In the early hours of the morning on Thursday, March 3rd, 7 English students and Professor Walker Rutledge, along with his wife, Belita Goad, boarded a plane in Nashville, Tennessee bound for Kansas City, Missouri. After a layover in the compact, stuffy environment of the Kansas City airport, the group boarded another plane bound for their final destination in Minneapolis, Minnesota to attend the International Sigma Tau Delta English Convention.
After a brief debate of whether to take an Uber or a taxi to their hotel, the group of 9 divided and crammed themselves into two taxis. A great many minutes later, they arrived at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis. Checking-in, registration, and dinner followed.
Over the course of the next few days, each student presented her individual work on a panel with other students presenting, what the ΣΤΔ conference gods dictated were, works of similar subjects. The work presented showcases an array of talent and scope of interests amongst WKU’s Sigma Tau Delta members.
Bridget Yates presented her poem “Pear Tree,” inspired by William Faulkner’s character Caddy from The Sound and the Fury. She also presented a highly serious short story she had written entitled “Crimson,” about a complex relationship between a daughter and her mother. Normally, students attending Sigma Tau Delta conferences are only allowed to present one work, unless they are presenting on the convention’s common reader book (the book of the conference that represents the year’s theme), in which case they are allowed to read two works. But by some means, sneaky Bridget slipped under the radar to present two works.
Though her name was left off of the original conference schedule, after some mild hassling and embarrassed apologies, Rachel Sudbeck found a panel to present her paper on the common reader, The Soul Thief, by Charles Baxter.
Chelsea McCarty and Madeline Kramer each presented plays dealing with existential subject matter. In Kramer’s, young women are “Searching for Something,” but they don’t know what. In McCarty’s, a man and a woman find each other at “The End of the Line” as they wait to make life choices at the post office. For each reading, other members of the group performed the play for the audience of the session.
Abby Ponder read her short story “Borrowed Purpose,” which recounts a moving experience she had while studying abroad at Harlaxton in England. In the story, she and a friend encounter a homeless individual in Liverpool around Christmastime.
Haley Quinton read “The Party,” a chapter from her novel Olive in Oakgrove. In the novel, a woman returns to her childhood home after 7 years because her father is dying. Continued flashbacks depict events that have strained the relationships between the main family members and how those moments have shaped the novel’s central figure, Olive.
Courtney George presented an analytical paper about John Donne’s balance of sex and religion in his poetry. Of attending the conference for the first time, George said:
It was really amazing to see so many people come together for a love of English. It was clear that everyone was very passionate and eager to talk about different ideas.
While in Minneapolis, the group visited the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a museum known for its Period Rooms that offer not only windows to the past, but quite literally physical doors where one may step into rooms of the past. Fitting for a visit from a group of English lovers, the museum had on display a dual-Jane Austen room, made up of MIA’s Queen Anne and Georgian Drawing Rooms. The display highlighted the author’s habits as well as scenes from her beloved work Emma.
Several of the students on the trip had studied or lived abroad in Britain, so when the group stumbled upon a restaurant called Brit’s Pub, they felt right at home. The pub was outfitted with traditionally British wall hangings, including an abundance of plates, picture frames, and paintings of Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth. A person of legal drinking age could order a Strongbow on tap, and even pay for it in pounds! And, of course, a British pub wouldn’t be complete without the timeless fish and chips meal at the ready–and British candy for sale at checkout! The pub was a definite highlight of the weekend, bringing back bittersweet British memories for many of the group. They ate there twice.
At the end of the weekend, the group retraced their steps, first flying back to the stuffy, squashed half-crescent Kansas City airport, and then on to Nashvegas. In all, the weekend and the convention was a success. The trip was made possible by generous funding of donations, awards, and grants from WKU’s Honors College, English Department, Potter College of Arts and Letters, Student Government Association, and individual student Honors Development Grants. While none in the group were given official awards from the convention, each had an outstanding presentation receiving compliments from audience in her session. At heart, they are all winners.
Any individuals interested in attending future Sigma Tau Delta conventions should contact Professor Walker Rutledge at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about WKU’s chapter of the organization. The convention is held yearly in March at rotating locations. Next year’s convention will be held in Louisville, Kentucky.