Category Archives: Conferences

Presenting at Boundless: American Lit & Superhero Comics

English graduate student Clark Fennimore presented at the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Conference: Boundless. Read more about his experiences below! 

Clark Fennimore at Boundless

In Mid-October, Millersville University hosted the Boundless Conference in cooperation with the other universities of the PA State System of Higher Education. It specifically involved the Humanities departments. Many panels included presentations by students from these universities, including our own. I was placed on one of the first panels to present. I presented with two other students on topics related to popular culture.

I spoke for about twenty minutes. My own presentation was about American literature from the 1920s and 30s that influenced the later development of superhero comics. Because it was based on research I did for a much more extensive paper in a class I took, I had to narrow down the topic. The paper itself had sections about characters as influences and about genre characteristics developed in the era. I limited my presentation to the characters. Most famous among the characters were Zorro and Tarzan.

This was a rewarding experience in public speaking. I consider it as a short introduction to the format of lecturing. I enjoyed it and hope to have much more experience of this type. I believe that conducting and presenting research are important skills worth practicing, particularly since I am in graduate school, studying English. I consider them important for people in any kind of graduate program. They increase professional credibility.

Something else worth mentioning about the conference is that I listened to many presentations on different topics. This shows great academic diversity within the humanities. There were topics from literature and history among other areas. A major theme of the conference was the interest of humanities in many areas of life. I am honored to have presented in a conference advocating unity within such an area of academics.

-Clark Fennimore

6th Annual Learning Institute Global Well-Being and Social Change Presentations

On April 28th, 29th and 30th Social Work hosted the 6th Annual Learning Institute Global Well-Being and Social Change Conference. On Friday April 29th, MA English graduate student William Artz presented “Perceived Intrinsic Iniquities in LGBTQIA+ Health Care: An affordance theory (literary) approach”. His discussion connected affordance theory and literature to a broader practical audience, demonstrating how literature makes possible better conversations surrounding social justice, race, and politics in America.

Additionally, Dr. Nicole Pfannenstiel and Professor Michele Santamaria presented “Finding Space, Making Change: Shifting to a campus community read.” Their discussion connected the One Book selection to cross-disciplinary adoption, and the value of life-long reading to support learning and college success.

You are Inspiring: Over 100 English Students present at Made in Millersville

Folks, this is a banner year for English at Made in Millersville.  We have over 96 separate events (poetry readings, panel sessions, poster sessions, etc.) that Millersville English students are engaged in.  What can I say–you all are rocking scholarship, creativity, and professionalism.

Check out Skyler Gibbon in the student spotlight analyzing Beyonce, Adele, and intersectional feminism!  Congratulate Daniel Dicker, Karen layman, Sara Lipski, and Shaakirah Tate on their publication of the Made in Millersville Journal next week. If you are thinking about studying abroad, go hear about the amazing journeys of Abigail Breckbill, Thomas Joyce, and Jason Leighty.  Or take in Poetry Out Loud with Dr. Corkery and his creative crew.  And check out all of the impressive posters and panels.  It will be a super busy day.

While the English faculty is always super proud of our students, we take it to the next level when we see all of your accomplishments together on one day.  It’s just so fabulous!  We hope you will come out and support each other and let your curiosity roam free!

You can find all the English events listed here: MiM English Events 2019

We’ll have a film crew on site that day to capture some of your accomplishments.  We’re making a video for the website.  Eric Griffin, an MU Art alum who took film classes, is doing the video, so if you see him and his crew, give them a little of you for the video.  He won’t be able to capture everything, but I’ve encouraged him to try to get as much as possible so we can represent our community well.

Thanks for all the positive energy, great scholarship, and creative ideas that you all put out into the world.  You are inspiring.

2019 Northeast Modern Language Association Conference

Millersville Professors and graduate students traveled to Washington D.C. for the annual Northeast Modern Language Association Conference. Maria Rovito, in collaboration with the other Millersville students and professors, wrote a summary of the event and presentation topics.

