Friday, September 2, 2011

Convention Stories

Sigma Tau Delta International Convention 2011: Beyond Words
By Katherine Williams, Associate Student Representative: Southwest Region

On an uncharacteristically chilling week of spring, yellow bridges dotted the Allegheny and Monogahela rivers of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As silvery air-filled pillows floated effortlessly in the Andy Warhol Museum, countless thousands of college students dotted the downtown business district of the former industrial city, but rather than wearing the colors of yellow and gray of the city, they chose to wear cardinal and black to show off their pride in Sigma Tau Delta. On the last full week of March, Sigma Tau Delta members from chapters across the country met at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh hotel and convention center to present papers, attend student leadership workshops, and meet other like-minded college students for this year’s theme, “Beyond Words.”

Amid the hustle-bustle of events, readings, and bad poetry contests, students and sponsors alike considered what it means to go “beyond words” in Sigma Tau Delta. As a literary organization, words are the foundation of what we do best, as most of us are English majors. The featured speakers also decided what it meant to go beyond words in life as well as in writing. Writers Jacqueline Woodson, Lorene Cary, Kay Ryan, and Dave Eggers each tried to answer what it means to go beyond words in writing and in action. At my first Sigma Tau Delta convention, I too tried to figure out this riddle.

While exploring the panel discussions and downtown eateries, and while trying to find the nearest flight of stairs to avoid the choked elevators, I observed several groups of people my own age meeting with and bonding almost instantly with other students, even if their chapter regions were thousands of miles away. What was it that connected so many of us, beyond distance, beyond varied lifestyles, social backgrounds, or course curricula? It could have been our like-minded appreciation of literature, its nuances and subtle inside jokes that only another bookworm could understand. Or it could have been our age group that, although separated by distance, could find a common thread through a wireless, lightning-paced technology. Or, like Warhol’s silver clouds, we could all just have been suspended in air, casually bumping into each other in a fan-filled room of chance.

However, once I had witnessed these students’ easygoing connection with each other, coupled with their boundless energy and drive for their chapters, it became clear to me that these members weren’t just part of a school club, or looking for an excuse to cut class, or (in my case) simply going somewhere over Spring Break.  Rather, these gifted and engaged students had a similar drive to get involved in something beyond themselves in order to benefit their community, while engaging with an international group of students. Perhaps this shared positive experience is another meaning for going “beyond words.”

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