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Sigma Tau Delta Convention

Sigma Tau Delta Convention

Members of the Tennessee Wesleyan Community Attend the Sigma Tau Delta Convention in St. Louis
Eight Members of the Tennessee Wesleyan Community
Attend the Sigma Tau Delta Convention in St. Louis

April 2024

Six student and two faculty members of Tennessee Wesleyan’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society, travelled in April to St. Louis for the 2024 convention. Two students presented original research on Emily Brontё’s Wuthering Heights. Mary Kanipes, soon to be completing her degree in the Master’s in Teaching program at Tennessee Wesleyan while also teaching at E.K. Baker School, focused on how an unreliable narrator shapes the novel’s meaning. Josie Mitchell, a second-year student, used the text to offer important insights into how restrictive forms of marriage and motherhood lead to the protagonist’s demise. Both papers started from conversations in Dr. Elizabeth Ruleman’s British Literature II class. As one of the faculty sponsors on the trip, she witnessed those discussions turn into impressive papers. As she put it, “I am very proud of Mary and Josie, not only for their scholarship and their writing but also for their confidence in presenting to an audience and fielding questions afterwards. These students represented Tennessee Wesleyan’s academic program well.” For Dr. William Murray, the other faculty sponsor, “the students’ presentations, along with the trip more generally,” reminded him “how students at Tennessee Wesleyan stand out and shine, even when surrounded by some of the nation’s top undergraduate English scholars.”

In addition to Mary and Josie, four other students—Sydney Allen, Chrisi Jackson, Keljan Thomas, and Tatum Ward—participated in all that the convention had to offer. The many sessions of thematically linked critical and creative work created an opportunity for TWU students to share their enthusiasm for literature. “Attending the national convention allowed me to engage with essays, poetry, and prose from a variety of unique writers across the country,” stated Tatum, a creative writing major graduating this May. “The presenters were engaging and brought up new and exciting ideas that stimulated discussion among our group, and there was a distinct feeling of unity as we all enjoyed being surrounded by talk of books and literature.” Keljan, a dual enrollment student agreed, saying “I enjoyed both challenging these new perspectives and our group’s adding new thoughts and insightful questions to the presenters. This made me more certain than ever that I made the right decision for my college.”

Poetry readings by Maryfrances Wagner and Carl Phillips inspired Tatum. She said, “Both were incredible. They were very easy to converse with, and I felt like they were both able to give us great advice on the world of writing ahead of us. Maryfrances hosted a fantastic haiku workshop that highlighted easy ways we can bring short poems into our daily lives, and her earlier poetry reading was deeply moving and personal. Carl Phillips brought a wonderful energy to the conference, and he was a delight to get to meet when he signed my book (and discussed Taylor Swift with me) after his reading.”

Students also attended sessions that were career oriented. Workshops and roundtables featured topics like “What Can You Do with an English Major?,” “Equitable Approaches to Teaching English,” and “Value Added: English and Transferable Skills.” Sydney, a ’24 graduate who has been accepted into the MAT Program at Tennessee Wesleyan, expressed her interest in one such session: “I plan to become an ELA teacher and loved all the information I gained from this session. The presenters reminded us that it is our job to give students all the basic skills in a way that will benefit them not only in the classroom but also in their everyday and future lives.”

The students took every opportunity to learn and grow as scholars, as career-seekers, and as human beings. However, going to convention is more than just an academic endeavor: it offers a chance to engage with peers from our home institution as well as with those from other institutions and with their faculty sponsors. “I couldn’t believe how quickly these six students came together to become fast friends. Conversations and laughter alternated with periods of intense listening and thinking,” said Dr. Ruleman. After the convention events, the group spent an afternoon visiting the Missouri Botanical Gardens and the Gateway Arch National Park. “We all sat in a circle, talking and laughing and joking. The arch was right there, huge and gleaming, and we were so small in the grass next to it. It truly felt like the perfect culmination of our week together, and I will cherish that memory of everyone’s smiling faces basking in the sun,” said Tatum.

Each student can take from the convention a strong sense of the joy of being able to converse with like-minded people and share the passion for literature with others. According to Sydney, “With this being my first convention, I was unsure how I would feel about presenting or even attending. Now I feel I would be completely comfortable presenting one of my papers to other people.” For Tatum, “As a senior, I felt like this trip was one last chance for me to bond with my fellow English majors and truly enjoy their company. From the moment we left Athens, I felt instantly comfortable with our group, and I loved getting to have this experience with them. Attending convention right before graduation has reminded me of how good it feels to be part of a community, and I hope that these friendships are something I can hold onto long into the future.”

Tennessee Wesleyan’s support for the convention made it possible for these students to experience academic life in a way not always possible at a small institution. The convention will be in Pittsburgh in 2025. Keljan summed it up best: “I cannot wait to go again! A shame we have to wait a year!”