Andie Petrillo, Dr. Emily Baldys, and Maria Rovito

The 50th anniversary conference of the Northeast Modern Language Association was held at the National Harbor in Washington, D.C., at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, from Thursday, March 21, 2019, to Sunday, March 24, 2019. The theme of the conference focused on transnational humanities, particularly intersections of nations and identity within language and literature. A variety of panels, roundtables, and workshops were held that focused on various kinds of aspects of English studies, particularly literature, rhetoric and composition, creative writing and publishing, critical theory, interdisciplinary humanities, and pedagogy and teaching. Several keynote speakers were included in this year’s conference; most notably featured was the postcolonial critic Homi K. Bhabha, who spoke about the politics of migration and human rights in his keynote address.

Members and presenters came from all over the world, including a few of our own students and faculty here at Millersville University. Graduate students and English faculty presented their research at the convention, including Drs. Emily Baldys and Katarzyna Jakubiak, as well as graduate students Maria Rovito and Andie Petrillo. Each of their presentations focused on different aspects of literary studies.

Dr. Emily Baldy’s presentation was titled “The Sisterhood of Disability Care in Gaskell’s Industrial Narratives,” and focused on disability care as surrogate sisterhood in Gaskell’s first published short story, “The Three Eras of Libbie Marsh.” In her work, Dr. Baldys argued that “Gaskell’s narratives self-consciously resist industrial capitalism’s devaluation of difference and dependence.” Particularly, through Gaskell’s depictions of sisterly relations and disability care, “Gaskell’s texts mount a ‘dependency critique’ similar to that proposed by modern disability theorists, modeling a respect for difference that Gaskell saw as necessary for rehabilitation of industrial system.”

Dr. Katarzyna Jakubiak presented on the politics of translation in her presentation, particularly translating African American Literature in Poland during the Cold War. Titled “We Make Our Own Negroes: James Baldwin’s Reception in Poland During the Cold War and Now,” Dr. Jakubiak’s work focused on the role of James Baldwin’s work in Poland in the 1960-70s in relation to current Polish reactions to Raoul Peck’s documentary I Am Not Your Negro.  She argued that the “past and present Polish responses to Baldwin attest to the power of his voice to impact the discourse of interracial and interethnic relations globally.” Dr. Jakubiak’s presentation also focused on the impact of Baldwin’s work on Polish political discourse: “As Poland’s current populist government manipulates the public fear of ethnic or racial ‘other’ to garner support, Baldwin’s work has again provided a platform for intellectuals and cultural activists aiming to undermine the government’s xenophobic discourse.”

Maria Rovito presented twice during the conference, in a roundtable on African American literature and trauma studies as well as on a panel on ability and identity. Her first presentation, titled “Race and Disability in Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Wilson’s Fences,” focused on the intersections of race and disability within African American literature. Particularly, her presentation researched how race, disability, and trauma impacts disabled characters within The Bluest Eye and Fences. Her second presentation, “‘I Did This to Myself’: Disability and Non-Normative Bodies in the Manga and Anime Series One Piece,” researched representations of disabled bodies within manga and animé. Her research particularly focused on Eiichiro Oda’s series One Piece, and how disabled characters within the series disrupt Western notions and expectations of disabled bodies.

Andie Petrillo presented a poster titled, “Packing a Punch: Satirizing the ‘New Woman’ In Victorian England.” She researched visual representations of the New Woman of Victorian England, and how these images stereotyped early feminists within the later Victorian period. These representations “show a shifting attitude towards a woman’s place in the later Victorian era and are figureheads for first-wave feminism.”

This year’s conference showcased the research and skill of Millersville students and faculty, and presented an opportunity for students and faculty to learn new ideas about literature, provided networking and mentoring opportunities, and gave students and faculty an opportunity to have fun with English studies. Next year’s conference will be held in Boston, MA.

-Maria Rovito

Re-Imagining Merlin

Professor Leah Hamilton will present a paper on Authorial adaptations at Wayne State University in March. Read about her work below! 

Several years ago I was confused by some very strange questions from students about the Arthurian tradition. The students eventually confessed that those questions were inspired by a television show I had never heard of: the BBC’s Merlin. Anyone who teaches literature contends with the many popular book, film, and television adaptations that influence in-class discussions, and it is helpful to know what students are influenced by and watching. So, that very week I set out to watch the first episodes in order to better “unteach” the show’s (apparently) strange presentations of the characters and tales. Instead, the students won me over; years later, I find myself championing the show as a significant adaptation of the Arthurian tradition as I develop a presentation paper about Merlin for Wayne State University’s conference “Telling & Retelling Stories: (Re)imagining Popular Culture,” and write a chapter for editor Susan Austin’s upcoming book, Arthurian Legend in the 20th & 21st Centuries.

