As soon as classes are done for the day, many students race home to their comfy beds for an afternoon nap or head straight to the couch for a snack and Jersey Shore marathon. For some, the only time spent on campus is when they are actually in class. Senior Sara Strong, however, is embracing her last year at MU and taking on quite a list of campus organizations.
In fact, Sara is most proud of realizing when she’s taken on a bit too much.
“Over the last few years, I’ve developed a better sense of when to say ‘no’ and recognize when I’m trying to do too much at once,” Sara says. “That’s something I’ve struggled with since high school. I’m always eager to get involved with new projects and organizations, but it’s so important to prioritize and say, ‘This is my limit,’ then put my energy to its best use.”
Sara, an English major, has been a member of English at MU (EMU) since her freshman year. EMU is the undergraduate student association that produces Epic, Mizzou’s undergraduate literary magazine. Sara has moved up the ranks and is now president of EMU. In addition to the two campus groups, she is also employed as an editorial assistant at The Missouri Review and has formerly worked as a tutor in the MU Learning Center and a circulation assistant at Ellis Library.
Whew. With a packed schedule, it’s hard to believe the amount of enthusiasm Sara still has for each of her endeavors. As president of EMU and associate editor of Epic, this senior welcomes the responsibility and is psyched about what these last few months at MU will bring.
Her Campus Mizzou: Tell us about EMU.
Sara Strong: EMU is the official undergraduate English organization here at Mizzou, and it’s been around for over a decade. We try to provide our members with both the chance to get to know faculty and undergraduates who share their interests and the opportunity to get more involved on campus and in the community. This past semester, members volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club, with the Intensive English Program’s Conversation Partners program for international students, and in UNICEF’s annual Trick-or-Treat fundraiser. EMU also sponsored an undergraduate reading at Orr Street Studios and hosted extracurricular creative writing workshops. Our biggest project every year is Epic, produced entirely by our student staff.
HCM: As president, what changes or improvements have you made to the group?
SS: Like I said, EMU’s been around for quite a while, and it has a number of tried-and-true yearly standbys — Epic, of course; Pizza with the Profs; outings to Cooper’s Landing; writing workshops. We kept those going this year with a few tweaks but added a community service requirement. New Voices at Orr Street, which is actually the first in a series of undergraduate readings that I co-founded with poet John Nieves, was another new addition. We’d had Open Mic Nights with varying degrees of success in the past, but never anything like this, and the turnout was extraordinary. It was really gratifying to see how many people were interested.
HCM: What’s Epic all about?
SS: Epic provides the undergraduate writers and artists at Mizzou with a venue for their work. We publish an issue late each spring containing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, photography and other 2D art after a reading period lasting from late January through most of March. All our staff members and readers are Mizzou undergrads, and our reading process is anonymous. We have a long history of talented staff members, and their work often appears in the magazine. Some people are put off by that, but we’re proud of it. The pieces are selected blindly, and if they make it into the magazine, it’s because they’re quality writing, not because so-and-so submitted such-and-such story. The skill that goes into that work is also going into the magazine, and it shows.
(Photo by Breezy Torres)
HCM: What do we have to look forward to in this year’s issue of Epic? Any surprises?
SS: Epic is always a surprise. We never quite know what to expect from our submissions pool. Our reading period will start next week, and by spring break we’ll know what will appear in our pages. That said, we’re excited that Epic’s 10th annual issue will appear in a new form: an eBook. We’ll still have a healthy print run, but now the magazine, which is always free, will also be available electronically. Many publishers bemoan the movement toward electronic media, but we see it as a fantastic opportunity to expand our audience and learn how to navigate a new medium.
HCM: What is the best part about being a member of Mizzou organizations?
SS: The people, no question. EMU does a lot of things, but at its core, any organization is only as good as its members and only as strong as the bonds between them. The friendships I’ve made with people through EMU are far from superficial. I love getting to know people, and as an organizational leader, I love getting to create a context in which people are comfortable being themselves with one another and can develop the same sorts of friendships I’ve been so fortunate to have.
HCM: What legacy do you want to leave for future members of EMU and Epic?
SS: I’d love for future members to heighten our community involvement. Now that we have a community service chair as part of the leadership board, and members have a bit of experience volunteering, I hope that we can do some more specific projects in the coming years. English sometimes feels like a hard major to justify, but groups like EMU have the potential to show exactly how valuable people who have a background in English can be to their communities.
HCM: Where do you see yourself next year? In five years?
SS: That’s a hard question to answer. I don’t really know where I’ll be at this time next year. The one thing I know I never want to stop doing is writing poetry, and I’d like to teach as well, so I’ve applied to five different grad schools with strong creative writing programs. If I don’t get in right away, I’ll keep applying, but I’d be happy continuing to work at The Missouri Review next year while writing and getting certified to teach high school English. There are a few other possibilities I’m considering, but everything’s a bit fluid right now, and I’ve accepted that. In five years, though, I would hope to either be in a writing program or a graduate of one on my way to a professorship.