look forward to sharing this experience with you.

Alpha Tau Phi members will participate in the conference with three presentations: “from Sand Creek: Recognizing Historical Illusion” by Sean Pebler, “A Desired Death: Longing and Loathing in Tennyson’s ‘Mariana’ and Browning’s ‘Porphyria’s Lover'” by Amber Rose, and “Thoughts from the Security Room: A Formal Analysis of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Graphic Novel, WE3” by Grace Shum. Chapter president Alison Goodwin and chapter vice-president Neil Davidson will serve as session chairs at the convention. The members will also participate in a wide variety of panels, leadership workshops, and performances at the convention. They will have the opportunity to hear three keynote addresses by Leslie Marmon Silko, Simon Ortíz, and Gary Soto.

The representatives from Alpha Tau Phi arrived in Albuquerque Tuesday afternoon and immediately began sampling the local cuisine and exploring bookstores (I recommend both!). The chapter also was fortunate enough to dine with three dynamic and accomplished women who live and work in Albuquerque: a local judge, a Spanish language translator, and a physicist! We also heard a recitation of an original poem by 8-year-old Jordan, entitled “Freedom” about the desire to live in a world of diversity and respect for civil rights. She refuses to write it down for all to read, telling us matter-of-factly, “I made it up when I was playing in the front yard.” End of discussion. Our chapter represented Oregon and UO English well, giving “elevator pitches” of their upcoming presentations to our dinner companions and engaging in an intelligent and wide ranging conversation. We’re off to a great start!

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∑T∆ dining with Dr. Stephanie Schieffer at Zacatecas
Visit to historic San Felipe de Neri Church
Visit to historic San Felipe de Neri Church
Gary Soto addresses the convention
Gary Soto addresses the convention