new officers Vandevelde, Stewart, and Joy
From left to right: Vandervelde '21, Stewart '21, and Joy '20

by Sophie Hilker ’20

With the beginning of each new school year, comes a new agenda for Alpha Rho Theta, Macalester’s chapter of  the International English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta. In the past, these changes have culminated in the creation of a comprehensive calendar of Twin Cities literary events to share with students, Honor Society Coffee House nights, and free tickets and transportation to see some truly spectacular talks, plays, and works of art. For this issue, The Words sat down with the new 2019-2020 English Honor Society (EHS) Officers, Julia Joy ’20, Nora Stewart ’ 21, and Amy Vandervelde ’21, during the first meeting of the year to discuss their goals and motivations for the year to come.

High on all officers’ priorities was the issue of accessibility. While acknowledging that the Honor Society’s founding qualifications are not entirely accommodating — students must achieve a cumulative GPA of 3.65 or higher and pay an induction fee of $45 to get in — the officers stated that they don’t want elitist standards to bar anyone from entry. If paying the induction fee is an obstacle, both Joy and Vandervelde encouraged prospective members to request a fee waiver. In addition, officers emphasized all of the resources Sigma Tau Delta can provide for its members. Joy and Stewart cited the multitude of scholarships available to Honor Society members, endorsing members to take advantage of these opportunities, and even suggested creating a space for members to apply for funding together, helping to support and strengthen fellow members applications through peer editing and revision.

Another pillar of Honor Society the officers pledged to uphold was community engagement. Joy, Stewart, and Vandevelde will continue on in the tradition of providing members with unique opportunities to connect with the larger Twin Cities literary culture, while footing the cost of such excursions so that all students may be included. Possible events to attend were discussed, including readings and talks involving English Professors Penelope Geng and Peter Bognanni. In addition to attending events, this year’s officers intend to broaden the meaning of EHS community engagement.

“We were looking back at what past chapters of Honor Society at Macalester have done,” explained Vandervelde, “and noticed that many volunteered with literary organizations around the Twin Cities, so I’ve been in contact with the Civic Engagement Center to arrange some service opportunities for us as well.”

A final innovation the new officers are introducing to English Honor Society’s definition of community engagement is a cultivation of community on campus. This year, EHS hopes to make connections with chapters of other Honor Societies across all disciplines to enhance members’ liberal arts experience. Officers noted that while they’ve been in talks with Macalester’s Pi Sigma Alpha chapter of the Political Science Honor Society, and are excited at the prospect of collaborating on events together, they hope to expand their reach to include disciplines beyond the Humanities and Social Sciences.

“If you know anyone or have connections with any STEM Honor Societies,” said Joy, “please help us get in touch.”

Post-meeting, officers welcomed a fourth member to the ranks, Eric Fong ’21.

The Words extends a sincere thank you to all of our new officers! If you missed the first meeting of the semester, but would like to suggest more items for the agenda, contact your local EHS officers, Julia Joy ([email protected]), Nora Stewart ([email protected]), and Amy Vandervelde ([email protected]). To be inducted into Macalester’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, contact English Department Coordinator, Jan Beebe ([email protected]) for more information. 

EHS’s annual induction dinner will be hosted in the Briggs House on Tuesday, October 15 from 5:30-7:30pm. EHS members new and returning can join fellow members for a night of food and fun, hear more from our new officers, and enjoy a poetry reading from our new tenure-track Professor, Michael Prior.