Merlin includes many obvious adaptations to the Medieval stories (including casting Merlin, Arthur, and Lancelot as young adults simultaneously), but to me the most striking change is an emphatic erasure of Christianity from the stories. The omission of Christianity complicates the retelling of quite a few tales, perhaps most notably those involving the Holy Grail, and this was particularly intriguing as I waited for the young Lancelot and Guinevere’s flirtation to develop into their famously treasonous relationship.  How would the writers of the BBC show redeem these characters and preserve their exemplary status without Christianity?

As I analyze the changes to plot and characterization of the characters, I am examining at the same time the circumstances under which modern audiences are willing (or unwilling!) to forgive heroes for missteps, and how the writers of the BBC’s hit show navigate this issue again and again through the five seasons (series) of Merlin. This is particularly relevant as modern audiences are increasingly vocal and public in their responses to the failures of political leaders, celebrities, and other cultural exemplars. Analysis of popular texts about some of the most beloved heroes of all time and the way in which writers are successful in persuading audiences to forgive their flaws (and at times their grievous missteps) may give some insight not only into the Arthurian tradition, but also into current attitudes regarding remorse, atonement, and redemption.

Leah Hamilton

Dyslexia Conference Provides Resources for Region

Demystifying Dyslexia Organizer Dr. Jill Craven, Speaker Sara Page Stinchcomb, and Keynote Speaker Dr. Marilyn Bartlett
Demystifying Dyslexia Organizer Dr. Jill Craven, Inspirational Speaker Sara Page Stinchcomb, and Keynote Speaker Dr. Marilyn Bartlett

On Saturday, January 26th, Millersville University hosted a conference about dyslexia and strategies for making students with dyslexia successful.

Dr. Stacey Irwin introduces "Raising Faith"
Dr. Stacey Irwin introduces “Raising Faith”

The morning’s main sessions included a description of dyslexia and its subtypes by Dr. Peg Kay, an inspirational speech by advocate Sara Page Stinchcomb, and the premiere of a film about dyslexia by Dr. Stacey Irwin, Raising Faith.

Reviewing the types of dyslexia, Dr. Kay emphasized that recognizing dyslexia early can dramatically reduce the challenges people with dyslexia face. The window to address the issues runs up until 3rd grade. Several attendees recounted that local school districts tend to tell parents that students may “grow out of it” and that parents should wait until 3rd grade to request accommodations; this strategy hurts students.  Ms. Sara Page Stinchcomb then gave an inspirational speech about the need to change attitudes about dyslexia; she received a standing ovation from the audience.  To finish the morning sessions, Dr. Irwin’s film explored many different perspectives on dyslexia from students with dyslexia and their families. Families were particularly struck by hearing stories similar to their own.  Audience members then asked questions of the experts in attendance.

Dr. Marily Bartlett explains her struggle to get accommodations on the Bar exam
Dr. Marily Bartlett explains her struggle to get accommodations on the Bar exam

The morning sessions were followed by a rousing keynote address by Marilyn Bartlett of her decade-long struggle to receive accommodations for the NY Bar.  The keynote address was attended by 95 students, community members, and faculty members, many of whom resonated with the struggles to attain equity in educational endeavors either as people with dyslexia or as advocates for people with educational challenges.

The day continued with 15 different breakout sessions to help families, teachers, administrators, and people with dyslexia. The sessions were well attended by teachers, students, parents, administrators, advocates, and friends.

Dr. Janet Josephson explains how dyslexia presents.
Dr. Janet Josephson explains how dyslexia presents.

Dr. Janet Josephson held an extremely popular session on how dyslexia presents.  The crowded Stayer multipurpose room attested to the regional interest in understanding dyslexia.  Dr. Pamela Kastner, the statewide lead for Literacy (PaTTAN), provided two informative sessions on phonics, which were particularly popular with teachers.

Scotia mugs for the camera while Dr. Bartlett explains the need for "a bible" to fight for one's rights
Scotia mugs for the camera while Dr. Bartlett explains the need for “a bible” to fight for one’s rights

The breakout sessions  provided important and useful information for people with dyslexia, their families, and teachers.  For example, Dr. Bartlett recommended books like Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy.  Sessions on the differences between the IDEA, Section 504, and the ADA-AA were particularly appreciated by Millersville Education students, regional professionals, and parents.

