Interview With UMF English Major Vanessa Brown

By Robert Drinkwater

Vanessa Brown is a senior English major here at UMF. She is currently one of the leaders in Clefnotes, and plans to be taking a travel course to Paris, France in May as her last elective course here at UMF before she gets her degree. In this interview we discussed her passions as an English major, why she chose her concentration, and her role in Clefnotes.

Every English major has a concentration. What is your concentration?

My concentration is Race Studies in literature and music. Mainly because when I made my proposal I wanted it to be something that had to do with my own personal identity as well as music. Growing up I had a white mom and a black dad so I’m biracial and I thought that race studies in general is something that always interests me and in the future I hope to write more stuff on mixed race children and mixed raced literature as well, and just contribute in that aspect. The music part is just that I grew up in a very music oriented family and I joined Clefnotes so I do a lot of singing. My dad also did a lot of music when he was growing up, so I wanted to incorporate music in that aspect. It has always been an important part of my life.

In May you’ll be taking a travel course to Paris. Can you elaborate on your decision on taking this course?

Kristen (Case) actually reached out to me last semester during a New Commons course because she thought that it would be a good fit, and I was like ‘yes!’, not only because it’s going to Paris, but it was an opportunity for me to learn about English language writers and their influences in writing stuff that is either based in Paris or has Paris influences, and I’m not completely familiar with and I thought it would awesome to go on this trip for, as well as find more writers, or artists, or musicians that were influenced by France or Paris specifically, and learn about that more. It’s also my final four elective credits, and it’s one of the opportunities that if you have the chance to travel, take advantage of that because you’ll never know how many of those opportunities you’ll get again.

This year you’re leading Clefnotes. Can you decribe what that’s like?

Leading Clefnotes has definitely been a new experience for me, it’s music so I’m very interested, and it’s also a student run group so you’re also dealing with people that are of your own age or slightly younger, so at times it can very difficult, but for the most part, it’s a great experience, it’s something I’m learning from. I’m learning leadership skills from it and being able to communicate with my peers very well as well as talk with not only people inside my group, but so people outside this group, about music and performance. This year we lost a lot of good people so we’re really looking for more people to join our group. Clefnotes was the first group that I joined on campus, so it holds a very special place in my heart because it was one of the things that helped me connect with the community. A lot of people can connect with music even if they think that they’re not musically inclined. A lot of people enjoy watching it or performing it. I’m also not the only one leading Clefnotes right now. Kate Graeff is also leading it. She is a sophomore and she is awesome. We’re doing our best to lead the group, and as of right now things are going really well.

Do you have any plans on what you’ll be doing after graduation?

The goal right now is to take a gap year and then look into graduate school. I want to look more into African American Studies. It’s really where my central interests are and in terms of career wise, I will always hope to do something that’s in that field. I don’t like to limit myself in what I can do, but if I can do something that’s either African American studies based or music based, that would be the best, but the hope is grad school.

How would you describe your experience here at UMF as an English major?

Enjoyable. I do enjoy being an English major, a lot. I initially came to UMF as a theater major. I knew I was always good at writing and reading, but I never had the confidence in believing that could be an English major, but second semester of freshmen year I changed because I realized that I have a passion for writing and I have passion for so many different things that can go along with reading and writing and we have so many passionate and great professors at this school that are so interested in what you bring to the table. Even if it’s something they’ve seen before, they want you to bring yourself into it, and I admire that so much. As an English major too, it’s been good because I’ve been able to stylize it in a sense so that I can be true to myself. Most majors, it’s hard to find yourself in it. You have an interest in something, but it’s not, like completely what you want to do, but having the opportunity to make your own concentration and being able to take classes that suit to your interests, or even taking an independent study. I haven’t had the chance to take that yet, but having that opportunity as an English major is amazing.

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English Majors Share Capstone Projects at Symposium

UMF recently hosted its annual Symposium Day, a day where students across different majors can present work they have been spending anywhere from a semester to a whole year working on.

Symposium presentations run the gambit from creative endeavors to scientific research. Symposium allows students to present their research and their projects, as well as take questions from fellow students, faculty members, and other audience members.

