Joining the Student English Association

The Student English Association (SEA) is one of Purdue University’s nearly 1,000 student clubs and organizations. As Purdue’s Admissions website indicates, “One of the great advantages of a large university is the diversity of student activities. And participating in student organizations is one of the many ways you’ll be able to make your Purdue experience your own — by finding your niche among students with similar interests or goals.”

Dedicated to undergraduate students with a love of English literature, SEA welcomes all Purdue majors, providing them with opportunities to share their interests and passions. It also lets them collaborate to produce Purdue’s only undergraduate literary magazine, The Bell Tower, which is affiliated with the English Department and has been published yearly since 1995.

Brooke Dudzinski, an English Education major and former secretary (2017-2018) and treasurer (2018-2019) for this organization, breaks down the responsibilities of the Student English Association and tells us why English majors, in particular, should consider joining it.

Why should students consider joining the SEA?

Students should join the club because it offers Language Arts-loving students a chance to share their passion for reading and writing, a task that can be difficult to do on a STEM- focused campus. The club is always re-inventing itself and looking for people to fulfill leadership positions (a great resume builder!). Also, working on The Bell Tower is an extremely rewarding process. It is difficult and time-consuming during some periods of the year, but, worth it in the end. Working as a staff member on the magazine also makes for a great resume line.

When I was a part of the club, decisions were very democratic. Everyone’s opinion was taken into consideration. Feel free to speak your mind. The officers often wait on planning an event or a making a Bell Tower choice until it is clear all members will feel confident about it.

If you are curious, search for the club on Instagram (see our handle: @purdue_sea) to see announcements for past or future events.

What is The Bell Tower?

The Bell Tower is Purdue’s only undergraduate literary magazine. SEA publishes it at the end of each spring semester. The Bell Tower has essays, short stories, poems, and photography. In the past, it included winning entries from the English Department’s Literary Awards contest (held each April).

Everything in the magazine gets chosen through a selection process that eliminates or accepts pieces based on a set of criteria. The competition for pieces to be submitted typically gets announced through flyers at the start of winter.

All undergraduate students registered for an academic term at Purdue are welcome to submit their work to the magazine. The general reading period, during which the SEA reads and selects original pieces of poetry and fiction, occurs between the late fall and early winter, but the club edits and works on the magazine throughout the spring semester.

What does a typical SEA meeting look like?

Usually, there are two types of meetings, all of which typically occur on Thursday evenings.

During the first type, the club meets in a room in Heavilon or Beering (wherever is available and can house the amount of people we have signed up for the year). Either the club discusses and works on The Bell Tower, or it does other literary-themed activities, like black-out poetry or a discussion relating to our favorite quotes or authors.

Recently, SEA hosted an undergraduate internship panel, with student interns from the Purdue Writing Lab, The Exponent, and the English Department blog discussing their workplace experiences.

During the second type of meeting, club members attend the English Department’s “Visiting Writer Reading Series.” The series occurs on campus in Krannert. Free and open to the public, these events incorporate and highlight a visiting author, allowing them to read some of their work, answer questions, and even sign copies of their books for attendees. I actually discovered one of my new favorite authors, Kaveh Akbar, while attending the reading series and got a signed copy of his book.

The club has traveled off campus to attend book readings at Second Flight Books, a local independent bookstore. (You can check it out at: secondflightbooks.com).

Do you have any advice for students considering joining this organization?

As a senior, and as someone who knows a lot of other seniors studying English with similar experiences, I sometimes feel reader burnout. If you told me that four years ago, I would have been baffled, saying that I would never experience anything like this because I love reading so much and can finish a novel in a few hours. However, it is okay if you start to feel burnout when it comes to reading. That does not mean something is wrong with you or your passion is fake. College demands a lot of academic reading.

Regardless, you should nourish your passion. Take care of it when you can. Reflect and learn when you need to add recreational reading to your life and when you should temporarily eliminate it so you can better focus the next time you pick up a wonderful piece of literature.

If you do find yourself itching for a good book in the near future, here are a couple recommendations: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich.

Ally Geoffray is a junior majoring in English Literature and Professional Writing at Purdue.