Dr. Bartlett explains the differences between the IDEA, Section 504, and the ADA-AA
Dr. Bartlett explains the differences between the IDEA, Section 504, and the ADA-AA







Some regional resources for students with dyslexia were also discussed in the sessions.  These included the Children’s Dyslexia Center, the Delaware Valley Friends School (DVFS), and psychologists like Dr. Margaret Kay.  Parents, in particular, were grateful to have a game plan for addressing their children’s needs.

Helen Mannion and Kathy Halligan explaining the brain structure underlying dyslexia
Helen Mannion and Kathy Halligan of DVFS explain the brain structure underlying dyslexia

Overall, attendees were excited to talk about an issue that is particularly important to them, and were grateful for both the information and the resources presented.

Recordings of eight sessions are available on YouTube, including:

Helping with Homework Session
Helping with Homework Session
Understanding the difference between the IDEA, Section 504, and the ADA-AA
Understanding the difference between the IDEA, Section 504, and the ADA-AA

Demystifying Dyslexia Day January 26th at Millersville

On Saturday, January 26, Millersville University will share speakers on dyslexia with our community.  Depending on the definition used for dyslexia (which occurs at different levels), between 5-10% of the population is affected by this language-based learning disability. The day will feature different perspectives and discussions to further personal and professional knowledge about this disorder.

The event will commence in the morning at the Winter Center (60 West Cottage Ave) on Millersville campus, and move to Stayer Building for breakout sessions in the afternoon.  Admission is free and open to the public, excluding the lunch session with Marilyn Bartlett, which is $12.


Registration is required. A small fee ($5 per credit) will be charged for those desiring CEU or Act 48 credits.


  • 8:00 Coffee and Registration
  • 9:00 Welcome (Dr. Jill Craven)
  • 9:15 Dyslexia, Its Subtypes, and Testing (Dr. Margaret Kay)
  • 10:15 Break
  • 10:30 Dyslexia: A Strength, Not a Weakness (Ms. Sara Page Stinchcomb)
  • 10:45 Raising Faith (a film on dyslexia by Dr. Stacey Irwin)

LUNCH and KEYNOTE ($12, GORDINIER HALL–Free for MU Students with ID)

  • 12:00 Lunch: Gordinier Hall, Lehr room
  • 12:30 Telling Her Story: The Marilyn Bartlett Case (Dr. Marilyn Bartlett)
Marilyn J Bartlett, J.D., Ph.D._Apr12

Dr. Marilyn Bartlett, J.D., Ph.D. , former Dean and Professor at Texas A&M University, is a person who is dyslexic. She requested accommodations on the NY Bar Exam and was denied.  Dr. Bartlett argued in court that she should receive accommodations on the test based on her learning disability and slow reading speed due to dyslexia. After a ten year battle, she won the case for herself and all of those persons who are protected by the ADA-AA and need accommodations for their disabilities when studying in post-secondary institutions and taking professional exams. Her case is still good law in the Second Circuit


2:00 Breakout Session I (Stayer Hall)

  1.   Getting help in college (Audience: 1, 4)
    Julianne Browne
  2.    Helping with Homework (Audience: 1, 2)
    Kevin Ghaffari, Abby Rissinger, Sara Page Stinchcomb
  3.   “What is the difference among IDEA, the ADA-AA2008 and Sec 504” (Audience: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
    Dr. Marilyn J Bartlett
  4.   “How Dyslexia Presents” (Simulation Session) (Audience: 1, 2, 3, 6)
    Dr. Janet Josephson
  5.  “The International Dyslexia Association’s  (IDA) Knowledge and Practice Standards for teacher of reading”—(Audience: 3,5)
    Dr. Pamela M. Kastner

2:45 Breakout Session II (Stayer Hall)

  1. How to be a better self-advocate. (Audience: 1, 2, 4, 6)
    Kevin Ghaffari, Abby Rissinger, and Sara Page Stinchcomb
  2.  “The process of being tested”  (Audience: 1, 2, 4, 6)
    Dr. Margaret Kay
  3. “Transitioning:  Middle School to High School to College to Graduate School” (Audience: 1, 2, 4, 6)
    Dr. Marilyn J Bartlett
  4.  “Beyond Blending and Segmenting: Advanced Phonemic Awareness”
    (Audience: 6)
    Dr. Pamela M. Kastner
  5. “Psychological basis of Dyslexia and Co-morbid Conditions” (Audience: 2, 3, 4, 6)
    Kathy Halligan and Helen Mannion

