Vol. 43, No. 2 - Feb. 2010
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-Your Department of English Family
Liberty! Equality! Literature!
By: Samantha Snively and Christine Lairson
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the night we thought we were going to get our favorite books, it was the night we knew we weren’t. “To the pile!” was the resounding cry, while like a modern Madame Defarge, Dr. Moncrieff sat in a corner, recording every move not in yarn but in pictures. A small faction in the corner, impatient with the slow pace at first, began to cry for blood and theft.
Earlier that evening, English majors, minors, and faculty had convened, books in hand, at Love Creek Nature Center for the thirty-year tradition of the Yankee Book Swap. The hungry populace milled about the room, discussing all sorts of literature and even writing love letters. When the cry, “Let them eat haystacks!” went up, the kitchen was stormed and the imprisoned chips freed from their bags. Dr. Jones’s gingersnap cookies pacified the famished mob—including Jordan Arellano. “I am indebted to Dr. Jones for making those cookies, and I’m going to ask him for the recipe,” she said.
After the masses had quieted, Citizen Closser announced the beginning of the swap. The rules were basic: when your number was called, either unwrap a book or steal someone else’s, and try not to inflict damage. Very shortly, books of great worth began to appear: a “Shakespeare set” comprised of a book of Shakespeare in production and a DVD of As You Like It; Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina; a boxed set of Madeline L’Engle’s works that changed hands more times than the Hope Diamond; and three identical copies of Frankenstein. Dr. Moncrieff was overheard stirring up the youth, telling one freshman, “You need to be more aggressive.” Other titles included Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Wallace, SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, and Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson. Another winner was Horton Hears a Who, which elicited rousing cheers from the group and laughter from Chris Greenley, its winner. However, not all books were as well-loved. Theron Calkins said “I wanted Frankenstein, and there were three copies, but no one wanted to pick me because I had The Shack!”
The Yankee Book Swap continues to be the event in English circles, and this year was no exception. Sophomore Erin Johnson said, “This year was a better turnout—and better books!” Tensions had faded as most of the participants went off to do a far, far better thing than they had done in a while—read their new books.
A Dream Realized: Worship through Poetry and Music
By André Moncrieff and Jordan Arellano
On Friday evening, the 29th of January, the English and Music Departments joined for a vespers at the Howard Performing Arts Center. It was “unprecedented,” as English and Music major Catherine Tetz succinctly put it. This was also true for English and Math major Theron Calkins, who, of course, had not attended something like this on campus and “not really anywhere else either.” In addition, Theron said in reference to the program, “I liked how they mixed it . . . so you got the music, and then you got the lyrical poetry.” Students and faculty of both departments produced this pleasant mix of tunes and poems.
Memorable among these several reflections was Dr. Logan’s “Preposition Proposition,” in which he emphasized the importance of worship through music and not worship of music. Dr. Matiko also spoke concerning the joy and spiritual connection she has received through poetry.
Those simply expecting performances were pleasantly surprised. Cellist and senior Music Performance major, Jonathan Baumgartener, noted that this type of program “is certainly much different from just a straight concert. The dynamic is completely different—it’s a great blessing.” He could not resist paraphrasing Dr. Zork’s words concerning the vespers: “You have two departments that are on about the same plane, but never on the same ship, so it’s beautiful to finally bring those two together.”
The Andrews University Music Association and the heads of both departments deserve our special appreciation, and because of their work there is already talk of next year’s vespers. According to Catherine Tetz, “Dr. Jones said he wanted it to be an annual event, and I don’t think you make those kinds of claims without following them up.” As a backup plan she stated, “I know if I’m involved in AUMA next year, I’ll definitely push for it.”
Each Friday evening the students of Andrews University have numerous vespers options. Some venture forth from their dorms or homes to the Andrews University Student Association vespers, while others attend various small groups held at different locations around campus. Some others even choose to remain in the warmth of their own dorm rooms or homes. But at 7:00 pm on the evening of January 29, 2010, a select group of students and adults gathered in the Howard Performing Arts Center to open their Sabbath with a beautiful array of music and poetry organized by the Music and English Departments. Called “Worship Through Poetry and Music,” this vespers created an aura of worshipful reverence. Dr. Douglas Jones and Dr. Carlos Flores, the heads of each department, welcomed the small but intimate group of attendees. Soon the program commenced, and the English Department swept the listeners away with readings of “The Nativity” by C.S. Lewis and read by Katie Paul, “The Face on the Turin Shroud” by James Brabazon and read by Bryan Szaflarski, “Thoughts on the Works of Providence” by Phillis Wheatley and read by Krystal Green, “Getting Inside the Miracle” by Luci Shaw and read by Dr. Jones, and finally “Come, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” by Madeline L’Engle and read by Dr. Matiko.
