Fourteen Oklahoma Christian University students are traveling to Portland, Ore. to present scholastic and creative works at the annual Sigma Tau Delta conference.
“This year we have a lot of eager sophomores,” senior Hallie Waugh, president of Sigma Tau Delta, said. “Before, people were afraid to get involved in the English department, because we’re a close-knit group, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of welcoming sophomores.”
Nine years ago, the president of Sigma Tau Delta, LaChelle Mason applied and was accepted into the international conference. Before Mason, the very idea of conference was preposterous, and now the number of students attending conference has grown exponentially.
“I think the English department has done a really good job of building up confidence in us and saying that even though we’re a small school and a small department, we can do enough to make it to conference and do well,” Waugh said.
Instead of being a bizarre idea, writing and submitting a creative work or research paper has become the norm. Students encouraging other students to participate has aided in the growth of contributors.
While the students’ diligent work accounts for a great deal of the success Oklahoma Christian has seen this year, the professors also play an important role. Oklahoma Christian may be a small school, but the caliber of educators could surpass more prestigious schools.
“A lot of students ask ‘why isn’t Harvard [at the conference]?’” Cami Agan, Chair of the Language and Literature Department and sponsor of Sigma Tau Delta, said. “Although they are elite schools and obviously they’re fantastic, their professors are research scholars, so they’re working on their own books and research projects. [These] are important, too, but they’re not necessarily going to have that one-on-one with the student to be able to take them to a conference.”
Students get a personal connection with the professors, and thanks to professors’ dedication in helping students grow and expand academically, Oklahoma Christian has an overwhelming representation in the Sigma Tau Delta International Conference. From the nearly 170 universities participating, only two had more students accepted to the conference than Oklahoma Christian.
The board receives thousands of submissions each year. In years when there are a large number of submissions, as in 2013, approximately 40 percent of applicants are accepted. The slightest grammatical error is enough to get the paper rejected.
“Having to work on a paper that extra stretch makes you go back and reedit it and readdress some of the issues [that have] come up before and take the next step in your paper that you may not have done,” Sigma Tau Delta Vice President Jenna Pedersen said.
In addition to assisting the students in their academic endeavors, the faculty shows their support by donating a part of their salary to help keep the cost of attending the conference minimum for students. The SGA has also been a large supporter of Sigma Tau Delta.
Sigma Tau Delta’s International Conference is an excellent way to meet hundreds of other students around the globe, share literary works and experiences and have an opportunity to participate in a professional society.
The conference also opens the doors to publication and graduate programs, and provides a place to garner fresh ideas and projects.
“It’s really fun to hear students from all over the country and all over the world and what they’re looking at and what they’re studying and be presented with texts that you may have heard of before but in a new way,” Pedersesn said. “They’re looking at all the different sides of it.”
Students from OC who will be presenting include Hannah Bingham, Mindy Borth, Jenny Dahl, Jacob Dale, Joel Dean, Molly Durrill, Hannah Ketring, Lynneth Miller, Mandy Nevius, Jenna Pedersen, Jess Tucker, Aimee Williams, Jessica Williams, and Stanton Yeakley.
“I’m really proud of the students,” Agan said. “Most importantly, the type of community they’ve developed in the department. It’s not just ‘I want to travel,’ but ‘I want to go with my peers and have this experience.’ We are really doing OC proud in that we are representing the best thinkers in our department. I think this really shows that we want the students to succeed.”
The unprecedented number of students attending the conference is a testimony to the dedication of students, as well as the department’s commitment to academic excellence.