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Roberta Di Carmine, center, is pictured with keynote speaker Ariana Ruiz, and the conference planning committee.
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The members of Sigma Tau Delta
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Professor Tim Helwig, center, is pictured with undergraduate award winners Amy Kirby and Kevin Titus.
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WIU English Organizations Host Research Conference

November 8, 2019

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MACOMB, IL – The Western Illinois University English Graduate Organization (EGO) and the Sigma Tau Delta undergraduate students recently hosted the 16th annual combined annual conference Saturday, Oct. 19 on the WIU campus.

The event included panel presentations and roundtable discussions, as well as a keynote address by Ariana Ruiz, assistant professor of Latino/a Literature and Culture at the University of Iowa. The event included presentations by 22 undergraduate and graduate students representing 14 regional colleges, as well as nine undergraduate students, 23 graduate students and 10 faculty members from the WIU Department of English. This year's conference theme was "'Uncertain Terrain': Negotiating Identities in the Global Community."

"The English Graduate Organization continues the tradition of the Department of English to promote an intellectual venue where students and faculty share their projects," said WIU Professor of English and Director of Graduate Studies in English Roberta Di Carmine. "This year's successful conference confirmed our students,' as well as our faculty's dedication.

Di Carmine, who is also the EGO advisor, said the EGO committee works hard organizing the conference, from reading the papers' abstracts to outlining the program.

"Also, the collaboration of both undergraduate representative from Sigma Tau Delta and graduate students for this year's event has been exceptional," she said. "We began meeting last spring and we continued to meet every week, planning and discussing how to make this conference a successful one. Also, thanks to the help of so many students and faculty who volunteered, we were able to show how our students and the department of English excel in bringing together students from WIU and beyond."

WIU Professor of English Tim Helwig serves as the faculty advisor to Western's local chapter of the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society and the Midwestern Regent for the national organization.

"I am amazed how the conference continues to grow and attract more and more students: our 54 total student presenters this year topped last year's 41," said Helwig. "By hosting the organization's Midwest regional conference, students from a record 15 chapters from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri were able to get a closer look at WIU's English program. The conference is a wonderful opportunity for the region to see the dedication of our talented English faculty and students to plan and execute an event designed to showcase student success. We hope the participants will consider Western's English graduate program as a potential destination for graduate study."

Helwig said it was amazing to see so many Sigma Tau Delta students and faculty advisors come together to share and celebrate their critical and creative work.

"Many of the Sigma Tau Delta presenters will be better prepared now to deliver their work at Sigma Tau Delta's juried annual convention to be held in Las Vegas in March 2020," he added.

WIU Interim English Department Chair Chris Morrow said the longevity of this conference is a testament to the dedication of the faculty and students of the department. 

"From selecting and booking a keynote speaker to evaluating abstracts and even selecting the morning pastries, students are involved or responsible for every facet of the conference," he said. "Its growth—including the large number of institutions represented—speaks to its growing regional reputation as a place for students to present their work in a friendly and supportive environment. And it provides all students the opportunity to network and work with faculty."

Prizes for best conference papers for undergraduate and graduate student presenters were awarded. The undergraduate papers were blind reviewed by members of the Sigma Tau Delta Board of Directors, and Sigma Tau Delta provided funds to award $150, $100 and $50 for the best three overall papers by undergraduates presenting at the conference:  

• First Place: Kevin Titus (WIU) for his essay, "'Blade Runner': Cyberpunk, Identity and Queerness"

• Second Place: Amy Kirby (Missouri Southern State University) for her essay, "The First Taste of Forbidden Fruit: Sex as the Original Sin in John Milton's 'Paradise Lost'"

• Third Place: Madeline Finney (Quincy University) for her essay, "The Influence of Patriarchal Language on Female Writers of the Romantic Period"

The graduate papers were blind reviewed by WIU's graduate English faculty, who raised $438 for these awards.

• First Place: Francesca Hamm (WIU) for her essay, "From Ultima to the In Between: Religion in Rudolfo Anaya's 'Bless Me, Ultima'" 

• Second Place: Ashely Quinn (Grand Valley State University) for her essay, "Mothers, Daughters, Vampires: The Female Sexual Dilemma in Eighteenth-Century Vampire Poetry"

• Third place: Alex Weidenhamer (WIU) for his essay, "White Man's Poison: Pesticides and Chemicals as Symbol of Systemic Racism in Helena Maria Viramontes' 'Under the Feet of Jesus'"

For more information about the conference, visit

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