Choosing a Concentration in English

Timothy Leonardby Timothy Leonard Midwestern Student Representative, 2013-2015 Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, IN As I enter my senior year as a dual major in English Literature and English Writing, I have come to appreciate the number of different avenues an individual can take to earn an English degree. At my college, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, there are a total of five concentrations a student can choose to pursue an English degree. Within these concentrations there are a number of possibilities a student can specialize in. For example, by having a concentration in English literature, an individual can focus on children’s literature, Elizabethan poetry, 19th century British literature, or many more. This example breaks the stereotype that English majors all read and write the same material, because we don’t. The number of different combinations to become an English major made me wonder, “what makes an individual pick a certain concentration?” As I pondered this question, my thoughts took me back to a course I recently completed, an introduction to literary studies, yet another example of a path to an English degree. Literacy In American Lives by Deborah BrandtOne of the texts assigned for the course was Literacy In American Lives, by Deborah Brandt. Brandt investigates multiple individuals and shows how their literary skills were affected by their environments, along with other factors. For me, one word from her work stands out as a major factor in explaining why individuals choose to pursue certain avenues in the English concentrations: experience. After speaking with fellow English majors, I found I was onto something. Each individual expressed how someone or something helped to influence them to read or to write certain aspects of the English genre. It was also clear that individuals who had a negative experience did not want to return or voluntarily try to improve their experience. This made me think about how my own experiences have impacted my literary choices. I am currently pursuing a concentration in 19th century British fiction. Many of my friends have asked me, “Why not American fiction?” My answer has to do with my first experience with American literature. In the 6th grade, I had a teacher who didn’t care about the subject and didn’t care if we did our work. If it weren’t for high school, I probably wouldn’t have picked up a 19th century American novel again. On the other hand, in 7th grade I had a teacher who was very passionate about British literature, more specifically 19th century British literature. This was my first experience with British writing and it was that teacher’s passion for the genre that motivated me to read more 19th century British literature. So it seems our experiences are the bricks that lay the path to our literary journey. We all have likes and dislikes for different English pursuits. It’s why some choose to write poetry and not write non-fiction, why some choose to be literature majors and not writing majors, and in my case, why my concentration is 19th century British literature and not 19th century American literature. It’s our own personal experiences, both negative and positive, that make us want to pursue our own choices. As English majors, we should strive not to criticize another individual’s literary journey. We all are unique in our own way, including the paths we choose to follow.

Team Up to Jazz Up Your Book Drive

Timothy Leonardby Timothy Leonard
Midwestern Region Student Representative, 2013-2015
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, IN

The majority of Sigma Tau Delta chapters have a book drive each year. However, many are looking for new and innovative ways to “jazz up” their drives beyond setting up a box in their department and hanging up flyers in the hope that students and faculty will donate books.

One suggestion is to partner with other groups and tap into the resources available at many universities. When I decided to run a book drive for my required service project as part of an internship, I contacted the head coach of the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) women’s basketball team and inquired about the possibility of the team helping to promote the book drive. I discovered the team also had to fulfill community service hours during their basketball season, and just that quick I had the partner I was looking for.

The project consisted of three parts:

  1. The IPFW women’s basketball team home games would be the drop off point for students, faculty, and fans to donate new and used books. The marketing department also announced the book drive during the home games to remind individuals in attendance to bring new and used books at the next home game.

  2. Members of my chapter worked the donations tables and assisted members of the basketball team in passing out and hanging up flyers.

  3. Members of my chapter and I dropped off the donated books at the local YMCA After School Program after the final home game. (We chose the YMCA because they complied with NCAA rules.)

Not only did I meet the requirements for my internship, I also involved my chapter and our university women’s basketball team in a successful book drive to enhance literacy in children’s lives.

I encourasticky_logoge all chapters to think of other groups at their university that might be willing to  collaborate on chapter projects. Many departments, athletic teams, and administrators must fulfill community service hours during the academic year, and most are willing to help and support each other. All you have to do is ask and be willing to perform the majority of the leg work. In the end, everyone benefits–you, your chapter, your partner(s), your school, and your community.

If you haven’t started a book drive for this semester, it’s not too late! Check out this opportunity to run an easy book drive with our strategic partner, Better World Books!

Capturing History

Andrew Gerskeby Andrew Gerske
Historian, Phi Delta Chapter
Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL

History happens everyday. When I applied for my chapter’s Historian position, I mentioned that I wanted to find out more about my chapter’s history and help capture key events. Maya Angelou states, “The more you know your history, the more liberated you are.” By preserving and capturing history, each day becomes a new adventure. This year, as Sigma Tau Delta celebrates its 90th anniversary, we are reminded of the importance of preserving our history for future generations.

One of the first steps I took was visiting Western Illinois University archives. While in the archives I found various newspaper articles and artifacts about the Phi Delta Chapter. These articles began to show how our chapter was involved with the English Department and campus life. Such archives are a wonderful starting point to find preliminary information about your chapter.

CameraBeyond the archives, the best way to find out more about your chapter’s history is to interview people. I recommend talking to your university historian, retired and current faculty, and someone from the alumni association. These people will help to paint a stronger image of the chapter’s history. Many times there are gaps in the history, so you may need to put all the pieces together to help tell your chapter’s story.

Another part of my job entails me going to events to capture the moments and memories of my chapter. My camera, an Olympus Tough, helps me to save these moments. This is my favorite part of being Historian, acting as a photojournalist, preserving each event for future members to see. One annual event that I play a major role in is the induction ceremony.  Along with taking photographs, I also help perform the ceremony. The induction ceremony is a great time to meet new members and share past stories.

1943 Membership Certificate

1943 Membership Certificate

After taking various photographs, I select some to post on the chapter’s Facebook page.  Managing the Facebook page is an excellent way to share current events with members. The best photos can also be shared on your region’s Facebook group so that other chapters can see what yours has accomplished. I even submitted some of my photos to the recent Chapter History Photo Contest and two of them were selected for Sigma Tau Delta’s 1924 Pinterest Board.

I also routinely design flyers about current events to help promote the organization. Besides functioning as the chapter’s Historian, sometimes I function as a public relations chair. This includes notifying members and the local papers about events.

There are many facets to being a chapter’s Historian, and all of them play a role in preserving history. I love capturing the moments and events to create this history. It’s fun, liberating, and has helped me to better understand my chapter.