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Pictured are undergraduate paper winners Mary Arnold (Stephens College), Sophie Jeffrey (McKendree University), Apryl Moore (WIU) and Joseph Schwenker (The University of Dubuque).
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WIU English Organizations Host Research Conference

October 25, 2018

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MACOMB, IL – The Western Illinois University English Graduate Organization (EGO) and the Sigma Tau Delta undergraduate students recently hosted the 15th annual combined annual conference Saturday, Oct. 20 on the WIU campus.

The event included panel discussion and roundtable discussions, as well as a keynote address by Kishonna Gray, assistant professor of communication and gender and women's studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The event included presentations by eight students representing six regional college, as well as 14 undergraduate students, 19 graduate students and 11 faculty members from the WIU Department of English.

"The English Graduate Organization works to put the research that are students are developing in their coursework into a public venue beyond the classroom," said interim English Chair David Banash. "Graduate students present, and often collaborate with their professors. By going beyond the classroom, and presenting work together with their professors, the conference allows our graduate students to develop work that otherwise might be left behind after a course, to hone their presentations, and to learn how to handle the challenges of difficult questions at a public event."

Banash said many of the projects students developed for the conference eventually turn into their master's thesis, or are developed and submitted for other conferences or for publication.

"The conference helps the graduate students build a shared culture of intellectual inquiry, experimentation and achievement here in Macomb," he said. "The conference also follows the University theme; this year it was "Thriving (or Living) in a Digital World: An Educational Opportunity."

WIU Associate Professor of English Tim Helwig serves as the chapter advisor to Western's local chapter of Sigma Tau Delta and the Midwestern Regent for the national organization. He said by hosting the organization's Midwest regional conference this year, students from seven chapters in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri were able to get a closer look at WIU's English program.

"They saw firsthand our quality programs, our outstanding English faculty and our talented Western students," said Helwig. "Our students, in turn, had the opportunity to network and learn from other English majors in the region. We hope that many of our student presenters will go on to present their analytical and creative work at Sigma Tau Delta's annual convention to be held in St. Louis in March 2019."

Awards presented at this year's conference include: (The current English department faculty raised just over $165 to award to the top three critical papers by graduate students)

• First place: WIU English graduate student Lisa Elleson, of Galesburg, IL, for her essay, "Surviving the Ordeal: Tracking Richard's Depression in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere." 

• Second place: WIU English graduate student Nicholaus Nusbaumer, of Nixa, MO, for his essay, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted (Urban) Fantasy: How Kanye West and Richard Mayhew Overcome the Below in Order to Conquer the Above."

• Third place: WIU English graduate student Rhobie Underwood, of Andover, IL for her essay, "The Technological Representations of Desire: Revisiting Carter and The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman through 'Black Museum.'"

The WIU chapter of the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society awarded prizes of $100, $50, and $25 for the best three overall papers (critical or creative) by undergraduates:  

• First place: WIU junior English major Apryl Moore, of Chicago, for her essay "Bundren BDSM: Sadomasochism, Duty, and Meaning in As I Lay Dying's Addie Bundren"

• Second place: Sophie Jeffrey (McKendree University) for her essay, "A Resurgence of Patronage: No More Starving Artists?"

Third place (tie): Mary Arnold (Stephens College) for her essay, "The Influence of Feminism in Disney Princesses"

Third place: Joseph Schwenker (The University of Dubuque) for his essay, "The God Complex in August Williams's Fences"

For more information about the conference, visit

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