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English Majors and Adviser Participated in International Convention

Posted on Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Seven Westminster College English majors and their faculty adviser participated in the Sigma Tau Delta International Convention "Beyond Words" March 23-26 in Pittsburgh.

Senior Samantha Killmeyer presented an analytical paper on Elizabeth Bishop's poem "Crusoe in England" that examined the confessional mode and suggested that grief is easier to confess within a strict frame, be it poetic form or the narrative of another writer's work such as Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

Her second presentation was a collection of original poetry, I Know This Much to be True, that earned third place out of 170 submissions.

"Sam is an incredibly gifted poet," said Dr. Kristianne Kalata Vaccaro, Westminster assistant professor of English and Sigma Tau Delta faculty adviser who accompanied the students.  "I was so proud and excited to see her gain international recognition for the fine work that we appreciate daily."

"I don't think of Sam Killmeyer as a student who happens to write poetry," said Dr. David Swerdlow, professor and chair of Westminster's Department of English and Public Relations and Killmeyer's poetry adviser.  "Rather, I think of her as a terrific young poet whose work is saturated with strength and beauty; her poems sing.  Her poems help us to feel what it means to live on this earth, among everyone and everything we love.  Speaking with Sam about poetry is one of the great pleasures of my teaching life."

"This conference was my first either to attend or present," Killmeyer said.  "It was wonderful to be at a gathering of so many people who share my passions for literature and writing.  I met several interesting people and attended two keynote speakers' presentations: Kay Ryan, Poet Laureate 2008-2012, and Dave Eggers, writer, editor, and publisher."

Killmeyer is a daughter of Steven and Diane Killmeyer of Medina, Ohio, and a graduate of Highland High School.

Junior Kara Knickerbocker presented "Discoloration," a pantoum written in an "Art of Confessions" course that reflects her relationship with her father and the skin condition vitiligo that they both have.

"I was thoroughly impressed by the various styles of writing I was exposed to and the different voices I heard through the sessions of the conference," Knickerbocker said.  "I loved meeting students from around the country that shared my passion for reading and writing.  It was a truly amazing opportunity for me and a wonderful experience that I would love to repeat at next year's conference."

Knickerbocker is a daughter of Dan and Lu Ann Knickerbocker of Conneautville and a graduate of Saegertown High School.  Her academic adviser is Dr. Andrew Ade, Westminster associate professor of English.

Seniors Matthew Bower, Kelly Lake, and Ryan Sargent were part of a panel that discussed "From Text to Film Text: The Adaptations of Alfred Hitchcock" and was moderated by Dr. Jeffrey Bersett, associate professor and chair of Westminster's Department of Modern Languages. 

"It was a great experience," Lake said.  "I think we had a really good discussion and I learned some interesting information from my panel members."  

Lake is a daughter of Walter and Catherine Lake of Boardman, Ohio, and a graduate of Boardman High School.

Bower is a student in Westminster's Lifelong Learning Program.

Sargent is a son of Paul and Marlene Sargent of Washington and a graduate of Trinity High School.

Junior Laura Milanak presented two papers: "A Humanist Lens on Clint Eastwood and Gran Torino" that was originally presented at Susquehanna University's Literature and Creative Writing Conference earlier this year and one on Percy Shelley written during her freshman year.

"The conference was even better than I expected," Milanak said.  "There were so many appealing presentations that it was tough to decide which to attend.  Both of my presentations went extremely well and I hope to apply for the conference next year."

Milanak is a daughter of Steve and Beth Milanak of Ford City and a graduate of Ford City High School.

Junior Molly Sharbaugh, president of the Westminster Sigma Tau Delta chapter, attended the business lunch for officers.

Sharbaugh is a daughter of John and Patricia Sharbaugh of Ligonier and a graduate of Ligonier Valley High School.

Vaccaro attended the faculty sponsor workshop, where she learned many practical ideas for fundraising, motivating student participation, and organizing chapter activities.

"The conference exceeded my expectations," Vaccaro said.  "It was thrilling to hear such good papers and lively discussions from this diverse group of undergraduates.  The conference provided us with a great venue for showcasing the talents of Westminster's English majors, who gain so much from sharing their work with audiences outside Westminster."

Sigma Tau Delta is an international honor society for students of English language and literature.  This year's convention represented the largest annual meeting of English undergraduates with over 1,000 student participants.

The Westminster students' attendance was supported by travel/presentation grants from Westminster's Drinko Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

The Drinko Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning was created to enrich undergraduate education at Westminster through advancing world-class teaching as well as by participating in collaborations that address community and regional needs including strengthening K-12 education.  The Undergraduate Research Initiative provides funding for students to conduct research and to present their research at regional and national conferences.  Visit for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.

Contact Vaccaro at (724) 946-7350 or email for additional information.

(L-r) Kara Knickerbocker, Samantha Killmeyer, Laura Milanak, Molly Sharbaugh, Dr. Kristianne Kalata Vaccaro
Dave Eggers (seated), (l-r) Samantha Killmeyer, Laura Milanak, Kelly Lake