New English club aims to build community within English department

East Hall, home of the English Department, is pictured on Nov. 8, 2019. Christine Lee / The Tufts Daily Archives

With an array of potential courses and many ways to fulfill the major requirements, English majors can feel a lack of community within the major. 

“The English major as a major is actually really disparate and has no clear track, so a lot of the students don’t end up seeing each other for more than a class or two,” senior Casey Zorn said.

There has always been a discussion among the English Department faculty members about how to best create a sense of community within the major, according to Ichiro Takayoshi, an associate professor of English. 

“There was always a discussion among the faculty members about the best way to create some kind of common spirit among the students,” Takayoshi said. 

Ideas about how to do this included hosting luncheons and other events for majors, as well as having a graduation party for English majors prior to commencement. Having a club for the students had always been part of the discussion, Takayoshi said. 

It was just a matter of finding enough student interest to get a club up and running. With a critical mass of interest, Takayoshi and other English department faculty felt the time was right.

Last semester, professors in the English department gathered students who had expressed interest and pitched the idea for the English Majors and Minors Society to the students. From there, it was up to students to take responsibility for launching the club, Zorn, an English and environmental engineering double major, said. 

“It was an effort on behalf of the English professors to connect the English students because we’re small in numbers and we don’t know each other, which is kind of funny. [It’s] an effort to make us socialize,” junior Ethan Resek said. 

Sophomore Harrison Witt was one of the students involved with the founding of the club. 

“We had a meeting and [the English Department faculty] pretty much immediately handed the reins to a group of students that wanted to form the executive team,” Witt, the recently elected president of the club, said. “Then, from there, we started meeting almost every week.” 

Since this initial meeting at the start of the semester, the students involved have been working to establish the club. 

While the English Majors and Minors Society is not officially recognized by the Tufts Community Union, they still have plans for events this semester and in the future. The club holds weekly executive board meetings to brainstorm ideas and plan events for the week. Witt hopes the club will have events every week.

Some of these potential events include panels of professors and students before course selection, author visits and social events, Witt said. The club additionally has a budget from the English department to put on events, according to Zorn.

Resek, one of the co-executives of operations, said one of the biggest things currently in the works is a story slam with student performances. 

So far the club has hosted a silent book club a couple of times. In this time, students do about 45 minutes of silent reading or writing, whether it be for a class or for pleasure. At the end, students engage in a discussion about what they respectively read or wrote. 

“It gives everyone an opportunity not only to work on their own individual work, but because English majors are so broad in their interests, it allows people who haven’t taken, let’s say, a Milton class, to learn a little bit about Milton, or someone who isn’t as interested in 20th century literature to hear a bit about Hemingway,” Witt said.

It gives people an opportunity to broaden their horizons, Witt added. 

The English Majors and Minors Society is for all those with an interest in English, not just declared majors and minors. 

Witt added the club has an open board, so all those interested in having a vote have that ability. 

“It’s very flexible, and we just want to create a sense of community,” Witt said. 

As a senior, Zorn is hoping to establish this club for future generations of English majors and minors. 

“I really think that it’s important to be able to meet people in your major and create those connections and start networking, so I’ve really just been pushing to have more and more underclassmen take a role,” Zorn said. 

In terms of goals for the club, all of the members interviewed shared an optimistic outlook.

Zorn wants English majors and minors to be proud of their major and excited about future opportunities. 

“I want people to have the opportunity to discuss with each other what they’re planning to do with this major because it’s a major that doesn’t have a clear path after college,” Zorn said. 

One of Takayoshi’s hopes is that students will be able to use this as a learning experience. He believes that a peer-to-peer teaching experience will be beneficial for the students involved. 

“There is something very productive, lasting and real about the learning that takes place between peers, and I hope something like that will happen in all kinds of events,” Takayoshi said. 

Witt believes that the club will serve as a place for students to connect outside of the classroom. It will also serve as a way for students to get involved with the English Department as a whole.

“It’s like the liaison between the department and the student body,” Witt said. 

Takayoshi also hopes students are able to build friendships through the club. 

“I want the students to find friends through their major … I think there is something special about the friends you make through your major,” Takayoshi said. “Obviously you and these friends have some interest in common. You and your friends like reading books, discussing books and writing books.” 

Witt echoed this sentiment, adding that the club will be a great chance to build community on campus. 

“All of us have united under the fact that we all love being English majors,” Witt said. “It’s a really rewarding experience, and you develop a lot of skills. So, giving a space for major specific [programming] and people interested [in English] allows a community to develop and brings that community to campus that could be lacking a little bit.”