3:30   Breakout Session III  (Stayer Hall)

  1.   “How to be Successful as a Student with Dyslexia” (Audience: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6)
    Kevin Ghaffari, Abigail Rissinger, Sara Page Stinchcomb
  2.    Offerings of the Childrens Dyslexia Center in Lancaster (Audience: 6)
    Heather Hinkel, Director of the Children’s Dyslexia Center
  3.  “Making a Game Plan for Raising a Child with Dyslexia” (Audience:  2)
    Dr. Marilyn Bartlett
  4.  “Beyond Blending and Segmenting: Advanced Phonemic Awareness”  PART 2
    (Audience: 6)
    Dr. Pamela M. Kastner
  5.   “Multi-Sensory Reading Programs” (Audience: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6)
    Kathy Halligan and Helen Mannion
Demystifying Dyslexia Poster

4:20-5pm Stayer Refreshments

Audience Key:

  1. Students
  2. Parents
  3. Teachers and Future Teachers
  4. Counselors
  5. Administrators, Advocates and Attorneys
  6. Everyone


Dr. Marilyn Bartlett, J.D., Ed. D.
Dr. Bartlett is a Retired Dean and Professor of Educational Administration, Law and Policy at Texas A&M University.  Currently Dr. Bartlett is an Advocate for students and parents who are requesting services from schools K-16.  As the plaintiff in Bartlett v New York Board of Law Examiners (2001), Dr. Bartlett won rights to accommodations under the ADA for dyslexics.

Ms. Julianne Browne, Learning Services, Millersville University
Retired English teacher, Cecil County Public Schools
Current Department Secretary, Office of Learning Services, Millersville University

 Dr. Jill Craven, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of English, Professor of Film Studies, Millersville University

Mr. Kevin Ghaffari, MPS
Special Education Teacher, Millersville University Education Foundations Part-time Faculty Member

Ms. Kathy Halligan
Language Arts Teacher, Delaware Valley Friends School.  Kathy trained at Teacher’s College with Judith Birsh in the Orton Gillingham Program. She is also trained in The Wilson Reading System, Just Words, Fundations, and the Read Naturally Fluency Program. 

Ms. Heather Hinkel
Center Director, Children’s Dyslexia Center of Lancaster

Dr. Stacey Irwin, Ph.D.
Professor of Communication and Theatre, Millersville University

Dr. Janet Josephson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Early, Middle, and Exceptional Education, Millersville University

Dr. Pamela M. Kastner, Ed. D.
Literacy Statewide Lead, Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network [PaTTAN]

Dr. Margaret Kay, Ed.D. NCSP, FABPS
Licensed Psychologist, Nationally Certified School Psychologist, Fellow, American Board of Psychological Specialties with Forensic Specialization in Educational & School Psychology. Dr. Kay has been in private practice since 1980 and is often relied upon by parents and schools to perform Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE’s) for school-age children and college students. Dr. Kay has a doctorate in Educational & School Psychology with a specialization in child neuropsychology and has testified as an expert in a number of Dyslexia cases. The title of her doctoral dissertation was: Cognitive Predictors of the Dyslexia Syndrome and she is a lifetime member of the International Dyslexia Association.

Ms. Helen Mannion, M. Ed., CALT,
Director of Teacher Training, and Director of Language and Literacy Remediation, Delaware Valley Friends School

Ms. Abigail Rissinger
Millersville University Student, Dyslexic Student Advocate

Ms. Sara Page Stinchcomb
Lancaster Country Day Student, Dyslexic Student Advocate


These events were generously supported by Millersville’s Center for Public Scholarship and Social Change, the Dean of the School of Art, Humanities and Social Sciences,  the Dean of the School of Education, the Department of English, and the Office of the Provost.


Resources will be presented by

Literary Festival

The Literary Festival in November 2nd was a great success! If you didn’t have a chance to attend, the theme was “The Writing Life” and there were myriad presentations spanning fiction, poetry, nonfiction, publishing, and everything in between. The guest writers and presenters showcased writing as a means of self-exploration and engagement with the world around us.

