June 21, 2007
By Andrea Gibson
A professor's life includes research, scholarship and creative work, but those are activities students may not always experience. Ohio University student Alina Buccella and three of her fellow English majors recently got to immerse themselves in that side of the academic world through their participation in the annual conference of Sigma Tau Delta, an international honor society.
The conference accepted the four students' research papers for its annual meeting in Pittsburgh this spring, said Loreen Giese, an associate professor of English and adviser to the students. It's uncommon for undergraduate students to be part of such professional conferences, much less single paper authors, but it's an incredibly educational experience.
"They learn how to focus a topic -- work more intensively on their writing -- and have to position themselves in current critical discourse," Giese said. "That's excellent training regardless of what field you're in."
The students, who are Sigma Tau Delta members, transformed papers from a class or tutorial into a professional conference presentation on the theme of confluence. Buccella, a junior in the Honors Tutorial College, presented "The Search for Transcendental Enlightenment in Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson," a short comparative study on the poets as viewed through the lens of transcendentalism, which was an emerging religious movement at the time.
It was Buccella's first time presenting at a professional conference, and she enjoyed the chance to participate in an in-depth scholarship project. She's already been accepted to her second conference, for the National Council of Teachers of English, which she'll attend in New York City this fall.
"It's very rewarding to be able to present that to a group who doesn't know your work -- their opinion is based on this one paper," said Buccella. "I got some compliments afterwards from professors and from other students who were presenting with me."
Jenny Schiller, a spring graduate and president of the university's Sigma Tau Delta chapter at the time of the conference, also emphasized the importance of presenting papers to a large group of professors and students from across the country. Schiller presented "A Confluence of Plots: Ophelia's Progression from Character to Corpse," which focused on the way the men in Ophelia's life manipulate her to achieve their own goals. Shakespeare is one of many interests, she said.
"I'm going to law school next year, and this was a very good exercise in having to defend your ideas," she said about the conference experience.
In addition to Schiller and Buccella, senior Laura Stautberg presented "Imaginary Lines and Broken Spaces: the Designation of the Living and the Dead in Thomas Kidd's Spanish Tragedy and Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'" and spring graduate Carl Schottmiller presented "Bringing Down the Panopticon: Socially Defined Sexual Deviancy in E.M. Forster's 'The Obelisk.'"
The students' trip was funded by the Honors Tutorial College, the Department of English and the College of Arts and Sciences. This is the fourth time an Ohio University group has attended the conference.
"To be able to present their papers at the annual national meeting is a true honor for these students. Professor Giese spends many, many hours with these students honing their writing and the eventual presentation," said Howard Dewald, associate dean for research in the College of Arts and Sciences. "What better way to showcase Ohio University than through its students? We achieve excellent external relations for only a small investment."
The student papers created some lively debate at the conference, especially in regard to the arguments on "Hamlet," Giese noted. Several parents attended the conference to support the Ohio University students and remarked that the student work was of higher quality than their counterparts from private schools. Giese agreed. "It's an excellent advertisement for the quality of education at Ohio University," she said.