Midwestern Region Contest: Home is Not a Place

Haley HelgesenHaley Helgesen
Midwestern Region Blog Contest—3rd Place Winner
Phi Delta Chapter
Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL

“Finding Home” is the theme chosen for Sigma Tau Delta’s 2016 International Convention. Home is an interesting concept, one that can be concrete or abstract, depending on who is defining it. In honor of this theme, the Midwestern Region hosted a blog contest asking the question, “What does home mean to you?” Haley Helgesen’s blog, “Home is Not a Place” is the 3rd place finisher.

Throughout my childhood, the word “home” was an unattainable, abstract concept. Teachers and mentors often described home as a permanent place inhabited by family and friends, an environment lovingly developed and nurtured over time; but I struggled with this idea, as I had never experienced permanence. Between my dad’s constant relocation for the military, my parent’s divorce, and other life happenstances, my little brother Nathan’s and my entire adolescence was nomadic and our “home” changed consistently five times a year for sixteen years. Home was a variable dependent on any given time of year, custodial agreement, or current military tour. The reality of my home was flexible and multi-stationary, each location having its own set of governances, traditions, and histories.

As a result, the word carried little meaning in my adolescent life. The very idea of designating one single place as a home conflicted deeply with my life experience. It was overwhelmingly complex. I was incredibly jealous of my friends, who had all lived in the same location their entire lives. They didn’t wrestle with redefining the word every year, or even several times a year, as Nathan and I did. This grated on me for the majority of my adolescence, until I had a sudden realization.

For me, home is not necessarily a specific place. It is not inherently defined by a building, city, state, or parent, but rather where I feel a certain state of being. Home is somewhere I feel safe, secure, accepted, loved, and needed. I found my home wasn’t with either parent in whichever state they lived, but rather wherever Nathan was. It was he alone who endured our turbulent custody changes and constant moves, often travelling hundreds of hours via car or airplane with me. Consequently, he is one of the few people in the world who knows me as I truly am. Nathan is the only other person in the world who has experienced the same exact slipping definition of home. He is my family and friend, but more than that, whenever I am with him, I am home. Everything I am today, Nathan helped me to become. If home is where the heart is, then I need look no further than my brother and the concept of home that we created together.

“Home” clearly means different things to different people. How do you define home?

How Can A Summer Program Change Your Life?

Sara StammerSara Ashley Stammer
Student Representative, Eastern Region
Alpha Epsilon Alpha Chapter
The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ

For years I always have solicited my mother for advice. That sentiment was true in February when I learned about the NYU Summer Publishing Institute in New York City. I asked her if she thought I should take a chance, apply, and see where it led me, and as always, her unrelenting support backed me the entire time.

When I arrived at the six-week intensive magazine, book, and digital media program I did not know the extent of the powerful, unsolicited advice I would receive. My education in this graduate program spanned well beyond what was directly told to me in my classes. Although I learned a lot about the publishing industry from the program I also learned a lot about life that is applicable to any career—academic, professional, or otherwise.

First, in a world in which we find the need to have all the right answers all the time, it is imperative to remember data doesn’t create content. Data and analytics will not help the quality of our lives. Data may inform, our entire life is spent collecting knowledge and experience, but people have the ability to persuade. Many human problems cannot be solved with algorithms or computers, they need human solutions.

Second, every move in your life does not have to be calculated—break the rules and take chances. It is time to stop thinking like a student and start thinking like a human. You have an opportunity to get it right next time; worst case scenario right now is playing it safe. We are making microevolutions every single day. It is fine if some are deliberate, but we never will have the ability to control everything. Companies and jobs do not and will not love you back; this is your journey, make it about you!

Finally, be a collector of many great thinkers, know and need the people around you. Understanding you are not an expert in everything is the first step because the best work is never done alone. That being said, identify your unique selling points and market yourself in your own way. Networking is just systematic development and cultivation of professional relationships so keep it simple and know who you are. Be where you are and look around, and most importantly, don’t be so focused on looking ahead that you forget where you are.

What’s the best advice you have ever been given that you have either listened to or ignored? Comment below!

Sigma Tau Delta Summer Program Scholarship

Due November 9, 2015, 11:59 p.m. Central Standard TIme (CST)

The Summer Program Scholarship is available to active undergraduate members, including seniors who are about to graduate at the time of application. The scholarship provides up to $1,500 for the purpose of attending a special summer program, either in the U.S. or abroad, which furthers the applicant’s engagement with Sigma Tau Delta’s mission. Qualifying summer programs must be at least three weeks in length and no longer than three months. Applicants should demonstrate academic scholarship and chapter service, and must explain the relevance of their summer program to fostering their engagement in the discipline of English, including literature, language, writing, or literacy. Note: This scholarship cannot be used toward a regular summer session at the student’s home institution.

Before receiving this scholarship, applicants are required to provide proof of their enrollment in the summer program described in their applications. Should winners not be able to provide such verification within three weeks of being notified about the scholarship, their awards will be presented to the runners-up.

Applications being accepted through Monday, November 9, so apply today!

New York School of Professional Studies

Banned Books Week: Celebrating with Literature

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

As another school year begins and students file into classrooms, many instructors look forward to using classic and modern literature to educate, entertain, and foster discussion. After all, the English classroom is where most people encounter and discover a love for the written word; however, an unexpected enemy thwarts teachers and librarians in educational facilities across the nation. Even in today’s more enlightened and tolerant society, banning and censoring books is a serious issue.

Banned Books WeekBanned Books Week (BBW) was created in 1982 to raise awareness of this important area of literary contention. Sponsored by such organizations as the American Library Association (ALA), Association of American Publishers, and the National Council of Teachers of English, the event celebrates the written word and the freedom to enjoy it, while highlighting the very real problems posed by challenging the availability of certain books in our schools. Many colleges and universities contribute to BBW by hosting read-outs of popular and beloved books that have fallen prey to censorship. This year, BBW takes place from September 27 to October 3, and focuses on young adult books.

So, why do parents and schools attempt to challenge and suppress certain books? According to the ALA, the answer usually is “to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information…‘inappropriate’ sexual content or ‘offensive’ language.” Last year’s most attacked books include Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. These novels and others like them are faced with a barrage of requests for removal from school curriculums because of language or content. In some cases, these books’ opponents succeed in preventing important thematic discussions because of personal bias.

If you or your Sigma Tau Delta chapter wishes to contribute to the BBW celebration, a good place to start is the official website. You also can participate in this year’s Virtual Read-Out by creating and submitting a video, which could be featured on the official Banned Books Week YouTube channel. When you plan your event, consider sharing your ideas with your Sigma Tau Delta regional Facebook page for feedback and support. As members of Sigma Tau Delta, let’s work together to speak out against the censorship of literature and celebrate the written word.