Sigma Tau Delta
UAF's NEWEST HONOR SOCIETY CLAIMS HONORS AT THE SIGMA TAU DELTA 75th ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION, HELD MARCH 11-13, IN ST. LOUIS, MO by Kate D'Amico.
UAF's newest honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, or the English Honors Society, has just made a name for itself at the 75 th Anniversary Convention that was held in St. Louis from March II - 13, 1999. Of the eighteen new members included on the roster of the induction ceremony held last December, nine responded to the "call for papers," sending in a total of ten submissions written by (in alphabetical order) Leah Jones Cassel, Kate D'Amico, Jennifer Early, Sheila Diann Lauber, Karen LeFlore, E. Madara Mason, Jasmine Lynn Nickell, Jennifer Stugart, and Teri Venable. All were read and accepted for presentation by Dr. Robert W. Halli, Jr., Convention Coordinator, Department of English at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The University of Alaska quickly and generously responded, sending all nine scholars to the convention, through several grants from the Office of the Provost, the UAF ASB Senate, the UAF English Department, and the UAF English Honors Program. Members of the chapter also had a two-day bake sale in Wood Center just before leaving, netting $200 for spending money during the trip.
Of the hundreds and hundreds of papers submitted by approximately 400 active chapters across the continent, only 300 were chosen to present. Awards were given out for the best work during the Awards Banquet held the last evening. Two of the finalists for the President's Convention Writing Awards were UAF students Jennifer Early, for her entry in the Critical Paper category: "What Remains Unsaid: Artistic Responsibility in Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance," and Sheila Diann Lauber, for her Personal Essay: "Remembrance."
UAF was noted as being the second largest delegation represented at the conference (not to mention the one that had traveled the farthest to participate.) When asked about the quality and standards typifying the papers submitted, Dr. Halli, who reads all the papers, commented that the chapter from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, sent in "some of the strongest papers submitted. Some were weaker, some were very powerful, but on the whole, as a group, they were far above average," and that we should be "very, very proud." He added, that for our first effort, "it was an outstanding accomplishment." Lest we forget to give credit where credit is due, and with a bit of teasing twinkle in his eye, he added that we should "feel privileged to have the very fine faculty working at UAF available to us," and that our "achievement is a reflection on their hard work, as well."
"It's nothing short of miraculous," added Bob Gilbert, President of the Phi Beta Chapter at Harris-Stowe State College, in St. Louis, Missouri. "I don't think I've ever heard of that many papers being accepted to present from a single chapter before, and certainly not from a brand-new chapter." Grabbing a rare, quiet moment in the lobby to fill in some of the background of the Sigma Tau Delta past conferences and the work the organization has done, Gilbert, who has designed three out of the last five conference Tshirts, noted that Sigma Tau Delta, (Greek signifiers for "Sincerity, Truth, and Design,") is the third largest honor society in America. When asked why it is called an international organization, he said it was because there are two chapters in Canada and one at the American University in Paris.
Gilbert went on to explain the serious nature of the organization, providing invaluable community service by organizing and implementing the Literacy Program, teaching adults to read, and going into the schools to provide tutoring in reading, writing, for students of all ages. For the college students themselves, Sigma Tau Delta provides scholarships and cash grants for every type of English interest imaginable (at this year's conference, $26,400 in scholarships were awarded,) from the Gannett Newspaper Internships for prospective journalists, that provide a $5,000 stipend for participating as a cub reporter for a summer on a newspaper anywhere the student wishes to visit in the U.S., to cash grants of $ 1,000 for new teachers to use as moving money, or to hold them over during that first six-week waiting period before they receive their first paycheck.
Current plans for the UAF chapter are to immediately begin fund-raising for next year's conference which will be held in Savannah, Georgia, and include ideas to host dances, host film parties, have more bake sales and possibly even car washes. Ideas for community service have included going on weekly trips to area schools to provide a quiet place to tutor students in grades K- 1 2, and sponsoring various level writing contests with prizes, to generate more interest in writing for students in elementary, middle and high schools.
During the conference each day there are simultaneously four rooms offering approximately four presenters. There are also panels discussing anything from "Debating the Canon: Shakespeare, Expansion, and Marilyn Manson," to "Starting a Creative Writing Group through your Chapter," to "There Is Life After An English Major-And It Doesn't Have To Be Teaching!" Also, every year the conference offers a guest speaker each day of the convention. This year's guests included poet Andrew Hutchins, runner up for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and currently Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at the John Hopkins University. The keynote speaker was Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club, winner of the Commonwealth Gold Award, and nominated for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics' Circle Award.
Anyone interested in the social potlucks and readings planned by the UAF chapter can drop by the meetings currently being held on Thursdays, between 1-2 p.m., in Gruening 405. For anyone interested in joining Sigma Tau Delta, the requirements are easy: a 3.0 gpa overall, and a 3.5 gpa in English classes. Various campuses have different requirements, and many different kinds of scholarships are available just for the printing out from the STD home page, located at www.english.org .