Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Convention Stories

Allie Martin
Southern Region Associate Student Representative, 2011-2012
Freed-Hardeman University

Fifteen hours in a packed Toyota Camry was not my idea of a great trip. Nevertheless,  three other English majors from Freed-Hardeman University, our faculty sponsor, and I wedged ourselves into the car and headed toward Pittsburgh, PA, for the 2011 Sigma Tau Delta English Convention. This was my first convention, and I did not know what to expect.

When the convention committee chose Pittsburgh as the site for this year’s convention, they definitely knew what they were doing. I don’t know if I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting a city with so much culture! Several times my group went to Market Square to eat lunch or supper during our breaks.  Restaurants around a quaint square with its cobblestoned streets, Market Square stood in stark contrast to the skyscrapers surrounding it. My Philly burger at The Primanti Brothers’ restaurant was my favorite meal:  the famous Primanti Brothers’ offering with slaw and French fries ON the sandwich.

My group was also able to meet up with students and faculty from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to ride the Incline up the mountain. I’d never been on a lift like that before, and although the new experience was exhilarating, I was hardly able to revel in that for being distracted by the incredible view. The Ohio river encompasses the triangular tract of land that houses the downtown area, and bridges of various sizes and grandeur lead from the residential areas to the sky scrapers. The students and sponsor from my school and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students have been involved in a collaborative project for the last six months, and getting to share this moment with fellow English majors (whom we had not meant in person before this convention) was gratifying.

Lorene Cary, author of the convention’s common reader Black Ice, spoke Thursday night, and hearing her accounts of teaching in the Pittsburgh prison system was inspirational. I’ve never considered teaching in any capacity in the future, but many of the audience members asked her questions about this work and mentioned they were looking into similar activities. In fact, many of the sessions I went to advocated world literacy. So many English majors at the conventions cared about sharing their passion for English with the world.

I didn’t know what to expect as our small group from western Tennessee set out towards Pittsburgh. What I found was a sense of camaraderie unparalleled by my previous experiences. Everyone who attended the Sigma Tau Delta convention had a zeal for literature and the English language. I was blessed to be elected as Associate Student Representative for the Southern Region. The next year ahead is sure to be a learning experience, but I am thrilled to be a part of it.

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