The Music Department also had a fine showing and presented pieces such as an improvisation on “Ode to Joy” performed by Jolicia Redd and Joshua Goines, “Savior, Like a Shepherd” performed by André Moncrieff and Jonthan Thompson, “Sonata in C Major” by Handel, performed by Josué Rodríguez and Linda Mack, “How Great Thou Art” performed by Elsy Gallardo-Diaz and Olga Sharapa, and finally “Embrace the Cross” by the University Camerata. Also, honored educators within each department gave a short talk about their prospective segments. Dr. Beverly Matiko said, “When we connect to others through words [poetry] we are really connecting to God.” Regarding worship and music, Dr. Kenneth Logan, playing with prepositions, contrasted “worship of music” and “worship through music.” Freshman English major, Christine Lairson, mentioned, “The much anticipated and revolutionary dual departmental vespers was an enormous success. I particularly enjoyed the piece that Dr. Jones read. It was divine.” The vespers was followed by assorted refreshments served in the lobby and continued worship through fellowship. At the end of the evening, all of the English majors, music majors, professors, performers, and guests alike left feeling refreshed through this unique worship experience.
Shall I Get Credit on a Summer's Day
By: Christine Lairson and Samantha Snively
What is an English major to do with the expansive summer break just around the corner? While many people will be spending time working at illustrious summer camps or persevering in coveted internships, others may be wondering how to maximize their time and complete their undergraduate studies.
Andrews University’s May Express is a wise choice for those who need to finish off that last, pesky general education requirement standing between them and their degree. The benefits include being able to take up to 4 credits at half price, and it only takes up a month of summer vacation (still making it possible to get a job and accumulate some much-needed money).
After May Express, if degree-specific classes are needed, spending the summer term, July 6-30, here in Michigan may not be a bad idea. The English department will be offering a selection of courses including Linguistics, a writing workshop, and TESL certification. Dr. L. M. Pittman will also be providing an exciting opportunity in June for students to get elective credit by taking them to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
The “Topics: Shakespeare in Performance” June 2010 class gives you the excuse to spend a week watching Shakespeare on stage, the opportunity to write a paper that could be presented at an academic conference, and get credit! All of this will be accomplished in just four weeks, only two of which will be spent on campus.
Week one is devoted to reading and studying the plays, which include As You Like It, The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, and Kiss Me Kate, a Cole Porter musical based on The Taming of the Shrew. The expedition to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario takes place during week two. Participants will attend the plays, tour the Costume Warehouse, take a backstage tour, and of course, discuss the plays at length.
The opportunity to see what “new understanding will emerge from a gesture or costume detail” is one excellent reason to take the class, says Dr. Pittman. “Even a bad production you think is stupid is still interesting to talk about.” She cites a Cirque du Soleil- themed performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream viewed three years ago as a particular example. The Festival attracts many big names in Shakespeare performance, and this year is no exception. Christopher Plummer, best known as “Captain von Trapp,” will be playing the role of Prospero in The Tempest.
Upon returning to campus, weeks three and four are devoted to drafting of the Seminar Paper. The papers written for this class are often expanded and transferred to other contexts. “Every year,” says Dr. Pittman, “at least one paper gets turned into an Honors Project or presented at an academic conference.”
This class is available for both undergraduate and graduate credit, and may count as an Honors elective, a general education humanities credit, or an elective for an English degree. Tuition includes transportation to the Festival in Canada, tickets to all theater performances, accommodations and some food costs. It’s a “great opportunity to immerse yourself in the words of Shakespeare, the performance, and the meaning,” says Dr. Pittman—the best of all possible worlds!
