An English Major’s Empowering Internship

Better World BooksThe call from Better World Books (BWB) came while I was in my hotel room during the Sigma Tau Delta 2017 International English Convention in Louisville, KY. To my disbelief, on the same day as my presentations I was offered the internship I’d set my sights on less than a year before! I took a worthwhile pause from all the enthralling essay and roundtable presentations to process. As soon as the interviewer broke the news, I went to have brunch with my Chapter Sponsor, who mentored me through the process. Stunned with excitement and honored by the opportunity, I expressed my gratitude over muffins and tea. Thanks to her feedback, guidance, and initial encouragement to become involved with Sigma Tau Delta and our Better World Books drive at the University of North Georgia, I made my goal a reality. The BWB mission to support literacy and environmental sustainability across the globe is an extremely worthwhile cause, and it has been a great honor to work for such an inspiring, purpose-driven company.

Textbook Drive Book Castle

Book Castle built by Shea and fellow UNG student Jennifer Harris during their campus book drive.

This year, BWB set the internship up as a remote, work from home and campus opportunity, so I had a unique experience (imagine nice office clothes with kitty slippers under the table). I went to the Alpharetta office only twice, for orientation on my first day and to return the provided company laptop on my very last day. At orientation, one of my coworkers helped break the ice by asking me about my electric vehicle (a 2013 Nissan Leaf I adore), which led to a conversation about my inspiration to apply for the internship: the company’s mission to support the environment and literacy simultaneously, addressing some of today’s most important social issues as a foundation of their business model. Although I already lived in the area, my two drives to Alpharetta built my confidence that my Leaf could make it to Atlanta in one charge. Since then, a friend and I enrolled in an improvisational theatre class at a place called Dad’s Garage—about thirty minutes from BWB—to work on our acting and public speaking. What a blast! I might have never found the courage to explore what the city has to offer if I hadn’t driven to the BWB office.

Better World Books

Shea at the Better World Books office with her Sigma Tau Delta tote bag on the last day of the internship.

As a marketing intern I worked mainly under the supervision of the director of sales and operations and members of her team. My training began immediately with plenty of practice on Webex, a corporate video meeting platform, where I met with people from various divisions across the country and abroad. As a global bookseller and social enterprise, BWB has offices in Georgia, Indiana, and the United Kingdom. They coordinate the collection of donated books diverted from landfills and the distribution of those books to their new homes when purchased from or their other marketplaces. The internship offered valuable insight into how a company communicates and collaborates globally, and I learned how to avoid schedule conflicts across time zone differences for video meetings with coworkers and phone interviews with campus book drive leaders.

That brings me to my assignments. My favorite side-projects included writing press releases about Wordsworth the Bookmobile, library grants, and non-profit literacy grants, as well as editing client testimonials, email templates, and other marketing materials. For the main focus of the internship, I was tasked with the collection and analysis of data gathered from campus book drive leaders’ feedback to ensure the continued efficiency of the Campus Book Drive program. To begin this market research, I sent invitations to hundreds of book drivers to participate in phone interviews and online surveys, then summarized the data along with my interpretations in a slideshow. I also devised two original strategies to solve book drive problems and presented the research to the Vice President of Global Sales & Marketing.

Wordsworth the Bookmobile

Wordsworth the Bookmobile at the American Library Association 2017 Convention.

My mentors’ comments and questions helped me gain confidence in my presentation and business strategy skills, and I was pleased to hear they were impressed by the speed, passion, and thoroughness of my work. The response I received from the internship overall has helped me realize that I am a capable asset and talented writer, able to take the skills learned from my English Writing & Publication major and Psychology minor and apply them to business. Next up, I’ll add this experience to my resume with joy and gratitude to Sigma Tau Delta for providing the support that would allow me to focus on the internship as my sole employment during the six-week venture, and continue to build my experience as a freelance writer, editor, writing consultant, and private tutor until I embrace my next opportunity in the field of publication.

Thank you, University of North Georgia, Sigma Tau Delta, and Better World Books!

Haley Shea Barfield
2017 Better World Books Internship Stipend Recipient
Alpha Upsilon Phi Chapter, Vice President
University of North Georgia, Gainesville Campus, Oakwood, GA


2017-2018 Better World Books Campus Textbook Drive Details

Sigma Tau Delta chapters will earn $1 for every accepted (A-List) book.

Full Details: Better World Books Campus Textbook Drive Resource Center

By locally establishing an innovative campus program, chapters will:

  • impact globally to increase literacy rates worldwide; and
  • act locally to reduce waste in their local community.

Additional Book Drive Rewards:


Visit the NEW Textbook Drive Resource Center to start your book drive today!

Additional Resources

Have You Met Your Extended English Family?

Extended English FamilySigma Tau Delta has long since prided itself with its members’ involvement and community engagement, which they have exemplified over the years. From book drives, to fundraisers, to Banned Books Week, Sigma Tau Delta members from all over the world help foster literacy and encourage young writers, all while promoting the Society. Yet, aren’t we forgetting a crucial part of our duties? Yes! Our sister affiliations are filled with motivated members eager to take part in important literacy efforts in their communities. Sigma Kappa Delta (SKD), the national English honor society for two-year colleges, and the National English Honor Society (NEHS) for high schools are dynamic organizations that may complement Sigma Tau Delta’s community involvement. So, engage in cross society mentorship! Here are a few ways to mentor the rising thinkers, writers, and readers in our extended English family.