For English majors, Symposium Day consisted of various presentations across a variety of topics. Some presentations included analyses of adaptation, such as Richard Southard’s presentation on Music as Adaptation, how novels and authors brought about the birth of a new genre, such as Jessica Casey’s presentation on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein being attributed to the birth of science-fiction, and reflecting on the lives and works of influential authors and writers, such as Anthony Lewis’s presentation on the life and music of Bob Dylan. English seniors also presented their Capstone projects in the Landing.

Capstone is the last class in every major in which students pursue a topic of interest in a project unique to the major, such as portfolios for creative writing majors, an art show for art majors, and for English majors, research papers. Capstone classes are a semester long and are almost entirely dedicated to research, which culminates in a presentation on the topic (usually Symposium, though there are other events depending on the semester and the class, such as the Senior Reading for Creative Writing majors).

The senior presenters consisted of Ciara Keene, Justine Walp, Anthony Lewis, Allison Turtlott, Jessica Casey, and Rosemary Penny, all sponsored by English professor Kristen Case.

Symposium presentations also include two one year-long Research Fellow award winners, one of which was held by English major Curtis Cole. Cole’s presentation, titled Enchanted Assemblages: Creative Pedagogy and Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur, was sponsored by English professor Dan Gunn. There were also many Wilson Scholar awards, which are dedicated to shorter semester long, but still more in depth projects. These projects included Hannah Calkin’s poetry book and the process of creating and publishing it and Lauren Stetson’s practicum in intensive nonfiction.

Symposium Day is overseen and organized by the University Culture Committee. English professor Misty Krueger serves as the chair, with professors Paul Stancioff, Patti Bailie, and Olivia Donaldson serving as the other members.

Symposium Day is named for UMF alumni Michael D. Wilson, who graduated UMF in 1976 and was killed in an accident shortly before beginning a teaching position in Aroostook County. Presentations are made possible by Wilson Research Fellow Awards, Wilson Scholarships, and the students and faculty advisors.
For this year’s symposium program of events, visit http://www2.umf.maine.edu/symposium/wp-content/uploads/sites/107/2018/04/Symposium-Book-2018-1.pdf.  

Humanities Spring Reception

The Humanities Division at the University of Maine at Farmington recently help its annual spring reception to celebrate the end of the school year and the honor the the past year of accomplishments by students in the Humanities. At the ceremony, we recognized a variety of student accomplishments:

SIGMA TAU DELTA (English Honor Society) newly inducted members:

  • Thandiwe Andrade-Foster
  • Tegan Bradley
  • Carrie Close
  • Christina Kouros
  • Heather Leet
  • Wenyi (Nyx) Lu
  • Dale Rappaneau, Jr.
  • Alison Turtlott
  • Sarah Veilleux
  • Henry Wanat

SIGMA TAU DELTA members who are graduating:

  • Jessica Casey
  • Nicholas Cross
  • ​Christina Kouros​
  • Elizabeth Thompson
  • Alison Turtlott
  • Hannah Zimmerman

 

SIGMA TAU DELTA officers for 2018-2019:

  • Aurora Bartley (President)
  • Tegan Bradley (Vice President)
  • Curtis Cole (Secretary)
  • Thandiwe Andrade-Foster (Treasurer)

WILSON FELLOWS AND SCHOLARS:​

  • Curtis Cole (Wilson Fellow), faculty advisor Daniel Gunn
  • Hannah Calkin (Wilson Scholar), faculty advisor Shana Youngdahl
  • Richard Southard (Wilson Scholar), faculty advisors Michael Johnson and Steven Pane
  • Lauren Stetson (Wilson Scholar), faculty advisor Eireann Lorsung

RECOGNITION FOR LIFE-LONG LEARNING: Dorothy (Dot) White

SUCCESSFUL GRADUATE SCHOOL APPLICANT: Cassidy Marsh (pursuing an M.A. in English at the University of Maine)

VARIOUS WRITING ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

Alice James Books Director’s Chair Fellowship for fall 2018: Carrie Close

Islandport Magazine Writing Contest winner: Aimee Degroat (for “Where He Ain’t”)

University of Maine at Augusta Terry Plunkett Poetry Festival Poetry Contest:

  • Third prize: Gail Bello
  • Second prize: Billie Rose Newby

​Urban Apprenticeship Grants​ (funded by Proctor and Gamble):

Tegan Bradley

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BFA SENIOR AWARD:

Fall 2017: Willy Doehring

Spring 2018: Hannah Calkin

BETH EISEN MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP: Dale Rappaneau, Jr.

