Dana Eckstein Berkowitz
Library Services Assistant, Yale University
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In elementary school, I took my books to recess. The kids whipping down the slides, throttling back and forth on the swings, and tearing through the grassy fields disappeared to me as I descended into a world of someone else: Amber Brown, Junie B. Jones, Sara Crew, Anne with an ‘E’. . . . As I grew older, I looked forward to being able to go to college as an English major and find companionship with flesh and blood people who shared my passion for fiction.
When I reached college, I loved my English education, but there wasn’t much of a community. There was a Sigma Tau Delta chapter at my school, but it consisted only of an induction ceremony and receiving a pin. I tried to organize meetings but there wasn’t much interest on my campus. I had received newsletters about a convention, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I didn’t know anyone who had gone to one, and they were often in faraway locations.
After passing up the opportunity to submit to the convention two years in a row, I saw that my senior year the convention would be in Portland, OR—a destination I had always dreamed of visiting. Between my curiosity building up over time and the appealing host city, I decided to submit a play, thinking it probably wouldn’t get in anyway. Flash forward months later. I had flown thousands of miles across the country and found myself completely alone in the giant ballroom of the hotel watching hundreds of students flocking in groups of their chapters. I was alone. My face flushed as I looked for a spot where I could take myself and blend into the wall. This was a giant nexus of people who were engaged and connected. I considered the risk I’d taken to attend and wondered if I’d made the right choice.
Three hours later I met my best friend and future “conference wife.” I went to amazing presentations, talked to other students with similar interests, received encouragement from faculty, toured the city, and had a blast.
I was so upset! This fantastic organization had been a secret to me for most of my college years, which were coming to a close. I’d found this treasure at the very end of my journey, and I was about to be thrust into the scary real world in two short months. It didn’t seem fair.
Then I found out I could join the Alumni Epsilon chapter and be a lifelong member! I could savor and depend on the relationships I’d made through Sigma Tau Delta, look forward to the convention every year, and enjoy the comfort of having this special space where we can bond over the challenges and joys of being English alumni.
The annual convention is a beautiful and powerful connection that helps keep alumni in touch and share experiences with each other, but we want the benefits of membership to be year-round and inclusive to everyone, not just those who are lucky enough to be able to go to the convention. This newsletter hopes to span the chasm of distance and time, to keep us all connected throughout the seasons and regardless of place. What are you up to now? What about your career since college has surprised you? What are your Sigma Tau Delta memories? This precious connection has transformed my life. Let’s keep it going. Please submit your story to email@example.com.
Kayla King of Galatea Cosplay has been working with costuming for many years. Originally planning to study costume design, King declared herself an English major upon arrival at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) and never looked back.
How has your English degree set the stage for your working with cosplay?
Kayla King: I love English a lot. It’s something that has given me a good background in order to do what I want to do, even if it’s not necessarily related to English directly. It’s something I’m very glad to be able to bring to my cosplay work because sometimes I might get inspired by something from literature, or I need to be able to research the ramifications of a costume that I’m creating, and that’s a skill that English has given me. I’m sure other disciplines would have given it to me as well, but maybe not in the same way, and I think English teaches you to think very broadly and very critically about the information you’re receiving, which is very important with a costume, especially if I need to distill key elements into a costume and be able to extrapolate the rest from there. So that’s something that I think is important in everything that I do to be able to research, analyze, and then build my own take on something. I’m extremely grateful to my professors and the program at UNC for giving me those skills. I think it’s something that’s very particular to English, and that is probably going to be something that’s going to be useful no matter what.
You are very good at bringing fashion and costuming into a literary discussion. How do the topics interact for you?
King: Whenever I read, I’m going to notice [costuming] automatically because for me, it can be a very interesting characterization tool. With the work of Brandon Sanderson, his clothing is so distinct—and so well described—that I’ve taken to making notes on every reference of clothing in his Cosmere novels because every world and culture has very unique clothing. I think it adds a lot to how the characters are interacting with their world. There’s one really good example of this in The Way of Kings, which is part of The Stormlight Archive, where two characters actually have a discussion about fashion and how it can be used as part of court politics. That is really interesting to me, especially with historical literature. Medieval texts were written during a time when sumptuary laws were commonplace, and the clothing that you could wear was restricted by your social class and station and also what you could afford. And then you have things like the eighteenth century and the Victorian period, where you had more social mobility. If you could afford the best clothing, you could appear to be much richer, or of a much higher social status than you were. And I think that’s something that can especially be visually recognized in any adaptation of literature to the screen, even if it’s not directly described in the novel.
As a new graduate, where are you hoping to go with your cosplay in the future?
