Abecedarians? Unite!

Sarah Dangelantonioby Sarah Dangelantonio
2015 Convention Chair

At this year’s convention, you’ll be hearing the term “Abecedarian” bandied about. What’s an Abecedarian, you may ask. Well, an Abecedarian, according to the OED, is a mid-17th century Late Latin term meaning “a person who is just learning, a novice.” For those of you who are Abecedarians at this year’s convention (those of you who are attending for the first time), we have a few suggestions about what you shouldn’t miss!

2014 Convention Attendees To begin with, be sure to attend the first-ever Abecedarians Unite! Meeting on Wednesday, March 18, from 5-6 p.m. in Pavilion IV-V-VI. It’s especially for first-time and solo convention goers. Here, you’ll meet some of our student leaders and alumni who will give you their best tips and tricks for making the most of your convention experience and help you to get acquainted with the other novices. As a starter, so you can do some pre-convention planning, here are some suggestions from last year’s Abecedarians:

  • Go to all of the headlining speakers, All. Of. Them. The one(s) you don’t know will be just as enjoyable as the ones you do– maybe more so. And be sure to pick up a copy of the speakers’ book to get signed—nothing says English major more than a personally inscribed, autographed copy of a book.
  • Pick out one of the special Thursday morning workshops to attend–whether you want to hone your creative writing skills, see how best to showcase your English skills as you enter the job market, or consider going to graduate school for that M.A., M.Ed., or MFA, there’s a workshop to suit your fancy.
  • Introduce yourself to people, heck yeah, to EVERYONE!—you’ll never be with more folks who get allusions, look for symbolism in everything, understand the irksome nature of misused apostrophes and commas than you will at convention—you’re with your people, so to speak, so don’t be shy! Those badges you wear will be great icebreakers, so look for others from your region, or look for other Abecedarians (you’ll all have yellow name badges).
  • Attend the Business Meeting at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 20. You’ll get a chance to represent for your chapter, and every chapter with an official voting student delegate present at the General Business Meeting and the Regional Caucus is eligible to receive a $200 reimbursement ($400 for non-continental U.S. chapters).
  • Interested in getting your manuscript published? Don’t miss out on the Paths to Publication panel on Friday, March 20, at 9:30 a.m. in Pavilion IV-V. Five Sigma Tau Deltans with new publications will be sharing their stories and answering questions.
  • Participate in the Bad Poetry Contest or Open Mic night and share your worst and/or best work with your fellow Sigma Tau Deltans.
  • Hit up the merchandise sales tables and snag the perfect T-shirt, button, or jewelry item that expresses your inner English-nerdiness. Edgy or punny, there’s sure to be something that is just perfect for you.
  • Play Convention Bingo – meet people, participate in diverse activities, eat good food, and you might just win a prize!
  • Get out of the hotel and explore Albuquerque. From a Tram ride up to the top of the Sandias, a visit to The Candy Lady in Old Town, or an excursion to one of the many museums or cultural centers, see some of what this fabulous location has to offer. See map of downtown Albuquerque.
Chapter merchandise sold at the 2014 Convention

Chapter merchandise sold at the 2014 Convention

Though by no means a comprehensive list, this should get you started with your plans for how you might spend your time at the 2015 Convention. We can’t wait to meet all of you in Albuquerque.

The (Successful) Non-Traditional Chapter

Matthew DrolletteMatthew Drollette
Far Western Student Representative
Alpha Upsilon Gamma Chapter
Weber State University, Ogden, UT

Starting a new chapter of Sigma Tau Delta isn’t easy. We are all busy people. We have exams, quizzes, papers, assignments, studying, and (hopefully) social lives. With our general lack of free time, it can be hard to find the time of day to attend weekly meetings, service projects, fundraisers, and other Society events. So why do we do it? What makes us want to achieve a higher amount of success as members of an honor society?

We all may answer these questions differently, but for most of us, our drive to succeed professionally and academically tends to take precedence over other, more inconsequential tasks. We also have found that Sigma Tau Delta has become a venue for us to express our interests in ways that matter. These are all laudable qualities that make the students involved in Sigma Tau Delta some of the best students in the world. But what happens when the pressures of life get in the way of our goals for higher success and meaningful community engagement?

Matthew Drollette, Halloween Open Mic

Matthew Drollette, Halloween Open Mic

My home chapter, Alpha Upsilon Gamma of Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, sees its fair share of time-constraint difficulties. And, since we are also all at the top of our class, academic pressures become daunting as we try to juggle school, work, friends, and chapter events. While these things are true for the members of most chapters, our chapter here in Ogden has the added struggle of being housed at a predominately non-traditional university. By non-traditional I mean that a large number of our students fit into one of the subcategories required for nontraditional studentship: marriage (divorced or widowed), parenthood, or non-traditional age (typically over 25). So, along with our academic pressures, we find that students in Weber’s chapter tend to split their time between the usual academic pressures along with things like children’s soccer practice, daycare drop offs, family gatherings, court dates, and careers. In short, it’s not easy being a “non-trad” student and a member of Sigma Tau Delta. The reason I bring this up, though, is because this situation is not unique to Weber State. In fact, many chapters must deal with the conflicts that arise from having high numbers of non-trad membership. Yet I know that a chapter like ours can still be successful, despite the conflicts that arise. And if we can do it, others can too.

