English Events on Campus: Sigma Tau Delta

Ev Norsworthy

Two executive board members of Sigma Tau Delta happy to great patrons of their recent book sale.

Early in the month of October, the UMF chapter of the English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta held a Book Sale on Mantor Green as a fundraiser for the club. The group was selling buttons for a dollar a piece or a combination of a book and a button for three dollars. Those who attended the book sale were greeted with books covered in colorful wrapping paper, each labeled with a genre as well as literary themed buttons that the group members had created for previous events, including their “Blind date with a book event” last academic year. Despite not being able to see what books you were purchasing, the group had a great range of genres and topics to choose from and patrons were certainly not disappointed. 

Sigma Tau Delta’s table on Mantor Green at recent book sale. Oct. 2020.

After the book sale, I was able to chat with the group’s President, Billie Rose Newby, about the group, membership and other upcoming events. We began with quickly discussing the purpose of the club with discussions and questions such as:

What is Sigma Tau Delta and what exactly do you all do as a group here at UMF? 

Sigma Tau Delta is a national English Honors society and as part of UMF’s chapter, they hold events on campus, book sales, movie showings, guest speakers etc. However, due to physical distancing guidelines, this year things are being done a bit differently and the club hopes to do events virtually including a few movie nights and game nights on alternating weeks throughout the semester. 

What are some of the main goals of the group for this semester or school year? 

Overall this year is being used as a time to build the group and encourage participation and involvement from everyone on campus if possible. The group overall is trying to do some of these events in order to gain visibility within the UMF community. 

Why did you all choose to start the school year with a fundraiser, is there anything in particular that you choose to use funds on within the group? 

Sigma Tau Delta is a self-supported organization on campus and doesn’t receive any funding from student senate or other funding that some clubs and student organizations receive so the money raised through fundraising efforts such as this book sale keeps the club running. The group also uses the funds from these events to hold larger events for the entire UMF community, not just members involved and a lot of this will be saved for the future when groups can gather in large events on campus again. 

If someone was interested in joining Sigma Tau Delta, how would they go about that? What are some of your suggestions for prospective members? 

One of the most important things that a prospective applicant should do is focus on their English courses! There is a GPA requirement in order to be inducted into the honors society so it’s best to be focusing on the English courses and doing as well as you can in those. It’s also important to note that there is an application process and a forty-five dollar application fee. It is also important to note that while there is an application fee and other requirements to becoming a member, once someone has been accepted, they will have a connection to the international branch of the English honors society and this can lead to many scholarships and internship or research journal opportunities. Lastly, anyone can participate in the events being held on campus (or virtually) even if they are not yet a member of Sigma Tau Delta! 

As the semester progresses, Sigma Tau Delta will hold more virtual events, particularly events like movie nights or game nights but at the moment, the big event the group is currently promoting is their Halloween raffle which is all being done remotely this semester! 

If you are interested in participating in the raffle and helping the group’s fundraising efforts, you can fill out the form for raffle tickets here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfuvmNzaUsCyzGXAeK4Ai4X-Nz4mhM7Ce6exqWNDNHv2sp2-w/viewform?fbclid=IwAR2myHQ5vStk-YbCQdT5U__1AiaCXXEK5rfGdazV-t7qbLYaUXK5cX7dleQ 

What Does English Look Like At UMF During COVID-19?

Ev Norsworthy

It should come as no surprise that this semester, life at the University of Maine at Farmington looks a little different than previous years for all of us, new requirements regarding social distancing, face masks, the cancelation of some normal activities such as sports seasons or large club or community gatherings but for many, the biggest change is adjusting to classes in new formats. UMF is offering classes for the Fall 2020 semester in a few different formats, completely in person with the proper guidelines in place, hybrid classes that are meeting a few times in person and a few online at the discretion of the professor and finally, online classes whether those be synchronous or ascrynous classes. 

One UMF student, Liz, a senior and English major, shared her thoughts on what this first quarter of the semester has been like, both in terms of classes and just everyday life on campus. Liz is currently enrolled in SPA 102: Elementary Spanish II, ENG 265: African American Literature and Culture (as HON 305), ENG 396: Editorial Intern at Alice James Books and she is a TA for HON 100&101: Dig It. She explained the format of her classes by saying, 

“All but my English literature course are hybrid. For Spanish, half of the class meets once a week each, but we also have weekly partner chats via Zoom and prerecorded online lectures. My internship at Alice James Books is in-person four days a week, and I have a remote hour each Wednesday. When I’m in-person there, the other intern and I are spaced out in the loft at our own work stations in addition to wearing masks, just like a class. The course that I’m a TA for meets in-person outside for a three hour block on Tuesdays and for a three hour Zoom block Thursdays. Even though that’s a lot of time on Zoom, our “field days” make up for it. As for my English class, which is in the same room in Merrill as my Spanish class, we meet three times a week for an hour. It took us a week or so to get comfortable having discussions through masks in a socially-distanced classroom, but now it feels (mostly) normalized.”

Liz’s descriptions of her clases gives us a quick glimpse into the new “hybrid format” that many classes at UMF are using and even went on to explain that while she expected her senior year to look a little different; mainly focusing on more independent work. She explains that the new formats that classes are being held in are, “surprisingly congruous with that” and that even though things aren’t quite as planned she is “…happy to have some in-person conversations again, but when I do use Zoom, I feel confident with the platform, and it’s comforting to actually see everyone’s faces, too.” 

Before students returned to campus there were multiple fears and questions asked including: 

  •  Would we receive the level of education we were used to? 
  • Would students have the same level of connection with their professors as the usual high UMF standard? 
  • Would students participate in social distancing while in classes?
  • Would online formats actually be productive or would students hate it? 

Despite these questions, it seems that many students, like Liz, have adjusted well to their classes and that in whatever format they are being offered, students are grateful for some sort of normalcy. Besides discussing classes, we briefly talked about any other major changes on campus this year and Liz shared that one of the hardest things is not having any common spaces on campus. She explained by saying, “I often have to run around campus trying to find a quiet place to work remotely or have a quick Zoom meeting between physical classes or meetings. I understand that we can’t have communal seating in the buildings anymore, but I miss being able to easily find somewhere quiet to sit and work.” 

Despite missing a place to study on campus, adjusting to new class formats and overall just rolling with the change of plans, many students will agree with Liz that “Overall, this semester is going much more smoothly than I anticipated. Of course it’s strange to see campus and classes change, but the not knowing what this semester was going to be like was more frustrating than the semester actually is”. While English may look a little different at UMF this year, we are very happy to be back, in whatever capacity, and to be connected with our peers and professors who are all trying their best in our new normal.