Sponsor Reflections from the Outstanding Chapter Award Winner

Ashley Bissette SumerelAshley Bissette Sumerel
Sponsor, Alpha Alpha Upsilon Chapter
University of North Carolina, Wilmington

English majors are notoriously quirky, sometimes introverted, and wonderfully unique. I was the awkward student that sat in the back of the classroom and found it hard to make friends. But late in my sophomore year at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), I discovered an opportunity. Excited by the prospect of such a specialized group, I immediately applied to our chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, Alpha Alpha Upsilon. Being a part of this group gave me a sense of purpose and helped me make friends that were just as in love with literature as I was. I went on to serve as Vice President and then President of our chapter, becoming fully invested in the organization. Sigma Tau Delta is what made my college years memorable.

Now, I teach at UNCW, and I serve as the Faculty Sponsor for Sigma Tau Delta—a role that I was more than happy to dive into. I love to share my experience with students, and I try to show them just how exciting all of this can be. I want it to be as worthwhile for them as it was for me. That enthusiasm has spread, and we now have a large group of dedicated, passionate students.

Winning the Outstanding Chapter Award this past year was such an honor. Our recruitment efforts, our activities, and the pride the students have in our chapter are what got us to that point.

Alpha Alpha Upsilon Chapter, Holiday Party

These students are passionate about Sigma Tau Delta, and that has inspired amazing recruitment efforts through open houses, emailing, brochures, and welcoming activities. But honestly, the most important part of recruitment was to get the current members excited about the organization. As they became more enthusiastic and involved, they encouraged their friends to join and made announcements in their classes. Our total number of members at the end of last semester was over sixty!

With this strong number of members who take pride in their organization, we've been able to put on many great events in addition to our monthly meetings. We have done several charity events and fundraisers, but we also incorporate fun social activities. One favorite is the annual holiday party, which is a great chance for everyone to celebrate the end of the semester. It's events like these that make it easier for members to get to know one another and make friends. We also host an occasional Faculty/Student Tea within the department, where everyone is invited to socialize and enjoy some refreshments. We typically bring board games, which gives students and faculty an opportunity to interact in an informal way.

One of our largest events was a school-wide screening of the film HOWL. We reached out to the producer of the film to receive a screening copy for our event, and then we partnered with our library and the English Department to cover costs. We had a wonderful turnout, making ourselves more visible on campus while giving other students a chance to see a great film. This event was, in fact, the brain child of one of our student leaders, who took initiative and made the whole thing happen.

Another popular event is our annual Shakespeare talk given by our department's beloved Shakespeare professor. He is kind enough to invite us all to his home, where we have a potluck dinner and a relaxed discussion on a specific theme. So far, our topics have been "Shakespeare and Sexuality" and "Shakespeare and the Bible." This is a fun, educational event that allows students to discover Shakespeare in a different way while fostering a real sense of community.

As a student, one of the most valuable experiences I had was attending the Sigma Tau Delta annual convention. That year, it was in Kansas City. It was actually my very first plane ride, which meant that I not only learned about professional conference activity and enhanced my public speaking skills, but I also learned a great deal about travel. That's why I think it is important that my students attend conferences whenever they can. We have sent groups to the Streamlines Undergraduate English Conference and to the Sigma Tau Delta Annual Convention for the past three years. The students are always excited about these trips, and they return even more inspired about Sigma Tau Delta.

I have the best job in the world. Not only do I get to teach a subject that I love, but I also get to work with this amazing group of students. They are passionate and hard working, and they have made participation in Sigma Tau Delta a truly meaningful experience for everyone involved. Sincere, contagious enthusiasm—that's what has made our chapter successful.