HONORABLE MENTION FOR ACCOMPLISHMENT IN THE FIELD OF ENGLISH (finalists for Parks Award and Wood Scholarship):

  • Jenna Arcand
  • Conor Crandall
  • Ashley Forshaw
  • Joshua Heath
  • Meagan Jones
  • Elizabeth Kane
  • Emily Marquis
  • Dale Rappaneau, Jr.

MAUD L. PARKS AWARD: Annie Moloney

ELEANOR WOOD MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP: Belanna Morales

 

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English major Belanna Morales

“Does inspiration exist? Is there some kind of guaranteed way to be inspired, to produce ‘good’ work?” Junior English major Belanna Morales aimed to answer these questions in her audio essay on what inspires writers.

“I was curious if it was random and luck, or if it was hard work or if there was something in the world that causes inspiration,” Morales said.

Throughout Misty Krueger’s English 201 class, “Public Writing,” students have learned what public writing is and how to become engaged with it. Public writing is exactly that: writing for the public, and more targeted audiences. The course emphasizes writing for the Web and public relations, and includes work in producing audio essays.

Morales, a member of the class, was unsure of where to begin. “I was stuck, so I thought to myself, what do I have in my toolbox? I study English/Creative Writing, I work as a writing tutor [at Mantor Library] and see people struggle, so I thought of ways I could help them write essays.”

From there, she delved into navigating between investigating her questions on inspiration and the software used to compile the finished product.

“One of the hardest things was figuring out how to use the software; the longest process was putting it together and making sure it sounded pretty flawless,” Morales said.

For her essay, Morales interviewed English professor Kristen Case and two students. They agreed that yes sometimes things do come to you, and especially things from your past can inspire you, but you have to make it work

“One quote I highlight is from Kristen Case, who actually quoted [Pablo] Picasso; ‘Inspiration has to find you when you’re working,’”

One quote that did not make it into the final essay from English/Creative Writing major Annie Moloney echoes this sentiment; “Writing is a ‘labor of love,’ and you need to put in the work to see your inspiration become reality.”

“For example, the more you read, the better you write,” Morales added.

For Morales personally, she revealed that inspiration comes to her from memories or images she encounters throughout the day. “I’ll be inspired by a series of events and think ‘oh I hadn’t thought of that before,’ and I’ll write about that.”

In addition to investigating inspiration, tackling such an interactive format allowed Morales to see the ways in which audio and spoken word can add to the written word.

“One friend commented that my essay sounded like a documentary because of the mix of me and clips of my interviews. My listeners can get a direct comparison of what they’re saying [out loud vs. on paper],” she said. “You can’t hear [people’s] voices when you write a paper. and you can’t always have three quotes in a row.”

In addition to adding more depth to the written word, Morales observed that audio and talking out loud can break down mental barriers.

“Normally I don’t enjoy talking to strangers. I find conversation difficult, but this time it wasn’t that way,” she said. “I was so interested, any barriers I would put on myself beforehand kind of disappeared.”

“Sometimes there’s a barrier between your mind and the screen,” she added. “[During tutoring], people will be like, ‘I don’t know what to say,’ and they’ll tell me what they want to say and I’ll be like, ‘that’s great! Write that down!’ It’s great to take down that barrier; people don’t feel so much pressure to phrase things a certain way when they’re talking.”

Although she is not sure when she’ll have the opportunity to do another project like this, Morales said that she would like to do more audio essays in the future.

“Everyone should take this class!” Morales exclaimed with a laugh.

