Students share literary works at symposium

Mallory Kaul

The English majors of Walker Hall gathered for an afternoon, sharing creative and academic works at ULM’s first English Student Symposium. 

Hosted by the English Honor Society and the Humanities Institute, the floor was open to anybody willing to share their hard-earned work from recent semesters. 

Several graduate students opted to share the outline of their literary thesis or a few excerpts from their creative writing collections. Then, fellow English peers were able to ask questions and gain a better understanding of the discussed topics.

For those opting to discuss a thesis based on literary studies, presenters could delve into their source material and explain the goals for their work in their own words. Those with creative writing materials—both short stories and poems—could read their pieces in front of a live audience and experience the consumer’s reaction in real-time. 

Writers had the tremendous opportunity to read in a setting where the explanation could immediately follow the initial digestion of the information, which is considered a rare advantage in the editing stage.

Chloe Howard, an English graduate student, detailed the structure of her upcoming thesis, where she will be breaking down female characters in early literature. She believes that the event helped build a sense of community amongst those in the midst of working on such pivotal pieces. 

“What we do stems from passions,” Howard said. “So we were able to share parts of ourselves with peers without the pressure of a grade.”

A few English professors were also in attendance, and they shared suggestions for the students on how to improve their work even more. Some asked challenging questions to simulate the experience of a thesis defense, which would further prepare students and build confidence in their work. No detail was left unfollowed—imagery, wording and voice were all dissected in each story, poem and literary outline.

Will Rogers, an English professor present at the symposium, believes this event was a great opportunity to teach about the value of intellectual exchanges. He was wholly impressed with the level of work that the students presented. 

“I’ve taught every person who read and shared their work, and it’s gratifying to hear how folks have grown into their interests,” Rogers shared. “The work I heard was that of future colleagues.”

Undergraduates listened on and learned valuable insight into what type of writing will be expected from them if they choose to pursue a master’s degree. This behind-the-scenes look at professors that undergraduate students will actually take at a graduate level helps to prepare them as early as their first senior semester. 

Sadie Leporati, an undergraduate English education major, said that the event made her want to experiment with creative writing again.

“Listening to the stories made me wonder if I could one day write that way,” Leporati said. “All the readings were very different, and it inspired me to have more freedom with my writing.” 

Leporati also shared that hearing the professor’s advice helped her learn how to spot good work, which she said will aid her in her future career as a teacher. 

Tia Smith, an English graduate student, shared a poem and short story included in her thesis entitled “Skeleton Flowers.” 

“The feedback I received helped me to realize I really had achieved the message I wanted to convey in my stories,” Smith said. “Sharing my stories in a safe and comfortable space encouraged me a lot.”