The winner of the Flash Fiction Contest was Nichole DiGirolamo, a sophomore Psychology major with a minor in Art — congratulations!

Nichole DiGirolamo

Nichole’s piece, “My Mother’s Closet,” is about childhood memories, specifically memories about the items and colors inside her mother’s closet. Nichole explains, “How I miss being a child and seeing the colors and fabrics and not having a care in the world about anything going on. I wrote the piece because of all of the wonderful memories I had in that closet trying on my mothers shoes that are always way too big. Wearing her jackets that fell to the floor and always seeing the artwork she has kept from all those years. She reacts and treats each one like a million dollar piece of art even though it was terrible.”

An excerpt from her story:

A drawing made by a girl of a house on the hill. It was made with oil pastels, greens, blues, yellows fill the page. The house small but full of windows and doors so there’s a never ending amount of light to enter the home. A bush outside the shape of a cat with a tail longer than a mile it had what looked to be roses growing on it. There’s a walk way with bright pineapple colored stepping stones and in between each stone was smaller lemon colored stones. The sides of the house rough made out of bricks and cement. In the front yard a family, I tall tan man with a mustache the size of the titanic, eyes greener than limes and scribbles on his arms to mimic tattoos. A woman short with blonde hair above her ears with beautiful greenish blue eyes and a girl with long brown hair and straight across bangs giant eyes like pools of chocolate.

This is Nichole’s favorite part of the piece because of the sentimental value: “The picture is me and my family and all the colors and the details used to describe the picture was exactly how it Is described. I drew the photo when I was about 6-7 and remember every moment of making it.” To write the piece of fiction, Nichole describes that she “sat in my mom’s closet and just took a look around at the height level I would be when I was younger. I closed my eyes and touched things and smelled things to get a better sense of my surroundings and to give better detail. I looked at things that had the most meaning, like the shoes and the money. The money showed the trips we took as a family and showed how many memories we had on those trips.”

Here are some photos from the festival on November 2nd:

Panel Discussion – “The Writing Life” From left to right: Barb Strasko, Mitchell Sommers, Matt Kabik, Alex Brubaker, Phil Benoit
Poet Michele Santamaria
Event Organizers: Jeff Boyer and William Archibald

Poet Le Hinton (on left) with Matt Kabik

Former Lancaster Poet Laureate Barb Strasko
Books for sale at the event

Thanks to:

  • Festival Chair William Archibald and Assistant Chair Jeff Boyer for their work organizing the event
  • Curtis Smith, Le Hinton, Jenny Hill, Michele Santamaria, Mitchell Sommers, Barb Strasko, Alex Brubaker, Megan Phillips, Phillip Benoit, Jamie Beth Cohen, Jen Hirt, Laura English, Timothy Mayers, Katarzyna Jakubiak, and Michael Deibert for agreeing to present
  • Graduate Assistant Andie Petrillo for creating the WordPress site and assisting with general planning
  • Rachel Hicks for creating advertising

English Majors Primed to Take on the Digital World

In Dr. Pfannenstiel’s ENGL 318 Web Writing course, Kyle Steffish wrote an essay from the International Policy Conference about English majors in the digital world.

How do you engage with media? This was the big question behind Millersville University’s 11th Annual International Policy Conference held last month. It’s certainly a big question; but one the English Department and its students are primed to tackle.

The second session on the first day of the conference was presented by the English department’s Dr. A. Nicole Pfannenstiel. The session asked visitors to consider topics like technological empowerment and digital citizenship.

Placed around Lehr Room in Gordinier Hall were stations where session visitors could participate in interactive tech demonstrations. One demonstration allowed visitors to play The Stanley Parable, a video game with heavy existential overtones, questioning free will and the illusion of choice.

Visitors were asked to think about their time playing The Stanley Parable – to think of themselves as an audience and how they interacted with the game, the aim being to decide if the player was making their own decisions or if the game was making decisions for them through an algorithm. In other words: how much control do we have when interacting with digital media and how much are we influenced?

While the individuals who visited the session were certainly engaged, it was clear ideas like digital citizenship and empowerment were not questions many people pondered while twiddling on their social media, posting to their blog, or shopping on Amazon.

We live in a digital world. A world where leaving our house and realizing we forgot our phone causes panicked patting of pockets and a cold sweat. Most people engage with technology and act as digital citizens every day – including, of course, Millersville’s English students and English professors.

