by Dalton Greene ’22

One of the more unusual college rituals is the self-identification by graduation year that we all tacitly participate in. I think that every time I’ve seen my name in writing since my first semester at Macalester, there’s been a “‘22” tacked onto the end. By now, it feels like a natural addition to my name, and I would probably respond to “Dalton-Greene-22” just as readily as I would “Dalton.” But I’m realizing lately how strange it really is. If my liberal arts education has taught me anything, it’s that there’s probably a scathing critique of capitalism to be made here (perhaps something about the quantification of the self, or the bleakness of advertising the year we will finally be graduated and ready for employers to exploit our labor), but I call it strange for another reason. It’s strange to me because the constant stream of ‘22s that I’ve gotten used to has left me entirely unprepared for the fact that my last semester at Mac is actually now, in ‘21.

For those who don’t know, because of a series of pandemic-related scheduling hiccups, I will be spending the spring semester studying away at the University of Oxford. So, while I’m technically a student for a few more months and the ‘22 is technically accurate, I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that my time on campus is winding down. This brings with it a slew of lasts, and one of the most important is this, my last article for The Words. It’s hard to imagine that a brief article like this can capture the depth of gratitude and admiration I feel for the English department and all the amazing humans who make it what it is, but I’m going to give it a go.

The author (crouched, right) with department student workers of yesteryear.

My experience with the department goes all the way back to fall 2018, when I was a mere first year. I had been hired as an office assistant for my work-study position, and I truly had no idea what to expect. What I found, though, was a richly supportive community of fellow bookish nerds who welcomed me with open arms. I’m thinking especially of Julia Joy, Sophie Hilker, and Amy Vandervelde, who collectively dubbed me the “pearl of the department,” a name whose origins I’m still not entirely certain of but which has stuck. These co-workers made work feel a lot less like work, and they showed me the ropes in everything from properly running scans for professors to being the cool sort of bookish nerd. 

Of course, my sophomore year was The Big One, the year in which the pandemic began and we had to figure out how to maintain this sense of community when we were faced with so many challenges. I’d say we pulled it off, and this is entirely due to the tireless efforts of our very own department coordinator Jan Beebe. It’s been said a million times before and likely will be a million times again, but Jan is the heart and soul of this department, and I cannot thank her enough for everything she’s done these past few years. Her thoughtfulness and creativity in making all English majors and minors feel at home in the department, even when we couldn’t be together, has been such a gift, and it’s been the highlight of my “professional” (does a work-study job count as truly professional?) life to work with her. 

And while we’re on the subject of thanks, I’m going to do an Oscars-speech-style appreciation speedrun. Naturally, a huge part of my experience in the department has been my interactions with faculty, and so I want to thank all of the brilliant professors who bring so much to their work every day. Professors Amy Elkins and Penelope Geng, in particular, have been terrific instructors, mentors, and the best co-advisors a clueless undergrad could ask for. I’ve learned so much from them, both inside and beyond the classroom, and am a far better thinker, writer, and person for it. 

I also want to acknowledge the sheer awesomeness of Professors Matt Burgess, Sally Franson, Marlon James, and Emma Törzs, in whose classes I’ve been able to cosplay as the glamorous creative writer I wish I really was (but alas, I’m more inclined toward creative writing’s less flashy cousin, literary criticism). Their classes, and especially their workshops, are truly magical spaces, and the care that goes into creating them is staggering. They’re all superheroes for empowering me—and all their students—to create and share deeply personal works of art. 

Thanks are also in order for Professors Daylanne English and Andrea Kaston Tange, whose classes I took in the spring 2020 semester without ever stepping foot in the same physical space as them. Despite this, they both crafted some of the most informative and exciting English courses I’ve had at Mac, which is no small feat over Zoom. The support and sensitivity with which they designed their syllabi in that crazy semester are reflective of their genuine commitment to their students, and I hope they’re both enjoying their well-deserved sabbaticals. 

The author (seated, right) with department student workers of this year.

And last but not least, I have to close by saying how grateful I am to have worked with such incredible people here on The Words. My fellow Senior Newsletter Editors, Alice Asch and Kira Schukar, have been phenomenal in their wisdom and good humor. We’ve gotten so much done this semester, sometimes on some tight deadlines, and they deserve all the credit for that. And our associate editors this year, Patrick Coy-Bjork, Chloë Moore, and Zoë Roos Scheuerman, are absolute powerhouses. I’m so excited to watch them continue in their roles and keep up their incomparable work in recording all things English for the community. As bittersweet as it is to be leaving, I know that The Words is in good hands. 

These last three and a half years with the English department have been such a pleasure, and as I go on to whatever comes next after graduation, I know that I will carry Old Main 2 and its wonderful cast of characters close to my heart. 

Officially signing off, 

Dalton Greene ‘22