English Department ready for second annual undergrad conference
September 18, 2008
The UW-River Falls English department is turning to nature for some inspiration for the second annual Undergraduate Conference for Critical and Creative Engagement, to be held Sept. 26 in the St. Croix River Room of the University Center.
The conference, titled “Nature, Art, Self,” will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will feature UWRF students reading a diverse array of their own work, including creative writing, poetry and essays.
“The main purpose of the conference is to showcase undergraduates’ scholarly work,” English professor Michelle Parkinson said. “What we’ve done is set it up like a traditional graduate or professional paper conference where students will come, read a paper out loud to an audience and then there will be discussion and questions about it [the student’s work] after.”
The idea for the conference came about last year when the English department felt that the outstanding work of their students was not getting the attention it deserved outside of the classroom, according to Parkinson and Literary Society President Cindy Meyer.
“We wanted to provide a place for our students to present their work in a setting outside of the classroom that would provide feedback not only from their professors, but from their peers and other writers,” Meyer said. “It has evolved to include people not only from our campus, but from around Minnesota and Wisconsin as well.”
UWRF student Jessica Stiebling will be reading her piece entitled “Learning to be Free: The Importance of Education and Knowledge in Frederick Douglass’ Narrative.” She did not participate in the conference last year, and getting her to do so this year took a bit of encouragement from Dr. Larry Harred, one of her professors.
“When Dr. Harred initially suggested it to me, I immediately dismissed the idea,” Stiebling said. “Then I got mad at myself for dismissing it so quickly simply because of fear and signed up for the conference to punish myself.”
The keynote speaker at this year’s conference is David Lee, poet from Utah.
“We were trying to think of somebody who did something related to nature and thought about issues of self and subjectivity. He’s done all this work on farming and on being outdoors in Utah. He’s got this very interesting biography; he’s been a farmer but is also a scholar and a poet, so he’s this really interesting dynamic person, and we thought that the students here could really connect with them, especially since a lot of them come from rural backgrounds,” Parkinson said.
Most preparations for the conference have already been taken care of. Recently, Parkinson and the rest of the English department have been focusing on organizing the papers that have come in and advertising for the event.
Meyer said that the Literary Society is helping to plan the event as well and will be staffing the sessions.
“We are helping and encouraging our students to experience a conference such as this from all angles, presenter, planner, staff and audience,” she said.
Sessions on Sept. 26 run from 9:00-9:50 a.m., 10-10:50 a.m. and 11-11:50 a.m. A lunch break follows from 12:00-1:30 p.m., with the conference resuming for the final session from 2:00-2:50 p.m., where Lee will give his keynote speech.
“The nice thing is that the different sessions accord with the class schedules, so people can go in between classes,” Parkinson said.
Parkinson said she hopes that the UWRF community takes away a sense of the “really good work that students are doing in the field of literature and creative writing.”
“My hope is that people from all over the campus will come, and that the students will get a really good sense that their campus community is supporting them,” Parkinson said.
Stiebling said she wants the community to “walk away from this conference with a better understanding of different type of literature” and “the different mediums in which people are able to express the concepts of nature, art and self.”
The submission deadline for students to be able to read their work in the conference was last spring, Parkinson said. However, anyone is eligible to submit for next year’s conference, regardless of their major.