Student Teaching: Outwin, Outplay, Outlast
By: Justin Ferguson
Every August, student teaching candidates meet with their mentor teachers and I was no exception. Like all teachers preparing for a new school year, I cleaned the classroom, put together bulletin boards, and arranged desks. Then came the planning. It seemed easy enough to map out student tasks and where you want them to end up at the end of the semester. However, all plans change once the students arrive and the semester takes off.
The first day of school was exciting. I met the students, established myself as their teacher, and felt the overall excitement of stretching my teaching wings. By October, I had taken over all of the teaching for each of my classes—the grading, corresponding with parents, attending after-school meetings, and all other duties. It became daunting to come to work every day with a daily mountain of grading, students—and parents—wanting to know their grades, and scrambling to plan an amazing lesson. At least twice, I almost ran to the nearest burger joint, begging for employment. Thankfully, God gave me strength and a mentor with wisdom to talk me back into the classroom.
At this point, I experienced a breakthrough; I was not the only one who felt like this. There were thousands of other student teachers who felt the same way, including professionals I had worked with. I learned to lean on God’s strength and remember the catchy line, “If God brought you to it, He’ll get you through it.” Pretty soon, the rhythm of teaching became more natural and I felt less overwhelmed.
Soon it was time to think about finals. I began to feel like I would miss seeing the students every day. It’s amazing to start a semester with 27 hormonal, cranky teenagers and end with 27 intelligent, hard working individuals (at least the ones who weren’t sleeping in the back). I felt fortunate to witness the amazing growth that my students had accomplished. Reflecting on my experience, a few thoughts stand out. Student teaching is not something you do but survive; and I wouldn’t repeat the experience for anything. Lastly, in spite of everything I wouldn’t trade the valuable lessons and experiences I had as a student teacher. I learned more about myself and what I can accomplish with God’s help than I could ever have imagined.
Finding Creativity in Technical Writing
By Lois Francis
It’s ironic that I write policies and procedures for a living, considering how many I ignored in college! Graduating in 1994 with a B.A. in English Writing and in 1996 with an M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition, law school seemed the likely choice. In 1998, while I was working in a law firm, still undecided, a friend suggested the Information Technology (IT) field which was on the rise with Oracle (database) programmers. I balked – what did I know about that?
After an extensive 11 ½ week course in Chicago, I completed the Oracle training and became certified. With a high demand for programmers, the IT market soared. It was every consulting firm’s goal to gain and employ the best contractors with a top billing rate. But after three months, I realized that it wasn’t a good fit and I didn’t enjoy it. [As a writer, your script is your own. In programming, you are often cleaning up someone else’s code and it’s not always pretty.] Also, there seemed to be a great divide between understanding the material and being able to explain it. What if I could bridge that gap; take the technical jargon and turn it into effective communication?
Information security policies safeguard sensitive data and ensure that privacy standards and regulatory compliances are met. As identity fraud and breach of cardholder data is steadily in the news, companies need a foolproof plan to protect their customer’s data. Working with Subject Matter Experts (SME) proved that I didn’t need to fully comprehend the technical; rather clearly document with a targeted audience. Developing training manuals, employee handbooks, security awareness material, disaster recovery procedures, business continuity plans, company policies and security standards (which are annually reviewed by external auditors) are all a far cry from poetry/prose, but it does keep me actively busy and in this economy…employed.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to consult for Monsanto, MasterCard, Anheiser-Busch, and currently, I am employed among 600+ as the only technical writer for a collections agency in St. Louis. Past experience has shown me that it’s not about the title…but the creative freedom. A tech writer or document specialist designs, writes, creates, maintains, and updates technical documents. This type of language is precise, concise, and highly formatted. Each project varies, yet my creativity stems from researching the material, designing the layout, creating the contents, and the freedom to do (all of the above) without being micromanaged.
My six years in the English Department cultivated my respect and admiration for good writing. Not only were the professors teaching technique and style but sharing their own work. In many ways, I too, have the best of both worlds: a career doing what I know (developing technical material) and a pastime of doing what I enjoy (personal journaling). Within both realms I have found my own style, my own technique. It’s a blessing to have found my niche and to be able to actually use my education. Quite simply, I love positioning subject and verb; I am always in search of a great line.“Every writer needs a good editor. Every editor needs a good writer.” Every day, I wear both hats…and it’s a good fit!