Sigma Tau Delta welcomes new members amid departmental changes
James Colasurdo, Staff Writer
On Feb 15, six students were accepted into Saint Martin’s Kappa Upsilon chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, an English international society. The chapter, founded in 1968 by the late Saint Martin’s Professor Les Bailey, promotes interest in literature, writing, and the English language to nearby communities, and recognizes notable achievements for students in the discipline of English.
For their acceptance, the six students received a certificate, copies of the two Sigma Tau Delta journals (the Review and the Rectangle), an official society pin, and an honor cord to be worn at graduation. Moreover, the six students are now eligible for scholarships exclusive to society members, and the opportunity to submit works for consideration to the annual convention, the two journals, and various online publications.
After the ceremony, Professor Jamie Olson announced several major changes to the English major at Saint Martin’s. First and foremost, the name of the major will be changed from English to Literary Studies in the fall of 2019. The reason being, Olson states, “Part of it was a recognition that the work that English majors were doing really involved literature as a specialization.”
“If you say ‘I’m studying English’… already English is the name of a language. It’s the name of a culture. So literary studies is meant to broaden out how we are conceiving of literature. It’s not only British literature, it’s not only literature in English. For instance, we have courses in translation and ancient literature, and courses that involve film,” Olson said. The idea behind the change is to capture the different kinds of work students are doing in the major.
Olson shares, “We took and created [new courses] because some of those classes will cease to exist. So, we needed to find replacements for the things [we] originally had in mind for finishing [the] English major.” To clarify, Olson stresses that the department will still temporarily offer old classes alongside new ones, as it would be unfair to make third-or-fourth-year students take newly required classes.
Four credit classes are also a notable change. For the longest time, the English department was committed to three credits for every class. Four credit classes will be more writing intensive. The approach the department is taking is that—with the major still equaling 120 credits— “you take fewer classes, but you go more deeply into those subjects. It’s a more reflective experience; More analysis, more reflection, more thinking,” Olson said.
For instance, the senior thesis seminar is now a four-credit class and differs from the current senior thesis seminar in place. “The difference is that in the past students had a self-designed thesis, which usually came out of your experience from another class. After this semester, the thesis will be “a guided seminar where the faculty member chooses the topic,” Olson said. Furthermore, every year it will be a different faculty member with a specialized topic, which will be announced to students the semester before. Other universities go with a guided seminar as well, and the department believes the change to a guided seminar will help better support students as all are working on roughly the same topic.
In the end, Olson states, “part of what we were doing with this curriculum change was modernizing it. Bringing it into line with what other universities are doing. This is us realizing that there are changes happening in our profession and we want our curriculum to keep up with those changes.”