SEPC, Anyone?

Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 2:23 am | By Amy Henning ’10

Issue:  Fall 2009

Author:  Amy Henning ’10

In my first English class at Grinnell, I was awed by some of the upperclassman. Not only did they know their lit theory, but they also seemed to be involved in some mysterious, nebulous thing called the English SEPC. Was it a clique? A cult? Whatever it was, the members all seemed enthusiastic and committed to this SEPC organization. Eventually I figured out two things: they threw study breaks for English majors from time to time, and ordered English department T-shirts at the end of the year. It was a start.

As I talked with more people about the SEPC, I learned that it was much more than a social group. The acronym “SEPC” stands for “Student Educational Policy Committee,” which suggested slightly more serious educational involvement than just making T-shirts. I speculated with friends about what the SEPC might do, but still did not have a complete idea until the spring of my second year. At that point, the SEPC was looking for new members and sent out a description of the organization to English majors who might want to run for a spot on the committee.

I was immediately convinced to apply for membership. The SEPC, they said, works closely with the English department not only to throw fun study breaks, but also to truly shape the education we receive at Grinnell.

Because I have always cared about my classes and teachers and about pushing my education to the next level, I wanted to join the group to help other students like myself get the best Grinnell English experience possible.

Now I am in my second year on the SEPC, and we’re as busy as ever. We review professors, discuss the English curriculum, and work with the faculty to address issues that arise within the major (for instance, should we push to integrate more theory into survey-level classes?). The SEPC also participates actively in the hiring of new professors for the English department, thus ensuring that students (who know more about what students want to see in a professor than anyone) evaluate those who would teach at Grinnell. English is not alone in this, either — each major has an SEPC, and many of the interdisciplinary concentrations have them, too.

The English SEPC is so much more than I expected it to be back when I first heard of it. In each department, the SEPC is a group of dedicated, intelligent students with a mutual interest in helping create a strong, challenging environment in which to learn. We give students in our major a voice and serve as a liaison between faculty and the student body. The English SEPC is allied with other SEPCs, all invested in the same issues of educational quality and student voice. We all do a good deal to keep the excellence and value of a Grinnell education high. And, you know, we throw some pretty cool study breaks, too.

Amy Henning ’10 is a English major and Linguistics concetrator from Mundelein, Illinois.