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Rejuvenating Interest in Literature
English Club Revitalization
By Jewel Blanchard, Senior English Major.
Pictured above: Former English Club officers and members. From left to right: Kiersten Hammond, Rachel Harris, and Mackenzie Brock.
Perhaps the largest on-campus extracurricular community offered to English majors and those who love the subject is the English Club. It has been a mainstay of SOU for decades, and has seen a lot of change over the years. This is no different today, with new president Nat Brame having just taken on the mantle from several seniors who recently graduated in spring 2022. The club has the opportunity once again to revitalize itself in this period of change. Perhaps by looking to the club’s history, we can see where the club might be headed today.
Sean Wilcox, one of the English Club’s former presidents, graduated from SOU in 1995 with a BA in English, emphasis in writing. Today, Sean teaches English Language Development (ELD) for the Klamath County School District. He has also obtained an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Portland State and a teaching license from Western Governors University. Currently, he is working toward an MA in educational leadership from Grand Canyon University.
Pictured Above: Sean Wilcox from his days at SOU.
Sean recalls his time in the presidency as being “out of character” for someone as introverted as himself. However, he ended up being an excellent fit for the role, leading the club from a period of inactivity to lively meetings and events. Sean “slowly built up a group of [5-6] students” who would regularly attend meetings and have spirited discussions about books and poetry. The club was a way “to take ideas from our classes and explore them, build upon them, and take them in directions that we might not do in class.”
Once the foundation was built, he began planning larger events. One example was an open mic night the English club co-hosted at an on-campus coffee shop, where students could share poetry and music they had written to an audience of their peers. On that night, Sean’s then-girlfriend (and now wife) painted his face and body “like a canvas,” and he read his own poetry to the crowd, while decked out in vibrant color.
Pictured Above: Sean Wilcox and his wife, whom he met at SOU.
Today, he looks back fondly on his time in the presidency. Sean takes pride in his accomplishment of revitalizing the club, especially with the knowledge that it continued on past his departure from SOU. He sees his time in this leadership role as the catalyst for his current desire to work in leadership positions, and emphasizes the club’s ability to connect students more authentically in a digital age.
“Literature and creative writing classes…give you an appreciation for humanity, the ability to listen to and respect the ideas of others, and the ability to express your ideas.”
– Sean Wilcox
Associate Professor Merrilyne Lundahl, who has served as the club’s faculty advisor since 2019, expressed a similar sentiment to Sean. Especially post-pandemic, Merrilyne remarks that “it was wonderful just to see people gathering together.” She understands that the club is in a time of change, and is looking forward to how its members will enact that change.
However, Merrilyne also points out that the relationship between a club and its community is not one-sided. She emphasizes how part of the rebuilding process will surely involve finding ways to “support” and “energize” its members internally. But Merrilyne also sees the club as being service-oriented, an organization that gives back to the external community. She hopes that the English club will take on more service opportunities in the coming year, mentioning exciting possibilities of book drives and events based around student issues. The other role of the club that Merrilyne defines goes back to that sense of connection and community: “the club provides a structured, formalized way to get to know people and make friends around shared interests.”
“It was wonderful just to see people gathering together in the Decker [Studio] to play games, do puzzles, and socialize.”
– Merrilyne Lundahl
The new club president, sophomore English major Nat Brame, is grateful for the “indispensable” help of Merrilyne as he has taken on the role and gotten his bearing within the club. Despite the fact that Nat has only been part of the club since last spring (when then-president Mackenzie Brock “passed on the torch” to him), he has been hard at work this fall. Nat has been recruiting new club members, determining scheduling, and preparing to facilitate the first official meeting of the year!
“We’re building from the ground up, and we’ve got plenty of room to grow.”
– Nat Brame
Despite the nearly 30 years between the two presidents, Nat shared some perspectives very similar to Sean’s experience revitalizing the club in the 90s. His priorities are getting a core group and weekly meetings established, then letting club members take the lead to plan events based on their interests. He envisions regular meetings full of “literary discussion, workshopping essays and other writings, puzzles, snacks, and ultimately whatever else we decide.” Nat also mentioned the unique circumstances of the English Department settling into their new home within Britt Hall— the club can carve its own comfortable niche within the space from the get-go.
Pictured Above: Members of the English Club at last year’s “game night” event in the Decker Writing Studio.
But to Nat, the most important part of rebuilding the club is to create a feeling of camaraderie, connection, and community within the English Program. Connecting back to his personal experience as a club member last year, Nat wants all English majors to feel like they have “a home within the English department.” And considering this unified, relationship-focused vision amongst club advisors and presidents (both past and present), it is safe to say that the club is in good hands. More importantly, it is ready to be molded by the new group of officers and members, to become an organization that reflects the interests and needs of English majors, minors, and students with an interest in English across campus.
If you are interested in joining the English Club or if you have any questions, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first club meeting will be on October 14, from 12:30-1:30pm, on the top floor of Britt Hall.
Interested in being featured on the English Program blog? Or know someone who is interested? Contact English Program blogger Jewel Blanchard at email@example.com.