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Seeing the Beauty of Literature with SEA

Collage of photos from the Student English Association

Literature is a love letter to humanity. Understand literature and you unlock the ability to understand culture and the heart of civilization. At Purdue, a school with a major focus on STEM fields, it is essential to nurture a space in which students from all disciplines can appreciate literature away from the classroom, create works of their own and provide constructive feedback. The Student English Association (SEA) provides the space to develop members’ writing skills, gain peer feedback, improve their editing and appreciate literature with like-minded people.

SEA is not only a hub for creatives to dive into literature and develop their writing but also provides a unique opportunity for members. SEA publishes The Bell Tower which is Purdue’s only undergraduate literary magazine. The magazine publishes a variety of works, including short stories, poems, non-fiction pieces, art and photography. Each year, from September 15-December 31, submissions are accepted and the magazine is published online in April. Physical copies are also available for pre-order. Those interested in submitting gain the unique honor of getting their work published and those interested in editing gain experience valuable for entering the publishing industry.Photo of book titled The Bell Tower

SEA is an organization full of opportunities. Outside of developing prowess in writing and comprehending literature, president Olivia DeYoung, a senior double-majoring in English literature and professional writing, cites that, “SEA gives members the opportunity to get experience in editing and building collaboration and teamwork skills. Members can also run for club officer positions to gain skills in event planning, leadership, marketing and communication.

“SEA provides a place for students of all majors to take the time to read and enjoy English,”

DeYoung continues. “A lot of people in our club, including club officers, are STEM majors. I think that speaks to how important it is to have an outlet for English and writing outside of the classroom.”

Olivia Budzevski, vice president of SEA and a senior majoring in biology with a minor in creative writing, agrees with this. Budzevski says, “At a STEM-based campus like Purdue, it’s important for students to have opportunities to indulge in their other hobbies, passions and creative endeavors. Even those extremely passionate about STEM could use a break from it, so SEA offers the perfect way to do so.”

When asked about the importance of including all majors, DeYoung emphasizes, “We believe everyone should have a place to explore and discuss English and writing.”

Reflecting on her time with SEA, Budzevski stresses, “I am very grateful to have this creative outlet to nurture my love of literature and poetry.”

In the fall, SEA has general meetings on Thursdays from 6-7 p.m. Events during the fall of 2023 included movie viewings, book picnics, poetry nights and more. For the spring semester, SEA is focused on editing and publishing The Bell Tower. The year always ends with an author and editor party to celebrate the hard work accomplished and the new edition of the magazine. Editing is split between two groups, poetry and fiction. In these groups, the president and vice president lead discussions in each category regarding submissions and record final decisions.

“Literature is a place for connection to start,” DeYoung says. “It brings people together and when people get together, great things happen like SEA and The Bell Tower.”

Though DeYoung has many wonderful memories with SEA, two stick out in particular.

“The past two years, we have taken a trip to the Purdue Archives, hosted by archivist Adriana Harmeyer,” she reminisces. “It was really cool to see all the old books and other text that Purdue has and getting to appreciate the materials with other book lovers made the experience even more special. I also loved getting to co-host the first Bell Tower author and editor reception last year. Seeing the authors share their works live and the audience's live reaction was just incredible. It felt like the way that the magazine was meant to be enjoyed.”

As for Budzevski, a transformative experience involving integrative art was a fond point of reflection.

“One of my favorite memories from SEA was visiting the art exhibition at Pao [Hall] and writing poetry based on inspiration from some of the art pieces,” Budzevski says. “Up until that point, I hadn’t done something like that. I think it’s a great idea to allow other forms of art to propel your own ideas for creative writing.”

When asked about a piece of literature that highlights her time at SEA, Budzevski says, “I would compare my experience with SEA to Wendy Cope’s poem, ‘The Orange.’ It’s a poem that is centered around appreciating little things in life that tend to go overlooked. The last line really sums it up for me, ‘I love you. I’m glad I exist.’ I’ve had such a lovely time over these past four years and it has meant a lot to me to have a safe space for my creative energy.”

Photo of Student English Association member reading slides on why someone should read Biography and Nonfiction books

Students who find themselves curious to learn more about the behind-the-scenes of a literary journal, or who are individuals who like reading and writing are highly encouraged to join SEA. To join, members should attend callouts in the fall and spring and are welcome to attend events. These events are posted on BoilerLink and Instagram.