Take Action! Sigma Tau Delta Students at Atlanta National Convention

WIU’s own Phi Delta chapter of Sigma Tau Delta in Atlanta. Joshua Stinson, Joshua Fahrenkrog, Darrin Ross, Ashunti Westbrook, Jessica Schaumberg, Samantha Misener, and faculty advisor Dr. Time Helwig.

This spring I’ve had the privilege to serve as the President of WIU’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society. Our chapter had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Atlanta, Georgia and attend the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society Conference. The conference’s theme was “Take Action” and featured keynote presentations by Nic Stone (author of organization’s 2021-2022 Common Reader Dear Martin) and fifth inaugural poet, Richard Blanco. Not only were these offered, but there were networking sessions, games, featured paper readings, panel discussions, and a new event called Research in the Round.

At this year’s national convention, “Research in the Round” was a new experiment that Sigma Tau Delta put together, and it was received with much joy and appreciation. In this event, students were asked to prepare an eight to ten minute presentation on any topic of their choice. If a students’ topic was accepted, they were asked to lead a research table. If you were not a presenter, you were paired with two people and you would rotate between the tables, engaging in the topics with the presenters. It was a fantastic experience and a great way to learn about a lot of different things in one place! Some of my favorite topics included the effects of social media on literature and romanticism versus realism!

Senior English Major Darrin Ross won Darrin Ross won first place for the best convention paper in American Literature for his paper “Race and Queerness in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.”

 In the other major event, the featured presentations, we had five students from Western come to present individual papers. Among those presenting their works were Joshua Fahrenkrog, Darrin Ross, Ashunti Westbrook, Jessica Schaumberg, and Samantha Misener. Having their papers accepted is no small feat, as the conference is highly selective. As great as it is just to be accepted, this year was huge for WIU English because senior Darrin Ross won first place for the best convention paper in American Literature for his paper “Race and Queerness in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” This is a huge achievement. My deepest congratulations goes to each one of our Leathernecks who presented. Each of the papers were very well written and the students each handled the questions posed to them afterward with studied academic professionalism and respect towards their interlocutors, and their difficult questions.

Senior English major Ashunti Westbrook presents a paper.

This year, I was fortunate to serve as the Midwestern Student Representative for this convention. It was such an amazing experience to be on the logistics side of the convention, work to make the event a success, and see it pay off for the students that came from all around the country. No matter what you decide to do at the convention, I don’t think that you’ll regret the choice to come! This year, I had a heavy hand in preparing and organizing the student-led events that were hosted at the convention. There was one Student Exposition, in which I led a literary character guessing game. There was also a Student Networking Event where I was able to answer questions and facilitate discussion between all the attendees from the Midwest. Aside from my responsibilities, I was also able to take part in some of the amazing events, such as speeches from Nic Stone and Richard Blanco, and I was able to make lifelong friends from all over the country. It was an outstanding time and, despite being busy, will never forget the experience!

Not only were students represented at this event, WIU English department professor Dr. Timothy Helwig again served as the Midwestern Regent, a position he has held for 8 years. As he always does, he played a huge role in making this convention possible, not only for the students of Western, but for Sigma Tau Delta students from around the country. Dr. Helwig helped with moderating student panels, organizing the trip for the Western students, and doing behind the scenes work with the Sigma Tau Delta Board of Directors to sustain and grow the national organization.

To everyone who attended and helped, you helped make the most out of this experience! To those reading who didn’t attend, I would highly recommend attending a convention if you are ever able. It is an experience that you will never forget.