King: I have a really hard time figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. I would probably do something that involved both English and costuming. I think it would be something like analyzing costumes in fantasy, or other fiction from the unique perspective of someone who can make clothes—and frequently does make clothes—of different historical eras and fictional designs. So that’s something I’d like to write about. It could also be interesting if I were to go directly into costuming as a career. I’m not just interested in historical accuracy of costumes when I adapt something, or what I can do, but also how I can look at it from a literary perspective or a writerly perspective. If I were to choose the ideal, I would probably write books about costumes in fantasy novels, which is a very niche thing. More realistically, it would be really interesting to take cosplay to a professional level.
Gabrielle L. McBath, PhD
Independent Author & Manuscript Reviewer, Journal of International Education Studies
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Part Two to McBath’s Teaching Online Business English to Non-English Speakers series can be found in the November 2018 issue of the Alumni Epsilon Newsletter.
As I started my post-doctoral career teaching Business English online as well as being a stay-at-home mom, I transitioned previously from traditional “brick and mortar” teaching of Junior & High School English and German to online teaching of Business English. These students do not speak English as a first language. I noticed the following when working with adult students in the corporate setting:
First, students still want to know the grammatical difference between Oxford English (OE) and Standard American English (SAE). But interestingly, they were more concerned with hearing these auditory differences (to communicate with their British or American clients) instead of rote memorization of the grammatical rules. However, current students of English who plan on becoming teachers of English must still have a firm understanding of grammatical nuisances in both OE and SAE.
Next, teaching grammar out-of-context is irrelevant. Instead, there is a need to put this grammar in-context of the corporate student’s presentations, goals’ design, job performance, expectations of employee and company performance, and traveling. Current news material is integral for teaching corporate students. This includes world news, business articles and newspapers. As much as the traditional textbooks are beneficial to explain standard material, they are outdated to current events.
Supplementing business articles in English is a modern and beneficial way of keeping adult students up-to-date with the curriculum. Lower-level students need guidance and parameters in finding articles. Often the grammar found in news articles is “elevated” and difficult for a beginning student. It is helpful to shorten the article if that occurs. Intermediate- and advanced-level students would apply articles based on how the curriculum met the needs of their business-lives. Also, they have more interest in finding follow-up or supplemental materials. Current events also provide new language that is used in the business setting not available in textbooks.
Studying language in a corporate setting is much different than in a university setting. Although all students enjoy talking about daily routines, corporate students seem to correlate their personal lives to the demands of their work environments. When these students travel for either personal or business reasons, English lessons can include the discussion topics of tourist attractions, restaurants, transportation, and hotels. Intermediate and advanced students can also discuss the differences between traveling for personal or business reasons, or how to change their itinerary in English. Flexibility of the curriculum is needed for students who have business goals. At any time, an adult student may need to prepare for a presentation, accommodate a boss’ request, or design travel plans in English.
Finally, teaching online is an excellent way to stay in touch with the corporate world around us. Technology has made easy international communication, as well as teaching English language concepts and covertly preserving OE and SAE grammar. Contact with professors and other students is also effortless. What is needed in the field of teaching Business English are English students applying their traditional learning to an ever-changing corporate world while interlinking technology.
Freelancing copyeditor, proofreader, and writer
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I graduated from the University of Connecticut in May 2016 with my bachelor’s degree in Communication and English. Over that summer, I interned at WHUS Radio and created an interview-style podcast on humanitarianism and human rights, which I titled “Candlelight.” It was a wonderful experience, and I connected with a lot of talented, humorous, dedicated people. Being there reignited my passion for sharing stories and serving others. Taking tai chi classes helped me center myself and opened my eyes to the opportunities available if I followed my inner child rather than pursuing a job solely for an income.
After months of searching, I joined AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) for a year of service in November 2016. I served full-time as a Communications Capacity Builder at Foodshare, a local food bank. My service allowed me to build my skill set, network, travel to different parts of the country, and give back to my community. I recorded stories from clients, volunteers, donors, and staff to show the different perspectives in the anti-hunger movement, some of which are published on Foodshare’s blog. I scripted, recorded, and edited a training presentation for Foodshare ambassadors and revised the Hunger 101 role-play and discussion activity to better suit today’s data and community needs. I planned and implemented a Global Youth Service Day volunteer recognition project with the volunteer coordinator. I even took VISTA’s Resource Development course, exploring grant writing, marketing, and event planning.
When I’m not applying for freelance jobs or other communications-based positions, I’m studying online for my master’s in Communication at Southern New Hampshire University. Online courses give me the flexibility to work and pursue a well-rounded life. In my free time, I signed up for line dancing classes and started walking while listening to audiobooks, my treats after a day at work. I spend as much time as possible with family and close friends. Professionally, I attended the Money Conference for Women in Hartford and a few networking events, building the confidence, knowledge, and resource I need to create my upcoming blog. The past two years have been a whirlwind of creativity, vulnerability, spiritual and professional connection, and overall growth. I’m looking forward to seeing the next steps in my life unravel, and I’m open to the possibilities.