1. Create a Joint Chapter Partnership with an NEHS Chapter

Joint project grants are designed to encourage local Sigma Tau Delta and NEHS chapters to join together to develop innovative projects that further the shared goals of both organizations. Grants for up to $200 ($100 for each participating chapter) may be available for use in a community literacy project. The project must involve BOTH an existing Sigma Tau Delta chapter and an existing NEHS chapter. Jointly, the two chapters will agree on a project that positively impacts their common community.

Last year the Missing Apostrophes NEHS Chapter from Edison High School, Edison, NJ, completed a project that would lend itself nicely to a joint chapter project. Members interviewed residents at a local rehabilitation center, and using the information from these interviews, the members crafted poems that will be used to create a book complete with photos, biographies, and artwork. The book will be presented to JFK-Hartwyck Rehabilitation Center as soon as it is completed. If a Sigma Tau Delta Chapter were to participate in the interview process and contribute poetry to the book, this project could have been considered for a joint project grant.

2. Initiate the Chartering of a New NEHS Chapter

If your high school (or one close by) doesn’t have an NEHS chapter, talk with the English teachers or administration of that school about starting one. High school students will be exposed to opportunities in English that they might not otherwise have. The next great American novelist could be sitting in that high school waiting for the door to open.

3. Talk with Local Community Colleges about Partnering Chapters

Find a nearby community college and speak with the instructor who is sponsoring their SKD chapter. When SKD and Sigma Tau Delta chapters partner, participation from members in both chapters increases. It might even boost membership. Go see a play together, talk about the current convention Common Reader, host a joint open mic, or even have a poetry campout. If funds are an issue, talk with your Regent. Who knows, it might even spark a new literary movement in your area!

4. Attend SKD Roundtables at Convention

It’s an honor for anyone, including SKD members, to present a paper at the annual Sigma Tau Delta international convention. However, their roundtables tend to be less attended than those by Sigma Tau Delta members. Help make SKD presenters feel like valuable members of the Society by encouraging others to attend their sessions. Trust me, they have great things to say.

We all have busy schedules, but taking a little extra time to get involved with an SKD or NEHS chapter really makes a difference in the cohesiveness of our extended English family!

Heather WilliamsHeather Williams
Southern Associate Student Representative, 2016-2017
Eta Nu Chapter, President
University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS

Do Literary Classics Still Matter?

Literary ClassicsAbsolutely! The classic canon matters today, yesterday, and tomorrow because it is uniquely positioned to educate, entertain, and inspire. The classics have an extraordinary range, from The Aeneid to Beowulf, Don Quixote to Anna Karenina, and, of course, the works of Shakespeare. Comedy, drama, tragedy, satire—the classics provide every possible permutation of human emotion in complex characters, storylines, and language.

Not only do the literary classics provide a sampling of genres to pique interest in the variety and styles of literature, they also serve the immediately relevant point of defining our personal and scholarly ideas. For example, when reading I gravitate toward the epics. However, a fellow student may find epics boring and be drawn to fractured narrative or experimental work. Neither one is “correct” or “incorrect.”

Literary ClassicsThe classics introduce archetypes, lenses, and allusions, providing a framework that enables readers to compare and contrast with modern, ancient, and experimental texts. Classics are the lingua franca of the academic world, but that does not mean other local varieties are considered inferior or unworthy of attention. In fact, one entire discipline is devoted to comparing the minority canon to the classic canon: comparative literature.

Just as we love to experiment with new foods, we must expose our literary palates to what the world has to offer. Think of how boring it would be if, in discussing literature, everyone agreed on everything  instead of having different opinions and tastes!

Great literature is also a linguistic time capsule. When I started reading The Canterbury Tales my class observed the differences in phrasing, word usage, and spelling, which gave us an elementary education in linguistics and respect for how the English language and syntax have evolved. In a similar way my Shakespeare class always devoted time to discuss the bawdy elements in the plays, and we discovered an interesting euphemism concerning the word ‘corner’. Great literature connects beautifully to other fields, particularly history, linguistics, and politics.

Furthermore, literary classics are an unparalleled source of inspiration. Theatre and film continue to yield enthralling performances of the classics, while loose re-imaginings of the classics birthed Superman and The Lion King, now cultural icons. And let us never, never forget the many memes, GIFS, or satirical retellings of the classics floating around on the internet.abridged classics

Ultimately, the real reason I love the canon is because it is entertaining. It may have begun as a way to keep oral history or celebrate deities but I keep coming back to it because becoming engrossed in a good book and then sharing that experience with others is addictive. Reading the literary canon makes us literary citizens who can discuss, argue, and analyze those experiences. The canon contains the classics for a reason; it has been hundreds of years, yet people continue to find new ways to write about these books.

In short, the literary canon should not be viewed as an exhaustive resource but rather as a primer when entering the field of literature. The canon functions as the descriptive commonality between the majority of the academic field and is a tradition we are proud to uphold. The canon is an ever-changing entity, but the classics, I believe, should always remain at its core. And as English majors, it is our goal to devour as much of the canon as possible. Check out this Classic Books Challenge and let us know how many of these books you’ve read!Lion King & Superman

Now ten points to House Gryffindor if you can comment which classics birthed Superman and The Lion King!

EUpshurElizabeth Upshur
Southern Student Representative, 2016-2018
Pi Iota Chapter
Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY