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English-Organized Event Aims to Foster Community

By Brad Tramel

Coffee, cookies, and conversation were abundant at the English department’s first ever Coffeehouse Gathering March 3rd in the Lower Union’s Scandinavian Room.

Politics, literature, and the Study Abroad program dominated the two-hours-long conversation between both students and faculty across multiple departments.

The Coffeehouse Gathering will serve as a replacement event for the English department’s Writer’s Spotlight, a recurring event that provided students a place to present poetry and short prose to their peers and mentors.

“The Writer’s Spotlight, I think, was too formal,” said Mary Comfort, a science education major who works for the English department, sitting in front of a table lined end-to-end with coffee cups and sweet treats. “We’re hoping for a more laid-back vibe.”

“The big goal of these events is to provide a place for English majors to get together to create a stronger community,” said Comfort.

Advertisements for the event on social media and posters strewn about campus enticed students to partake with free things: coffee, banana bread, and good company.

The first ever Gathering—which took place on a Thursday afternoon, while many English majors were in class—seemed at first like a dud.

“You can definitely leave and come back later, if you want,” said Comfort.

Then Angelica Mangiamele entered the room.

“Wow, what’s going on in here?” she asked.

When Comfort explained to her the purpose for the Gathering, Mangiamele, a psychology major, did not hesitate: “I have some poetry.”

She took one seat among the circular arrangement, introduced herself, and recited a poem from her phone. It was about a man in Spain who kicked a dog, and she pondered grace and forgiveness by tying the incident to the Spanish Catholic Church’s Holy Week, or Semana Santa.

At the Writer’s Spotlight, Mangiamele would have received applause before sitting down to let the next writer present.

This format, however, lent itself to discussion. We talked first about Spanish culture, which led to politics, partisanship, and protest around the world. Periodically, students and faculty would show up and add their perspective.

After one poem spurred an hour of conversation, the “laid-back vibe” had been achieved.

The English department plans to host a second Coffeehouse Gathering in mid-April. It will likely be held on a Wednesday afternoon.

Comfort emphasized the overarching goal goes beyond one relaxed event.

“We’ve been working hard to try and create more opportunities for English majors to socialize and have fun,” she said.