Looking back at Spring 2017

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Brunch for graduating senior English majors

 

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Richard Southard’s presentation, part of his Wilson Scholars presentation on literary adaptation and the art of magic.

Symposium Day Highlights

Game Day in the Proto-Science Fiction Class

The Surrealist Salon

At the inaugral Sigma Tau Delta (English Honor Society) meeting.

 

 

Humanities Spring Reception 2016

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The Division of Humanities (which includes the Department of English) each year hosts a spring reception to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year. Faculty members Pat O’Donnell (UMF’s Trustee Professor), Kristen Case (Little Arias), and Jeffrey Thomson (Fragile) read from recently published work or work  in progress. Miriam Cohen and Roshan Luick provided music.

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Students (and their faculty sponsors) who received Wilson Scholarships  were recognized: Curtis Cole (sponsored by Lorna Hughes), Nathaniel Duggan (Shana Youngdahl), Jill Gingras (Gretchen Legler), and Timothy Stokes (Daniel Gunn).

Several students were honored for receiving awards and fellowships from organizations outside UMF, including several Fulbright Fellowship winners (which will enable the students to pursue research or creative projects or teach English as a foreign language): Travis Bent (a history major minoring in French and Spanish whose Fulbright will allow him to serve as an English teaching assistant in Spain); Kyle Manning, who graduated in 2015 as an English and Creative Writing double major, and who will be spending a year in Quebec researching bilingual comic blogs; Caroline Murphy, Secondary Education-English (also a 2015 graduate), who will be an English teaching assistant in Bulgaria.  Additionally, Creative Writing and English major Kim Arthurs completed a semester with the Movies from Marlboro program for young filmmakers.

The ceremony also announced several BFA awards: Senior Award (fall): Nathaniel Duggan; Senior Award (spring): Sarah Winchenbach. The Beth Eisen Memorial Scholarship went to Sarah Williams.

Bryce Cundick, librarian at Mantor Library, announced the winners of the Mantor-sponsored On Our Minds writing contest. All three winners were Humanities students: First, Jinni Workman; second, Mariah Haggan; third, Aimee DeGroat.

Humanities students won several other writing prizes over the past year: Aimee DeGroat was a finalist in the Hollins University Fiction Contest for her story “Feel Something.” Tim Bushika took first prize in UMA’s Terry Plunkett Poetry Festival Student Poetry Contest for “Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean.” Nathaniel Duggan won the COPLAC (Consortium of Public Liberal Arts Colleges) David J. Prior award for outstanding essay on the public liberal arts experience for “Liberal Arts Degrees and Lobster Tanks: A Lesson in Stopping to Smell the Fishy Roses.”

Each year the Division of the Humanities Presents two honors for achievement in the the field of English, the Eleanor Wood Scholarship and the Maude L. Parks Award. In 2016, there were ten students who were finalists for the awards. There were two winners, and eight students who earned honorable mention. Honorable mention went to: Samuel Bennett, Tiffany Bishop, Julia Fletcher, Tyler Gadaire, Carolyn Newhouse, Janelle Noonan, Laura Pulito, and Kristen Simmons.

The Maud L. Parks Award was presented to Holland Corson.

The Eleanor Wood Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Brigid Chapin.

 

 

Fulbright Winners

Some good news about recent and new graduates from English, Secondary Education, and the Humanities:

FARMINGTON, ME (May 5, 2016)—The University of Maine at Farmington is proud to announce that the Fulbright U.S. Student Program—among the most prestigious national awards for postgraduate study—has awarded a UMF graduating senior and two UMF alumni with 2016 Fulbright Fellowships.

This highly competitive national program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department to promote good will internationally, enables college graduates, young professionals and artists to conduct research, teach English as a foreign language or pursue a creative project in more than 150 countries.

“Receiving a Fulbright award is such an honor and a significant personal achievement,” said Kathryn A. Foster, UMF president. “We are so proud of this year’s recipients and the course they’ve charted as ambassadors to the world. UMF has strategically invested in growing our Fulbright program to support this type of academic excellence and this year’s strong showing underlines its success.”

