Throwing a Birthday Party for the Bard

Amber JurgensenAmber Jurgensen
Southern Region Student Representative
Rho Gamma Chapter
Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA

On April 23, Louisiana Tech University’s Rho Gamma Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta gathered at the Shakespeare garden in the Liberal Arts building for our biggest event of the year: the ninth annual birthday festival to celebrate the life and works of the Bard. Faculty members from the English, Theater, and History departments took the stage to commemorate William Shakespeare’s 451st birthday with presentations of the author’s many literary creations. Students read a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets aloud throughout the day in English, French, and even Elvish.

Students in the Shakespeare Garden

Students in the Shakespeare Garden

One of my favorite parts of the festival is how it connects Louisiana Tech University to the city of Ruston itself. Local high school students join us to celebrate the birth of one of the most influential men in the literary canon. This year, students were treated to an original one-act play entitled “The First Folio,” along with original sonnets written and performed by current Tech students. Sigma Tau Delta chapter members also provided cupcakes (made with their very own hands)—it was a birthday celebration, after all!

This festival illustrates Shakespeare’s lasting influence on modern life. His works permeate every facet of today’s entertainment industry, revealing themselves in literature, music, movies, and television. One of my favorite presentations, “A Trekkie by Another Name is Still a Trekkie,” explored the vast influence of Shakespeare on the Star Trek television series and movies, from the original show to Star Trek: The Next Generation. The discussion ended with a birthday wish for Shakespeare—delivered in perfect Klingon.

Another highlight of the day was the Theater vs. English trivia contest, in which students from both departments competed to see who possessed the most Shakespearian knowledge. This year, the competitors guessed the name of a play from a limerick describing the plot. A tiebreaker proved necessary, and each contestant was given five minutes to compose his/her own limerick. Based on audience approval, the English department was deemed the victor.

Globe Theatre

Globe Theatre

The day’s final presentation was much more personal, as I joined with my fellow participants in the 2014 Tech London Study Abroad trip to share our own experiences with Shakespeare in the city in which his plays came to life. We reminisced about our journeys to Stratford-upon-Avon and the Globe Theatre and recalled our experience as groundlings at Titus Andronicus. I found it a fitting end to a day that celebrated the lasting influence of William Shakespeare’s literary genius.

Did you or your chapter celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday this year? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

Sigma Tau Delta Resources for Chapter Planning

What Do You Plan To Do With An English Degree?

Shelly RomeroShelly Romero
Midwestern Region Student Representative
Alpha Epsilon Eta Chapter
Stephens College, Columbia, MO

One of the biggest questions English majors always face is, “What are you planning to do with that degree?” From family dinners to meeting new people, even fellow peers, it’s a question that feels daunting, but it does make you wonder. What am I to do with my degree?

It’s a question that I faced when I first arrived at Stephens College as a freshman in the fall of 2013. I always answered with a cheery, “Everything. I want to do everything I can with my degree.” That’s the beauty of being an English major; the possibilities and opportunities are endless.

In the words of the omnipotent Dragon from John Gardner’s Grendel, “Find your gold and sit on it.” In other words, ask yourself: “What interests me? What do I love? Why did I choose English in the first place?”

Harbinger coverIn the beginning of my college career, I didn’t know what career path to choose. I was interested in everything and took various classes including Scriptwriting and a Poetry and Fiction Workshop, but it wasn’t until I joined the staff of Harbinger, our literary journal, that I found my passion for editing. I realized I wanted to find, to edit, and publish, the next great American novel, not write it.

In college, you have four incredible years to learn, grow, and discover where you want to go after graduation. You don’t have to decide as soon as you arrive on campus. Take different classes that fit your interests, participate in workshops, even take an acting class. (John Hamm from Mad Men graduated with a BA in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia.)

Being an English major means having a flexible degree, one that can open up and spread over various fields, research areas, and careers. All you have to do is find your interests, write down your dream goals, and pursue them.

If you’ve already found your niche, comment below on what your focus as an English major is and how you came to that decision.

Finding Home in the Borderlands

Amber RoseAmber M. Rose
Far Western Region Associate Student Representative
Vice President, Alpha Tau Phi Chapter
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Amber’s blog was selected 1st Place in the 2015 Convention Story Contest.

Before the convention, I had never before traveled out of my time zone. The rest of my chapter left the University of Oregon for the convention the day before I did, so I traveled alone, attempting not to fall asleep in the Eugene airport before my 6 a.m. flight and running around Salt Lake City airport while panicking about potentially missing my connecting flight (which was delayed an hour).

I have a horrible sense of direction and a tendency to cling to the familiar so hard that I almost merge with it, so by the time I landed in Albuquerque I was desperate for familiarity. My Faculty Sponsor picked me up at the airport, and as we got closer to the hotel I silently hoped my fellow chapter members would help me feel more at home.

Alpha Tau Phi Chapter members

Alpha Tau Phi Chapter members (left to right): Alison Goodwin, Grace Shum, Amber Rose, Sean Pebler, and Neil Davidson

Little did I know that my definition of “home” was about to change. The sheer size of the convention overwhelmed me at first, but it didn’t take long before I was conversing with people about Shakespeare plays I hadn’t yet read and which Hogwarts house I belonged to. Even when I didn’t know where I was or what anyone was talking about, I didn’t feel lost; the passion for literature that everyone brought with them to the convention made me feel right at home. It was infectious–even if you had never even heard of a book that someone was talking about, you couldn’t help but feel excited about it because they were excited about it.

Though I was also able to identify things that reminded me of being back in Eugene–my fellow Alpha Tau Phi Chapter members would frequently “throw up the ‘O’ ” for photos and to help us find each other, and I even found some ducks swimming in the Rio Grande that reminded me of my school’s mascot–nothing felt more at home to me than those conversations that had nothing to do with the place I call home. At the convention, home didn’t mean where you came from; home meant where you felt you belonged. All the ducks in the world couldn’t take the place of the passion for literature felt in Albuquerque. For those few short days, Albuquerque was my home.

I still miss it.