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SC English Major Attains Scholarly Success at National and International Conferences

Southwestern College graduate Breanna Dittert has participated at two academic conferences this spring semester. A December graduate who majored in English with an emphasis in creative writing, Dittert presented a paper at the 2022 Popular Culture Association (PCA) National Conference and participated at the annual international convention of Sigma Tau Delta, International English Honor Society.

Breanna DittertSigma Tau Delta was founded in 1924 at Dakota Wesleyan University. The Society strives to confer distinction for high achievement in English language and literature in undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies. Through its local chapters, it provides cultural stimulation on college campuses and promotes interest in literature and the English language in surrounding communities. With over 900 active chapters located in the United States and abroad, there are more than 1,000 Faculty Advisors, and approximately 9,000 members inducted annually.

Every spring, Sigma Tau Delta holds its annual international convention, a unique event that allows hundreds of members and Chapter Advisors from around the United States and beyond to gather, share experiences and expertise, be recognized for their achievements, and participate in the official proceedings of the Society. Participants at the annual convention are selected as they exhibit high standards of academic excellence and aim to serve society by fostering literacy. The Sigma Tau Delta International Convention also provides opportunities to engage in roundtables with well-published authors, discover new ideas in English and English-related disciplines, while interacting with speakers, presenters, and peers. This year, the conference was in Atlanta, GA. and had more than 600 undergraduate presentations, multiple roundtables, and creative writing events around the central theme, “Action”.

As a student leader for the High Plains Region of Sigma Tau Delta, thus representing students and local chapters in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, Dittert was one of the seven student leaders at the national level. At the conference, she hosted roundtables, led social events, and facilitated important discussions for the present and future of this Honor Society at the regional level.

At the conference, Alice Bendinelli, associate professor of English, who attended with Dittert, received recognition on behalf of the Sigma Sigma SC chapter for outstanding excellence achieved over 35 years of the chapter’s activities and service to the Honor Society.

“It was a pleasure to nominate Breanna as a student representative last year for the High Plains area and an even greater honor to see her interact with the other student leaders and conference participants at the conference,” Bendinelli says.  “I knew this was a great opportunity for her and for our institution. While Breanna had to work hard over the summer to assist with all the planning for the conference, it was clear how the work of all the student leaders paid back. Not only did the conference go smoothly, but it also was a lively and engaging academic environment.”

“This was an interesting experience,” observes Dittert. “As student leaders, we could peel down the curtain and see the inner works of the English Honor Society. It helped me to professionally and personally network as I got a chance to meet other scholars from the nation, as well as discuss my future academic plans. Moreover, serving as student leader all my expenses were covered by Sigma Tau Delta, thus making this experience even more rewarding.”

“Breanna’s achievements as a scholar and in leadership at a national level of a venerable honor society such as Sigma Tau Delta reflect our division’s commitment to providing students with immersive professional opportunities that challenge students to make meaning, communicate significance, and effect change,” notes Michelle Boucher, who chairs the division that includes the English program. “Dr. Bendinelli’s superb mentorship of Breanna during her time at SC is a measure of that commitment.”

Breanna Dittert went from organizing to actively participating in academic discourse, as she presented a paper about the YA (young adult) novel, “Dumplin” by Julie Murphy, at the 2022 PCA conference.

“I would like to thank Southwestern College for sponsoring the cost of this conference and Dr. Bendinelli for encouraging me to participate,” Dittert says. “The experience was exhilarating and I felt challenged to rise to the occasion of presenting among these accomplished scholars and activists. I was proud to be given the opportunity to join the larger conversation about texts and societal norms as I explored the ways this YA novel challenges expectations about young women and their bodies.”

The PCA comprises multi-disciplinary scholars and enthusiasts who study popular culture at the national and international levels. For more than 50 years, the association has been promoting popular art forms in the USA, from comics to YA novels and video games. The mission of the PCA is to promote the study of popular culture throughout the world through the establishment and promotion of conferences, publications, and discussions.  This year’s conference had 1,938 attendees and the Presidential Award went to Art Spiegelman, the 1992 Pulitzer Prize winner for his masterful Holocaust narrative Maus.

“Breanna is a great example of what a Southwestern College student can achieve,” states Bendinelli, who is Breanna’s advisor at SC. “What started as her senior project for her English degree became a platform to find and share her voice as a young scholar. Breanna has a natural understanding of what scholarship is and I can only hope she will continue seeking opportunities like these in a graduate program.”

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