English Student Advisory Team Discusses Changes with Faculty
- Joseph Shoulders
- Tuesday, February 16th, 2021
Four members of the English Student Advisory Team: Cameron Fontes (top left), Emily Moore (top right), Lizzy Roth (bottom left), and Joseph Shoulders (bottom right)
Since the fall 2020 semester needed experimental changes in unprecedented circumstances, the English Department faculty valued students’ feedback more than ever. One major source of feedback came from the English Student Advisory Team (ESAT). ESAT is a group of English students who discuss with the English Department faculty what opportunities and activities will best serve English majors.
The first ESAT was formed in 2016 under the supervision of Dr. Rob Hale, the previous Department Head. The current ESAT for the 2020-21 academic year meets with Department Head Dr. Alison Langdon and Assistant Department Head Dr. Ted Hovet. The team has representatives from each concentration within the English major and the English for Secondary Teaching major. The current members are Bethel Aklilu, Bailey Alexander, Katelyn Bennett, Ella Corder, Katie Doll, Cameron Fontes, Faith Harris, Megan McCormick, Emily Moore, Noah Powers, Lizzy Roth, Fallon Russell, Lauren Sheppard, Joseph Shoulders, Emily Snyder, Kayla Spears, Raegan Steffey, and Sarah Stevens.
Dr. Langdon summarized the work ESAT has done and shared her thoughts. She said, “ESAT has been a tremendous resource for me over the last year, providing valuable insights from the student perspective on our majors and programs, both curricular and extracurricular. They’ve given us feedback and input on promoting English Studies, fostering a strong sense of community, and addressing student concerns. They also have served as student ambassadors and informal peer mentors for incoming majors.
“With the advent of COVID-19, ESAT was able to share with us what was on our students’ minds and how best to serve their needs in an unprecedented situation. As we all experimented with new hybrid and online modalities, they let us know what was working well, what they were struggling with, and what they’d like to see more of. Their input helped our faculty better adapt their courses as we pivoted online in the spring and prepared for fall. Last semester ESAT met with me and our Assistant Department Head Dr. Hovet to brainstorm ways to engage with our community of English professors and students and to bounce ideas off each other for adapting events like our annual English Major Convocation and Undergraduate Conference on Literature, Language, and Culture. I am so grateful for their insights and suggestions.”
In addition to helping shape events, ESAT members spoke at two of these events that introduced English majors to the department. These were the pre-semester orientation and the English Majors Convocation held in the fall. Senior ESAT member Cameron Fontes gave a statement on speaking at the Convocation. He said, “I’ve spoken at a couple of convocations now, and I always really enjoy getting to introduce the new majors to all the department has to offer. I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to talk about a variety of topics, so it’s also a good opportunity for me to remind myself of all the opportunities I can take advantage of throughout the year.”
Dr. Hovet also expressed his gratitude for the team and said, “The ESAT has been especially valuable this past year as we've adjusted to the restrictions required to safely continue classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many of the extracurricular activities that we normally do have been postponed or made virtual, the ESAT has helped keep a strong community within the department and has made innovative contributions to new activities such as the virtual English Salon.”
The English Salons are events where English majors can discuss media they have enjoyed during the pandemic. ESAT members Emily Moore and Lizzy Roth planned and hosted the events.
“The English Salons let everyone who participates experience a relaxed and understanding environment and form connections with fellow English majors despite the distance,” said Roth.
Moore shared her hopes for the events. She said, “I was initially nervous for the first Salon, but it went over much better than I could have expected! I hope to host more with Lizzy this semester. Even after COVID-19, I think the English Salons could be a fun way to connect.”
Building the English Department community is a shared interest in ESAT for all discussions. Roth explained, “We want to help English majors feel at home in the department and give them opportunities to meet other people who share the same interests. English majors deserve to get all they can out of the department, and it's one of my personal goals within ESAT to encourage English majors to really come out of their shells and participate in the opportunities that the English Department has to offer.”
Fontes gave a similar perspective. “I think ESAT was a really great idea because it allows majors from all different concentrations and years to contribute to the running of the department, and it’s not just a cosmetic, ceremonial kind of participation. Dr. Hovet and Dr. Langdon really take our input and recommendations seriously and implement them through department-wide events throughout the year.
“Honestly, these days it’s nice just to see people and talk about how things are going, which at its core is what ESAT really is. It’s a concentrated version of the department as a whole: a community of scholars and faculty working together to improve the WKU English Department for everyone.”