“Transforming the World with Words:” Sigma Tau Delta International English Honors Society at Purdue

High-achieving English majors at Purdue have the chance to join Sigma Tau Delta, an International English Honor Society and member of the Association of College Honors Societies, first founded in 1924. With a mission to distinguish high achievement and uphold academic excellence among English students, as well as to “promote interest in English language and literature,” Sigma Tau Delta has over “900 active chapters in the United States and abroad, with approximately 9,000 new members inducted annually.” Sigma Tau Delta seeks to “transform the world with words,” and does so through annual academic conventions and its published journals, The Sigma Tau Delta Review (for literary criticism and critical writing), and The Rectangle (for creative writing), as well as through scholarships and grants (“About Us”). With an active chapter here at Purdue formed in 1979, Sigma Tau Delta gives our members networking opportunities, all while highlighting their academic achievements for future professional experience.

Membership in Sigma Tau Delta comes with many benefits, beginning with the chance to share one’s writing through both regional conferences and international conventions. Student presentations are a main event during these conventions; active student members of Sigma Tau Delta can submit creative work and critical essays to a panel of judges for the chance to present in front of other members of the Society. Additionally, Sigma Tau Delta holds multiple regional conferences where students can submit work and present, if accepted. Many of these students have continued on to submit to larger conventions after their presentation at regional conferences. According to Dr. Jennifer Bay, the Faculty Advisor for Purdue’s Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta and a judge on the evaluation panel for regional conference submissions for the past two years, this is something she has seen often. Dr. Bay describes these smaller platforms as “springboards” for presentations at larger venues, giving students the confidence to present their work to larger audiences.

Sigma Tau Delta also gives members funding and internship opportunities beyond the scope of what is available here at Purdue, with 24 different scholarships, awards, and grants valued at up to $6000 each. There are scholarships for juniors, seniors, and graduate students, as well as for those studying abroad or attending a summer symposium. In fact, Sigma Tau Delta gives out monetary awards not only to students, but also to advisors and entire chapters, congratulating those who have furthered Sigma Tau Delta’s vision through service and student leadership. Other awards include grants for alumni in the classroom, undergraduate and graduate members in need of research funds, and papers presented at conferences. Sigma Tau Delta also offers internship opportunities, such as social media and content writing for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), editing Sigma Tau Delta’s journal publications, or even being a part of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Past internships also have included prestigious opportunities with Penguin Random House Publishing in New York City, an internship one of Purdue’s own students was a finalist for. All of these internships are accompanied by stipends, supporting students accepting low or non-paying internships. With a myriad of possible awards and experiences, Sigma Tau Delta seeks to support its members in all their academic endeavors (“Scholarships Overview”).

Purdue’s chapter accepts applications at the end of every year and is working on expanding through further student outreach. Dr. Jennifer Bay spoke on how she streamlined the application process to achieve this goal through moving it entirely online, making it easier for student outreach, application, and acceptance. Along with the prestigious internships one can only apply to as a member, Dr. Bay also mentioned funding for travel to attend conferences, something that may not be as commonly offered here at Purdue. She said, “Even when you’re a master’s student, you can still apply for Sigma Tau Delta grants. It’s going to be expected of you to go to conferences, so you’ll need the grants.” It is these lifetime opportunities that make Sigma Tau Delta a worthy investment, one that more and more Purdue English students are taking advantage of. Last year, Sigma Tau Delta had more students join than in previous years. With an induction ceremony for the new inductees, we were able to network with other Sigma Tau Delta members, as well as with English students and faculty. My experience with Sigma Tau Delta has highlighted this aspect of networking; although, as an honors society, we do not have many meetings, it has still allowed me to meet others with similar interests and will allow me to do so again in the future through other networking events here on Purdue’s campus. When discussing Purdue’s chapter with Dr. Bay, she emphasized how we are “building momentum.” With more students joining each year, Purdue’s chapter will continue to grow, and further the academic excellence of Purdue’s English department, its students, and the University itself.

References

“About Us.” Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, www.english.org/about/index.shtml.

“Scholarship Overview.” Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, www.english.org/about/history.shtml.

Fayth Schutter is double majoring in Professional Writing and Mass Communication at Purdue University.