Ellen WattsEllen Watts
Public Relations Officer, Alpha Alpha Upsilon Chapter
University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC

Ellen’s blog was selected 1st Place in the 2014 Convention Story Contest.


“Definitely going to miss this view. See you soon, Savannah.”

This caption accompanied my Instagram photo that showcased the scenery from my hotel balcony. I couldn’t leave Sunday without taking one last picture of the boats gliding along with the river current and the bridge standing tall in the background.

Savannah Picture

This was my second trip to Savannah, so I already knew I adored this city. History is embedded in the cobblestone streets. Music gets tangled in the moss lazing in the trees. Charm is in no short supply amongst the trolleys, shops, restaurants, and people. Walking throughout the city it is easy to see why so many writers have been inspired by Savannah.

The final weekend of February ushered in a new generation of writers to Savannah. These people were often easily spotted due to the matching name tags or because they wore a cool English themed button or shirt picked up at the merchandise tables. The days spent exploring the city and filtering in and out of convention rooms offered the opportunity to meet with these Sigma Tau Delta members.

Throughout the sessions, students shared their scholarship and creative works, and invited the audience into conversations that expanded knowledge and broadened perspectives. These conversations often did not stop just because the sessions ended. I would notice that as we cleared the rooms for the next sessions to start, small groups would form continuing the thoughts brought up in the closing question and answer periods.

It was an incredible experience to interact with others who share the same love of language and literature that I do. Part of this interaction came during the business meeting. Surprisingly, it was one of the most entertaining sessions of the entire convention.

The roll call that kicked off the meeting shed a little light onto the personalities of each chapter as they proudly announced they were present. Both large and small chapters had unique group cheers or clever slogans and sometimes even choreographed moves. The creativity of English majors could be clearly seen and heard.

I wish I could have captured the energy and enthusiasm in that room and shared it with Instagram. The photo and two sentences that I posted did not begin to cover my experiences at convention. The city, the people, and the conversations all added up to one wonderful weekend.

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.

“I Survived”: Overcoming the Undergraduate Senior Thesis

Morgan Mandriotaby Morgan Mandriota
Alpha Iota Omicron Chapter, St. Joseph’s College, NY

“Welcome to Senior Thesis! ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here.’”

This was the first slide of the PowerPoint presentation welcoming English majors into our first meeting of the dreaded senior thesis. “Cool,” I thought, “this dude is making a Dante reference.” Little did I understand the relevance of the Inferno quote until I found out that I needed to collect a working bibliography of 100 relevant sources, due two weeks later on a novel I hadn’t even read yet.

I silently debated: “Does my passion for studying literature outweigh the ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ I will undergo for the next eight months?” *sigh* “. . .yes.”

Frankenstein coverI passed the summer research phase by making an intensive annotated bibliography and outline, along with a collection of scribbles on what seemed like hundreds of multi-colored post-its dispersed throughout Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. How on Earth did I accomplish this? I hadn’t even read the book yet.

What I (miraculously) did was use my research and background knowledge of Frankenstein to come up with my thesis: Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s creature, or “monster,” as he is most often perceived, is actually the most “human” of the three main characters. I finished reading the novel and annotating my four page outline the day before the semester and the writing process started. “Phew!”

Four hectic and strenuous months later, my wonderful mentor informed me I had successfully completed my project with an “A.”

Thesis DeskNaturally, I cried like a baby. I am almost certain that I died and went to heaven. As disorganized as I was with my books and papers scattered across my desk, floor, and bed, I did it . . . I survived the undergraduate senior thesis!

So, my advice to any future thesis prospects is: 1) take constructive criticism and let it shape you into a better writer, researcher, and thinker, and 2) believe in yourself and your abilities. Your mind is either your best asset or your tragic flaw.

Yes, there is a light at the end of the seemingly infinite, dark thesis tunnel, and you, too, will come out on the other end feeling invincible. You will have completed possibly the greatest academic achievement of your undergraduate career (and believe me, the indescribable feeling upon completion is worth the struggle of the whole process).

Survival of the senior thesis is, indeed, possible – do not “abandon all hope.”