Aspire: HSSE Student Conference Spotlight

Nicole Borland-Winkler's Aspire Conference poster

Nicole Borland-Winkler’s Aspire Conference poster

Aspire is a day-long annual conference to showcase exceptional work done by students in the School of the Humanities, Social Sciences & Education. It took place on campus on Tuesday, April 12, 2016.

The students of Cutting Edge Experimental Short Forms, an advanced creative writing class, were a group among many who participated in the conference.  Dr. Debra Brenegan, associative professor of English, teaches the experimental short forms course.

“It’s really nice that we can pause our usual day-to-day grind of whatever anyone’s doing in the classroom and celebrate what we’ve done so far, but also look at what’s happening in all the other classrooms that we don’t get to be apart of,” said Brenegan.

Brenegan told the class about Aspire weeks before the conference and provided posters for each of the students. Ashley Messier, senior graduating with a degree in Psychology, was in the course.

“I was excited because it was a way to visually portray the images in my poems,” she said. “I went to Michael’s and I got colored paper, and cool cut outs and what not.”

During the session, students stood by their posters to receive questions, comments, and general feedback on their work.

“It was really awkward at first to stand there quietly while you watch people read your poems, but sometimes people asked what the inspiration was for it or what the assignment was, so you had to go into detail about that,” Messier said.

“It helps everybody understand the depth of work that’s going on.”   –Dr. Brenegan

Aspire sparked the interest of Brenegan because it was different from conferences she had witnessed in the past.

“Whenever I have seen conferences like this that has poster sessions, they almost always are for science,” Brenegan said. “I was trying to think of a way to incorporate English into the poster. For me, it just made sense to show short forms of creative writing on the posters and let the students do a visual representation of their work. It turned out wonderfully.”

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