Yet, as writers, as rhetoricians, as composition instructors both present and future, are we engaging enough with these ideas and questions?

How do we engage with media?

Does technology empower us or entrap us?

What is digital citizenship?

And maybe the most important question of all: are students prepared for an ever increasing digital world?

Millersville’s English program is an excellent place to try to answer these questions and, better yet, empower students as digital citizens.

English classes like the recently introduced Web Writing (ENGL 318) offer a place to start for engaging students with and preparing them for a digital world. Classes like Web Writing encourage students to think about rhetoric and composition in ways they rarely do. Rhetorical thinking – like purpose, audience, and kairos – is shifted from the purely academic space to the digital space – a space where rhetorical thinking is especially critical. This space is quickly becoming ever important to all levels of our society. Having the tools to understand and create compelling content within this space is a necessity.

As English majors graduate and enter careers, it becomes clear the landscape has changed. There is a need for writers savvy with Search Engine Optimization, with social media platforms, and with creating multimodal content for websites and blogs.

Take a walk through any career fair and you’ll quickly see copy and content writers are in high demand. More so, regardless of career, you’ll see the importance for the skills needed for digital readiness – skills that are already being taught right here in Millersville’s English department.

We are on the frontier of the digital age. It is clear technology shapes how we write and how we think of writing. Yet this is still also new. It is exciting. We are trail blazers, explorers, carrying rhetoric and composition forward. Though classes like Web Writing are a great beginning, it is only the start.

Events like the International Policy Conference show we are only just scratching the surface of how we think about and engage with media, how we can empower ourselves through it, and how we can become digital citizens prepared for a digital world.

I believe the English department is the best place to push this frontier forward. The English program not only needs classes like Web Writing, but classes that emphasize digital rhetoric, skills, and citizenship.

Kyle Steffish 

Powerful Media Use at the International Policy Conference

Leah Hoffman participated in the International Policy Conference held on October 24th and 25th at MU. Check out her experience below! 

The International Policy Conference, focusing on the Power of Media, was held on October 24 and 25. One of the sessions focused on interacting with other languages and cultures in a digital space. Along with two other students, I examined the possibility for misinterpretation of other languages when engaging online and the practices that will hopefully lend themselves to more successful communication across languages.

The first aspect to our presentation focused on idiomatic phrases and their use in language. I brought some Spanish idiomatic phrases and asked students to use an online translator to learn the literal meaning of the phrase. We then contrasted the literal and idiomatic phrases. For example, “ser pan comido” literally translates as “to be eaten bread,” but it is more closely aligned to the American idiomatic phrase “to be a piece of cake.” I asked students to consider how a lack of cultural understanding or going solely off a literal translation could make communication more difficult, or even impossible. This began a discussion of user responsibility to have personal or cultural knowledge when interacting with other languages online, or at the very least user understanding that some meanings may literally get lost in translation.

We then spoke about the use of proverbs and sayings and their ability to convey the morals of a society. There is a Japanese proverb that literally translates to “Let the cute journey.” This may not make sense to a nonnative, but the meaning behind the proverb is not dissimilar to the American proverb meaning “spare the rod, spoil the child”. Again, this demonstrates the need for deeper cultural understanding, an understanding that cannot simply be garnered through an online translator.

To conclude our session, we introduced a quote from Nigerian author Chinua Achebe who suggested that “proverbs are like the palm oil with which words are eaten.” We asked students to consider how proverbs and idiomatic phrases allow us to communicate more clearly. We noted their importance in expressing abstract thoughts or making concepts and ideas more digestible. Students were challenged to think of modern or digital examples that serve the same purpose across different modes of communication. They were invited to participate in an ongoing conversation by adding their own thoughts and realizations to the poster with sticky notes, which were available for other students with the purpose of seeing how their peers were engaging with the content. Students made suggestions of examples in digital communication, such as the use of emojis to clarify text messages or the unifying or clarifying roles of memes of gifs which contain their own brand of meaning that can transcend communication barriers.

Overall, the goal of the session was to make students more cognizant of aspects of language that may not always be received when engaging in online communication. This called to attention practices that they may employ in digital communication to clarify their own intentions and messages. Overall, the students came away with a new perspective on their roles as digital citizens and a deeper understanding of intercultural interactions online in an age where the entire world is connected.

Leah Hoffman