Reggis Carlisle, Founding President

Reggie Carlisle, Founding President

Our founding president, Reggie Carlisle, understood the issues that would arise when our older students tried to spread thin the hours in the day, so he adopted a policy of overkill that has extended into every aspect of our chapter. Instead of one meeting a week at recurring times, Reggie implemented optional meetings at varying times throughout the week, sometimes holding two or three meetings a week to accommodate the many scheduling conflicts that inevitably would get in the way of students’ abilities to make it to all of the meetings. Along with flexible meeting times, we found that extending the hours of our activities often allowed time for those who couldn’t show up at the beginning to help at the end. We even went as far as hosting (child-free) “after-party” events for those who work late into the night. While these accommodations have often been taxing for student leaders, who try to make it to every meeting, this policy has made it easier for members to connect with each other, despite the difficulties of fitting chapter activities into their busy schedules. As an added benefit, potential members who are hesitant to join because of their time constraints are relieved to find that we offer such flexible hours, which often gives them that extra push to join and helps to make our growing chapter even better.

Halloween Open Mic, Kyle Poppitz, Vice President

Halloween Open Mic
Kyle Poppitz, Vice President

While keeping our schedules flexible and open has helped greatly, another key aspect of making a non-traditional chapter a success is communication. Communication among chapter leadership has never been an issue, but disseminating information to each member can be quite the hardship. This is where Facebook comes in. I can’t begin to tell how beneficial social media has been in helping our members communicate. But again, the key to this resource is flexibility. A Facebook page that only posts about chapter events is missing out on the potential that social media gives us to connect with one another as professionals, scholars, and friends. So we’ve used our chapter’s page to advertise other events from across campus that fit our members’ interests. We also invite our members to post questions and job listings, and to provide them with opportunities to submit their writing. When Facebook becomes a venue for members to socialize, it then becomes a tool that they interact with often, providing chapter leadership with a reliable way to contact members and get them the important Society news to which they might not otherwise have easy access. In short, giving members a safe place (online) to be friends goes a long way in terms of developing strong lines of communication.

Now, I know I’ve gone on a lot about scheduling and communication, but these things have worked for us. We still have issues, especially along the lines of planning chapter events, but these issues are becoming easier to combat as we learn more effective ways to interact with each other in meaningful and accessible ways. What’s more important, though, is that we are open to suggestions, as are other chapters who face similar issues. So, if members have suggestions for making non-traditional chapters even more successful, send those up through your leadership, post them on your regional Facebook pages, or write a blog post about them. Let’s make it possible for students of all walks of life to be successful and to get the most out of their memberships in Sigma Tau Delta.

Related Links:

  • Chapter Noteworthy Activities database contains descriptions of the most noteworthy activities various Society chapters engaged in. Members can sort the list by activity type, year, and/or school in order to find out what other chapters are up to and to get ideas for their own chapter activities.

Borderlands and Enchantments: A Writer’s View

Robert DurborowRobert Durborow
Student Advisor, 2014-2016
Pi Omega Chapter
Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY

“Borderlands and Enchantments” are perfect themes for me as a writer. I would go so far as to say the theme of our upcoming Sigma Tau Delta Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, embodies what writing is all about, at least in my opinion. I think of borders as boundaries to the next place along my path as a writer, and I push my personal borders on a regular basis. I might add I do so with the specific aim of enchanting my readers; that is, to keep them reading.

Petroglyph National Monument Credit: Verna Wood

Petroglyph National Monument Credit: Verna Wood

You might think I refer only to creative writing. You would be mistaken. Writing is all about the enchantment of the story, the words we writers lay out along our borders to tell the tale or make our point. That’s true if we’re trying to instruct or entertain. It’s all about getting the message across to the reader in an engaging way. Again, my opinion, but you can see my point, yes?

Like a Diné (Navajo word for “The People”) storyteller, we writers seek to enchant and/or educate our audience. We begin within familiar borders and enchantments that are easy to recognize and believe, such as the sun rises or the Dursleys were perfectly ordinary (thank you very much). I like to get myself firmly entrenched inside such mundane borders…then release my literary hounds.

I’ve found one effective way to expand my borders is to let all Hell break loose. Let’s face it, it’s outside those well-known borders we find the wily trickster, discover Harry is a wizard, or understand why E=mc2. In short, that’s where the fun is. Tell me you weren’t shocked when Snape killed Dumbledore or awed the first time you saw a homerun (E=mc2). See what I mean? Fun!

Rio Grande Credit: MarbleStreetStudio.com

Rio Grande Credit: MarbleStreetStudio.com

I do a lot of different writing at this point: creative, technical, critical, etc. My borderlands may consist of scientific data, rules of magic, poetic verse, Derrida’s view on this and that, or the history of a society; it doesn’t really matter. What I learn about the world, my limits, and myself adds up to enchantment every single time. The extent of that enchantment is limited only to how well I understand my borderlands and how far I am willing to push those ever-expanding boundaries. I just hope my readers are half as enchanted as I am.

I’m not the greatest writer…but I’m also not the worst. Let’s just say I don’t suck at writing as badly as I did a few years ago and call it a day. I do have some advice, though, as we approach this year’s convention. As you discover your own borderlands and write your way into new ones, enjoy the journey, savor the enchantment, and every now and again…give it a nudge. Step across your established borderlands and see what new enchantments await. Do that, and the story will never truly end.