#EnglishMajorPerks: What’s New for Students in the Department

by Gina Elbert

By now, you’ve probably seen the call for tote bag designs and the snazzy new pins that the English department has up for grabs at Undergraduate Program Assistant Mary Mezzano’s desk, but did you know that the department now has book awards that are given out every semester?

The awards our own lovely Mary’s brainchild, so you may have seen them in the email newsletters that she periodically sends out (if not, that’s okay – it’s April and we understand if you haven’t gotten around to reading them yet). Previously, the department has given out the Burns prize, for the best essay on Robert Burns in a given academic year, and faculty nominated awards at graduation. Mary told me that she felt there were a dearth of opportunities: “When I was working on my own Undergraduate English degree (at UNF), I sought out awards like these to help pay for books, food, and whatever else came up. I knew we had students here looking for the same kind of scholarships within the department.” To that end, Mary contacted the Undergraduate Program Committee with an idea for a Book Fund Award. With support from both the UPC and English department chair Tom Augst, Mary was able to create two separate awards that students can submit entries for every semester: the Scholars’ Book Fund Award and the English Major Video Award.

The Scholars’ Book Fund Award awards four $250 honoraria every semester to students who provide an outstanding 300-word response to a given essay question. This year, the question was, “If you could create a new course in the English department, what would it be and why?” For those interested in submitting a response, the deadline this spring is on May 7th, by which time you need to have emailed Mary (mm8370@nyu.edu) with a word doc and the subject line: Scholar’s Book Fund Award Application FIRST NAME LAST NAME N-NUMBER. Mary received many responses the first time around, so make sure your entry is strong and polished! The question will change every year to keep the challenge fresh and exciting. The English Major Video Award information is yet to be released, but requirements will include a minimum length of 30 seconds.

The winners of the Scholars’ Book Fund inaugural semester were Joshua Bender for “Filipina/o American fiction after World War II,” Julian Bessinger for “Counterprogramming: The Other Romantic Poets,” George Hajjar for “Renaissance Period Lyric Poetry,” and Anna Kreienberg for “Narrative Medicine and Disability Studies.” It seems that students are just as enthusiastic about the award as Mary herself. “The award helped me pay for textbooks for the next semester (especially for Brit Lit and American Lit),” says George, affirming that Mary’s mission was successful. “I wanted a class in which special attention was given to the multidisciplinary approach in which Renaissance poets engaged with in their writing. Looking at the scientific, musical, and philosophical context will allow students to better understand the poetry of the period.”

What are you waiting for? Get cracking on your entry today!