On March 19-22, six members of Sigma Tau Delta attended the international convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. What is Sigma Tau Delta, you ask? Well, let me tell you. It is an International English Honor Society that strives to recognize students for their high achievements in English literature and language and promotes culture on college campuses around the world. If you’d like to know more about the organization at the international level, click here. After a one-time initiation fee of $40, you’re a lifetime member. While at WKU, you take the 1 hour class English 202: Honors Forum (you don’t have to be in Honors to enroll–just have a 3.2 GPA) with sponsor Professor Walker Rutledge. You can take Forum without becoming a Sigma Tau Delta member, but it’s a good experience so you might as well.
Anyway, back to convention. Thursday dawned with our group already at the Nashville airport, waiting for our 6 AM flight to Albuquerque by way of Dallas. We’d already spent much of the car ride to Nashville “fan-girling” over our favorite authors–namely Hemingway because, come on, who doesn’t love this guy?–and trying to figure out the mysteries contained in the enigmas of our professors. Five hours later with our carry-ons in hand, we arrived in New Mexico, and that’s when the real adventures began.
After checking in, we decided to eat lunch at a restaurant called “The Library,” which we thought was aptly named for us. Inside, the walls were lined with shelves of books, and I thought Belle would come sweeping through at any moment. The rest of the day contained a scholarship session with WKU’s chapter receiving a plaque commemorating our 50th anniversary, a hint of a nap, dinner, and a talk given by the author Simon Ortiz. Ortiz wrote From Sand Creek which is a volume of poetry that uses the 1864 massacre of indigenous peoples at Sand Creek by the U.S. Army to explore life on the margins. This collection was chosen as the common reader for the convention, and Ortiz’s presentation provided a first-hand look at the lives of those who are called “Indians,” “Native Americans,” and “indigenous peoples.”
Friday marked the day of our first paper to be presented: “Absence of God: Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner” by Sigma Tau Delta president Brittany Moster. Although a few of us slipped in at 8:01, we made it in time to hear each of the panelists read their papers. After all had finished, the floor was opened up for questions of the widest range: importance of religion then and now, inspiration for writing these papers, and everything in between. It was an English major’s dream to sit with some of the brightest minds in the country and discuss the best literature in the world.
At this point, our president and sponsor had to attend a business meeting so the rest of us trekked to “Old Town.”
Fun Fact: Old Town was the original settlement of Albuquerque. However, the land Old Town was built on was a floodplain of the Rio Grande and not suited to carry the weight of the soon-coming railroad. As a result, when the railroad was built, the city moved east of the river.
Old Town is a quaint section of Albuquerque that is perfect for tourists with shops and restaurants and musicians on every corner. There, we learned a lot about New Mexican history, food, and culture. (If you would like to hear about the Hot Air Balloon Festival, find Chelsea McCarty.) Later that evening, Professor Rutledge and Brittany reunited with us, and after dinner, we took a “ghost tour” of Old Town. It was such a neat experience to learn about the history of a place through its folklore. Unfortunately, it was a little cold, but it allowed Chelsea to buy a Clint Eastwood poncho and me to buy a southwestern blanket.
Saturday began a little later at 9:30 with Abby Ponder presenting her creative non-fiction piece “In the Absence of Sound” in the panel that I was honored to chair. As a chair, I introduced each speaker and ensured that they took only their allotted time. In the very next session, all three of our remaining students were presenting at different panels so we divided and conquered. I went to Chelsea’s presentation of “‘A Rose for Emily’ and Psycho” while Brittany attended Rachel Sudbeck’s original creative writing piece “Uptight.” Then, we sneaked to Jessica Brumley’s “Cultural Classroom Instructional Handbook” so that we could hear as many pieces as possible.
I was amazed at how broad the spectrum of topics was for this convention. Not only was it for the creative writing students like Abby and Rachel, but also for those who did literary analyses like Chelsea and Brittany, and still yet, for those who brought English to the (global) classroom like Jessica. I had always known English covered a wide array of topics, but I wasn’t quite aware of how wide.
After spending another afternoon in Old Town at the museums, we returned to the convention for the gala where the awards were announced. There were so many categories: British and World Lit essays, American Lit essays, Creative Non-Fiction, Best Piece with the Theme (Borderlands and Enchantments), and Best Piece Based on the Common Reader (From Sands Creek). One of our own, Ms. Abby Ponder won 2nd place–and $300–for “In the Absence of Sound” in the Creative Non-Fiction Category. We were all so proud of her that we immediately begged for her autograph.
Alas, Sunday came, but we were not ready to leave this new place that we had called home. The arid mountains had left imprints on our hearts, yet we boarded the plane for Kentucky. As we relived the adventures from this convention, we decided to come back next year, or at least live vicariously through the students who have the amazing opportunity to go.