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English Majors and Faculty Participated in International Convention

Posted on Monday, March 19, 2012

Seven Westminster College English majors and Dr. Andrew Ade, Westminster associate professor of English, participated in the Sigma Tau Delta International Convention Feb. 29-March 3 in New Orleans.

Senior Casey Kennedy presented "Falling Down Stairs," an original work.  He is a son of Thomas and Lynn Kennedy of Indiana and a graduate of Indiana Area High School.

Senior Samantha Killmeyer gave an oral reading on "Denise Levertov: Defining Woman," a portion of her capstone and Honors project.  Killmeyer examined an interview that quoted Levertov as saying that gender was as important as eye color and argued that she could make that assertion because she had defined what it meant to be a woman, and a woman poet, in the early 1960s.

The capstone work was advised by Ade and Dr. Ross Wastvedt, associate professor of English.  Killmeyer's Honors panel includes Wastvedt; Dr. Joel Postema, associate professor of Spanish; and Dr. David Swerdlow, professor and chair of Westminster's Department of English.

"The conference was an incredible experience," Killmeyer said.  "More than 1,000 students and faculty advisers from across the United States and as far away as Kuwait attended.  In addition to sharing my research with people who can appreciate my work was the opportunity to explore such a beautiful city."

At the opening night kick-off event, Killmeyer was asked to read her original poetry.  She selected "Sailing," a new poem, and two - "Doing the Laundry" and "Waiting" - that earned a prize at last year's convention and will be published in The Rectangle, Sigma Tau Delta's journal.

"It was a very special honor to be asked to read following the keynote speaker," Killmeyer said.  "I feel so lucky to have had my poetry accepted for publication and to have had the opportunity to read."

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

Senior Kara Knickerbocker presented "The Art of Baptizing," an oral reading of an original poetry collection inspired by her capstone project, a critical analysis of Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market" and Kate Chopin's "The Storm," that was advised by Ade and Wastvedt. 

Knickerbocker, who also presented at last year's conference, "could not have had a more rewarding experience.  I think it is so amazing that students are able to present their research and creative work alongside students from so many colleges and universities.  I love meeting other students who share my passion for writing and literature."

Knickerbocker is a daughter of Dan and Lu Ann Knickerbocker of Conneautville and a graduate of Saegertown High School. 

Junior Stephanie Lehman presented "All Endings are also Beginnings," a memoir written for a creative non-fiction class taught by Evann Garrison, English lecturer.  The piece recalls the destruction and rebirth of a relationship following the tragic deaths of Lehman's grandparents, whose lives touched those of many others.

"The convention was an amazing educational experience that I would not have had the opportunity to attend without support from so many at Westminster," Lehman said.  "I sincerely appreciate the help from our Sigma Tau Delta chapter and adviser, Dr. Kristianne Vaccaro, the Drinko Center, Student Government Association, the English department, Ms. Garrison, and Dr. Ade."

Lehman is a daughter of Michael and Nanette Lehman of New Wilmington and a graduate of Shenango High School.

Senior Laura Milanak delivered "Paranoid Schizophrenia in Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants," a segment from her capstone project that was advised by Ade and Wastvedt.  The paper focused on August's portrayal as a paranoid schizophrenic and determined that he is not a dynamic or ethical character, based on evidence from the text.

"It was a great opportunity that I am very thankful to have experienced," Milanak said.

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

Junior Megan Power presented "Little Red: Feminist through the Ages."  The paper described how the Little Red Riding Hood tale has been rewritten and transformed over time to create a strong female protagonist who differs from the young, naïve character to whom audiences are accustomed.

"I am thankful to the Drinko Center for its funding and to the Drinko staff for all their help," Power said.  "Without their support, I would not have been able to attend the conference, which was such a wonderful experience."

Power is a daughter of Christopher and Lisa Power of Wampum and a graduate of Lincoln High School.

Senior Rose Selby presented "Ideological Effects on Identity in Huck Finn and Light in August," her capstone project.  The paper examines the influence of ideology on the characters Huck Finn, from Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Joe Christmas, from Faulkner's Light in August.  The comparative piece showed how they each suffer identity crises as a result of their culture's ideological beliefs.

"The conference was a unique experience," Selby said.  "The hotel was massive and the convention was huge, with students from all over the U.S presenting.  Meeting other students, exploring New Orleans, and listening to others' research were particularly valuable.  I was proud to be part of such an event."

Selby is a daughter of Robert and Patricia Selby of Darlington and a graduate of Beaver Falls High School.

"I was tremendously proud of our students' public presentations of their work," Ade said.  "Each elicited a good deal of audience commentary and discussion, and the students received compliments during and after their talks.  One professor in attendance, in fact, declared Killmeyer's panel on women poets to be the very definition of what constitutes the rare event of ‘a great conference session.'"

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 Experiential Learning.

The Drinko Center for Experiential 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 the Drinko website for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.

Contact Ade at (724) 946-7349 or email for additional information.

(L-r) Stephanie Lehman, Laura Milanak, Samantha Killmeyer, Kara Knickerbocker, Rose Selby, Casey Kennedy, Megan Power