English Majors Received Drinko Grants to Present at Literature and Creative Writing Conference

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Six Westminster College English majors received Travel/Presentation Grants from Westminster's Drinko Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to present papers at the Susquehanna University Literature and Creative Writing Conference Feb. 20-21.

Senior Aaron Eisenreich presented "A Journey to Absurdity: An Existentialist Reading of Jack Kerouac's On the Road," using Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus as his philosophical base.  Faculty advisers for the research were Westminster English professors Dr. Richard Sprow, who accompanied the group, and Dr. David Swerdlow.

"It was good to present my work and interesting to hear other papers," Eisenreich said. 

Eisenreich is a son of Frank Eisenreich of Pittsburgh and Joan Eisenreich of Cranberry Township.  He is a graduate of Seneca Valley High School.

Senior Sarah Kehr presented "Ruth Narrates from the Dark: A Study of the Narrator in Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping."  The paper studied the reliability of Ruth and how, despite her mental instability, she provides a reliable narrative through the use of narratological techniques combined with the breakdown and merger of certain binaries within the novel.  Sprow and Swerdlow were the faculty advisers. 

"This was my first time presenting at a conference, so I was very nervous," Kehr said.  "Once I stood at the podium, I felt comfortable presenting my project to the audience.  Dr. Sprow and the other Westminster students were at my panel and they were all so supportive.  It was a great experience that gave me the opportunity not only to present my work, but also to listen to the work of my peers."

Kehr is a daughter of Lisa Kehr of McKeesport and Bruce Kehr of Chambersburg.  She is a graduate of Elizabeth Forward School District.

Senior Kelly Lake presented "5,001 Questions: An Inquiry into the Critical Work of Pauline Kael," a look at Kael's criticism through a feminist lens.  Sprow and Swerdlow were the faculty advisers.

"It was a fun and enlightening experience, and it served as good practice for my upcoming Honors defense," Lake said.  "I really enjoyed the keynote speaker, Dr. Alan Liu, as well."

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

Junior Laura Milanak presented "A Humanist Lens on Clint Eastwood and Gran Torino."  Focusing on the character Walt Kowalski and his relationship with Thao Vang Lor, the paper studied how the form, colors, and content of the film answered the question "What gives meaning to life?"  Sprow and Dr. Kristianne Vaccaro, assistant professor, were the faculty advisers.

"I found the conference to be very enjoyable," Milanak said.  "It was exciting to see so many different research papers that students completed."

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

Senior Emilee Stanford presented "Anxiety of Zen: Meanings and Diagnoses in Salinger's Short Fiction."  The paper examined the presence of mental illness and Zen tradition in Salinger's short fiction, with special attention to how it influences the characters.  Sprow and Swerdlow were the faculty advisers.

"Attending the Susquehanna Conference was a great experience to hear what others are working on and to share some of my own work," Stanford said.  "A highlight was hearing keynote speaker Alan Liu, a professor from the University of California, Santa Barbara, who spoke about digital tools used to analyze literature."

Stanford is a daughter of Donald and Eileen Stanford of Pittsburgh and a graduate of Baldwin High School.

Senior Emily Winn presented "Annie and Me: Reading the Photographic Word," built around the question "Can you read a photograph like a book?"  The first section of the paper was learning the elements and principles of photographic design.  The second section focused on the reading of three portraits by photographer Annie Leibovitz.  Winn took three of her own similar portraits for the creative portion of the project, incorporating the essences of Leibovitz' photography, and comparing the two sets.

"It was a truly great experience," Winn said.  "The conference ran smoothly, allowing everyone enough time to give a thorough 15-minute presentation.  The most interesting thing was being able to see what students at other colleges are researching and exploring.  There were a variety of creative presentations on subjects I would never have thought to research."

Winn is a daughter of Guy and Paula Winn of Belle Vernon and a graduate of Belle Vernon Area High School.

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 www.westminster.edu/drinko for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.

Contact Sprow at (724) 946-7346 or e-mail rsprow@westminster.edu for additional information.

About Westminster College...
Founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Westminster College ranks first in the nation as "Best College for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," according to Forbes.com. Westminster is a top tier liberal arts college, a national leader in graduation rate performance, and a "Great School, Great Price," according to U.S. News Best Colleges guide. Westminster ranked 38th among liberal arts colleges, according to the Washington Monthly College Guide, and is one of the most affordable national liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania. Westminster is also honored as one of "The Best 373 Colleges" and "Best in the Northeast" by The Princeton Review, and is named to the President's Honor Roll for excellence in service learning.

Nearly 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from individualized attention from dedicated faculty while choosing from 41 majors and nearly 100 organizations on the New Wilmington, Pa., campus. Visit www.westminster.edu/advantage to view "Advantage: Westminster" A Strategic Plan 2010-2020.

Click image to enlarge.
(L-r) Aaron Eisenreich, Sarah Kehr, Emily Winn, Dr. Richard Sprow, Emilee Stanford, Kelly Lake, Laura Milanak

Drinko Center Information