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The 35th anniversary of the National Undergraduate Literature Conference

2020 marks 35 years since the Undergraduate Literature Conference was first founded by WSU professors. (Monika Clarke/ The Signpost)

The National Undergraduate Literature Conference is an event that has been held annually for the past 35 years at Weber State University.

Undergraduate students from across the United States submit abstracts, a sort of synopsis of the research they conduct, and come to a three day event.

Visitors can listen to the students present on a wide variety of creative works and literature analyses.

In addition to the presentations, there is a formal banquet where moderators and presenters converse about their research and have the opportunity to hear prestigious guest speakers.

These guest speakers are also present for the three days at the conference and advise presenters and attendees.

Since the conference’s conception, many prominent authors like Carlos Fuentes, Jamaica Kincaid and Ray Bradbury have come to the National Undergraduate Literature Conference over the years to share their insight with new generations of writers and thinkers.

When Dr. Mikel Vause, one of the founders of the conference, was asked how the National Undergraduate Literature conference began, he said, “We decided that we would put together a conference so our students could see how they stack up against other students in the state, so we went to the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Conference and passed out flyers, and before you know it, we had a guy from Idaho wanting to bring students and a woman from Florida wanting to bring students, so we went from the Utah State to the National in about 15 minutes time.”

This conference is now the longest-running undergraduate literature conference in the United States.

In 2020, the National Undergraduate Literature Conference will host guest speakers Richard Ford, Ayana Mathis, Tobias Wolff and Clint Smith.

Sarah Vause, the co-director of the conference, said, “the fact that we have writers who are so prominent and willing to come to an undergraduate conference and talk about writing to me is very unusual and a cool opportunity for students to listen to successful writers.”

Sarah said, “thirty-five years is a long time for a conference to have run and still be running. [This year is] special in that some of the writers who participated in the very first years of the conference are coming back now for the 35th anniversary.”

Tobias Wolff spoke at the first conference, and Richard Ford spoke at the second.

Both are returning in 2020 to commemorate the conference’s thirty-fifth anniversary.

Sarah Vause said, “this year we are dedicating the conference to Alan Cheuse, who was a longtime contributor to the conference. He was killed in a car accident five years ago after he was here for the 30th anniversary.”

Sarah continued, “It’s an opportunity for us to remember some of the people like Alan Cheuse who came before, but also to recognize that this conference continues to have a lot of meaning for a lot of students and a lot of the universities that come every year and continue to come every year.”

Sarah Vause encouraged those who are interested in presenting to apply to the National Undergraduate Literature Conference in 2020.

The conference will be held on March 25 through March 28 in 2020 at Weber State University. The website states that submissions for abstracts opened Oct. 1, 2019, and close Jan. 15, 2020.

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