At UMF, a faculty committee, under Fulbright adviser Anne Marie Wolf, associate professor of history, was very involved with the Fulbright candidates, commenting on student statement drafts, conducting on-campus interviews and providing observations for applications.

Recipients for the very competitive award are selected by the Fulbright Program based on their academic and professional record, language preparation, feasibility of their project or course of study and personal qualifications. The Fulbright Program awards roughly 1,900 U.S. student awards annually, nationwide.

Current senior Travis Bent from Norridgewock is majoring in history with minors in international and global studies, French and Spanish. His fellowship will have him traveling to Spain to be an English teaching assistant in social science. “My professors at Farmington and my adviser Dr. Wolf have really transformed my college experience,” said Bent. “They gave me the tools to make the impossible, possible. This is an unbelievable opportunity for me.”

Kyle Manning, a 2014 UMF graduate in creative writing and English, is currently at l’Université du Maine in Le Mans, France, giving English conversation lessons. He will be headed to Montreal to work on his Fulbright research project on comic blogs as an emerging genre. He will also work with the organizers of a blogging festival and network with these writers.

Caroline Murphy, a secondary education major and 2015 UMF graduate, has been traveling and working at the Kennebunk Beach Improvement Association since graduation. Her Fulbright award will have her working as an English teaching assistant in a high school in Pernik, about 12 miles from Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. She will also be teaching about American culture and possibly coaching the school’s speech and debate team.

In addition to UMF’s strong showing in this year’s Fulbright U.S. Student Program, UMF has had ongoing significant success in the Fulbright Scholar Award Program, a program for college faculty and professionals. Since UMF’s recognition as a “Top Fulbright Producer” by the U.S. State Department in 2012, the University has added an additional five members to its ranks of Fulbright Scholars.

May Term Travels

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Olivia Hamilton (Elementary Ed, English Concentration); Taylor Ann McCafferty (English); Mackenzie Kelley (English) enjoying Sorrento on the UMF travel course in Italy.

Senior Brunch! (2015)

As the Spring 2015 semester eases into its end, the graduating English and English education majors shared a lovely brunch with the English faculty. This gave students a final hurrah! with the peers and professors that guided them through their undergraduate careers. The morning was lively with exciting conversation and tasty food; students reflected on their college experiences and talked about what is still to come. Senior brunch was the perfect opportunity to shake off a crazy—but memorable—semester.

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The Medieval and Renaissance Forum at Keene State College: A Narration of Before, During, and After the Experience

“Looking at the program of the day’s readings, it felt immensely empowering to see my name alongside college professors, scholars, and other very impressive people—getting to discuss my own piece with these folks as well, was even more of a privilege.”—Molly Olsen

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From left to right: Molly, Eric, Tyler, Sam, and Misty

It’s proven quite difficult to stop talking about the Medieval and Renaissance Forum at Keene State College! On Friday, April 24, Molly Olsen, Sam Oppenheim, and myself hopped into a UMF van with Dr. Eric Brown and Dr. Misty Krueger to head for the long awaited trip to Keene, New Hampshire. The trip started early Friday morning and lasted through Saturday night.

Although I was really excited to be invited to join the conference, I was also nervous about presenting to people that were perhaps more knowledgeable in the field than me. Luckily, Eric and Misty provided us with ample time to revise and edit our papers as well as rehearse the presentations. By the time of our presentations (Friday at 2:25), I felt amply prepared to give it my best!

I wasn’t alone in my feelings of nervousness; Molly said,

When someone at the conference asked me if I was a Medievalist I was quick to reply, “Well, I’m an English teacher.” Because, although through my studies I have found history and historical works incredibly interesting and important, I am not particularly drawn to this time period (well, at least not beyond wishing that I was Daenerys Targaryen, but that’s a story for another day…). Coming from this mindset, I knew that this event was going to be very different from anything I’d ever experienced, and I was excited to see where it took me.

All of our presentations turned out really well and elicited questions and positive responses from several attendees: three of which were undergraduates from Dartmouth and their professor, Dr. Tom Luxon. Our audience was attentive and inquisitive, challenging us all. Sam said, “Having Tom Luxon sit right across from me and stare me down during my reading was intimidating, but a challenge I was willing to take on!” Perhaps the best part of the presentation was that it gave me a sense of life in English academia, and also provided me with the opportunity to share my work with my peers by choice; rather than with my professor and peers for a grade. This distinction changes everything.

Molly: Presenting a paper I wrote at an academic conference was not only truly educational, but also gave my thoughts and opinions a validation I had never gotten to experience before. The whole event reminded me how glad I am that we have professors at this school who are willing to help us find, participate and thrive in these kind of opportunities.

Other key moments from Friday:

  • Delicious food (Italian and Thai)
  • A memorable reception with hors d’oeuvres and refreshments at the president’s house.
  • Molly tried Thai food for the first time—ever—and loved it!
  • I ate duck for the first time (sorry, Sam, it’s totally not my thing).
  • I had the most comfortable king size bed in the whole world all to myself.
  • Molly and I stayed up Friday night to make crowns fit for the occasion. Alas, they never would have survived the ride home.

On Saturday, we decided to separate and go to the sessions that appealed to each of us. In total we saw 8 panels: some of which were amazing (For those, I felt like I couldn’t write quickly enough or take enough notes), some merely average, and some terrible. The variety of work, both in topic and quality, was amazing. The breadth of work that I saw at the panels provided me with considerable context in which to place myself as an academic—in a sense, the forum validated my confidence in myself. By the end of the presentations, we all seemed to be in agreement about the breadth of the work presented.

Molly: The entire conference was incredibly informative in many different ways. Watching so many people present their papers and ideas in one day, really made me think about the way in which I, as a future educator, will teach my students about these sort of topics. The pop culture integration, the jokes, the anecdotes, the passion, as well the overall ways in which people presented, showed me what will keep your audience’s attention, and what may leave them doodling on their notepads. Knowing how to present your ideas in a dynamic and informative way is such a tremendous skill to have, and I felt like I was getting a sort of boot camp in the entire practice.

Sam: It was incredibly fun listening to all of the different papers, some great and some really terrible. The best, believe it or not, came from our sister school. Robert Kellerman of UMA had this amazing essay on Pericles and made me want to read the play!

After the panels, we were all exhausted; but we still had the keynote address by Coppelia Kahn, a founding member of Shakespearean studies. She presented a hypothesis on how Shakespeare became so popular in modern societies. A point that I thought was particularly noteworthy was that after Shakespeare’s death, his plays were ignored for 44 years, only to be revived by William Davenant. Thus, Davenant is responsible for Shakespeare’s preservation.
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Following the keynote presentation we headed to the medieval feast. The themed dinner was relaxing after a long day. Dinner boasted delicious herbed chicken, corn on the cob, diced potatoes, and much more. Aside from the corn, none of these foods were traditionally finger foods. Alas, for the sake of “historical accuracy” and role playing, we had to giggle our way through our meals with nothing but our hands as tools. Between that, the music, and the metal knights guarding the two food tables, I’m sure that the medieval feast will prove hard toforget!

In hindsight, the Medieval and Renaissance Forum at Keene State College was a developmentally significant event in my undergraduate career, and I hope that I’m able to attend more conferences in the future! I want to thank Eric and Misty for the chance to participate. Additionally, I want to thank all four of them (Eric, Misty, Molly, and Sam) for all of the great conversations and memories, as well a their support throughout the event. I’ve spoken to Molly and she also hopes to attend other conferences; she said, “I hope to attend more conferences in the future, although I doubt that any of them will ask me to eat chicken with my hands again—huzzah! for arguable historical choices (and wet wipes)!” Likewise, I’ve spoken to Sam and he wanted to add the following: “Above all else, it was a blast getting to know Tyler and Molly and having many intellectually stimulating conversations with Eric and Misty. It was a truly great experience and I was honored to be a part of it.”KeeneStateForumMedRenCollage

—Tyler M. Michaud