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The English Department’s muse: Sarah Sagan reflects on her undergraduate career

Sarah Sagan at a poetry reading
Maddison Behringer / THE GATEPOST

By Abigail Petrucci

Staff Writer

She is a woman with a colorful personality with many unique outfits to match.

She is the friendly face of both the English and Gaming clubs.

She is an IT expert as well as an English major enrolled in the department’s 4+1 Program.

She’s senior Sarah Sagan.

As president of the English Club, Sagan strives to create a welcoming environment not just for English majors, but for anyone who is interested in sharpening their writing skills or editing a paper for their class, or even those who just enjoy reading in their spare time.

For Sagan, it’s meaningful to be able to reach out to students from so many different majors.

“We like to balance between life skills, writing, editing, and critical thinking skills as well as just having fun in general,” Sagan said. “It's an academic club, but also to show that English is a lot of fun.

“It’s a very casual space. Each week, we do something very different,” she added.

To “foreground” that all majors are welcome, Sagan likes to host a variety of word games, such as Bananagrams and Scrabble. Club members also discuss what kinds of books they’ve been reading.

She said one time, the club read “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi as a book club activity.

The English Club meets online over both Discord and Zoom to be able to cater to all members’ busy schedules.

As president of the Gaming Club, Sagan organizes a combination of both board and video games. “We have all sorts of games,” she said, “from ‘Abyss’ to ‘Sheriff of Nottingham’ to ‘Cockroach Poker,’ which is a popular one, as well as lesser-known games like ‘Project O.’”

Sagan added she is in charge of video game activities. “I bring in my Switch almost every week and I host ‘Mario Kart,’ ‘Mario Party,’ ‘Smash Brothers’ - those kinds of fun games that everyone can jump in and play.”

This semester, the Gaming Club hosted many events. One of them was a trip to PAX East, a popular gaming convention, which is a collaboration with the Comic Book Club. Sagan also said the club hosted a ‘Smash Bros’ tournament last week.

When the campus closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sagan said there was a decline in club activity. Many students found Gaming Club to be their outlet.

On top of all her club engagements, Sagan is a member of the Honors and the English 4+1 programs.

Sagan completed an honors thesis, “How to Overcome Climate Grief: An Ecocritical Approach to Diverse, Contemporary Indian Texts.”

Lisa Eck, chair of the English department, said, “The Honors Program promotes interdisciplinary learning, but if we're really honest with ourselves, there are few truly interdisciplinary thinkers who can inhabit multiple disciplines at once - Sarah Sagan is one of those thinkers.”

Eck said working with Sagan on her honors thesis was “a weekly dose of inspiration and originality” and “devotion to a cause much larger than herself.”

The 4+1 Program can be taken as part of a student’s undergraduate curriculum, and allows for them to earn their master’s degree in one extra year. Some of the graduate classes can be taken as an undergraduate.

Sagan is currently taking her second graduate-level class with English professor Desmond McCarthy: Contemporary African American Literature.

“That’s been incredibly engaging,” Sagan said. “It's an important class because we are a campus that promotes diversity.” She found it important that the literature offerings at FSU reflect this commitment.

Sagan said although the graduate classes are challenging, they are worth the extra effort as she feels motivated and supported by her professors and classmates. She enjoys the “tight-knit community” of the smaller-sized classes.

“I wholeheartedly think that it's worth the time, effort, and money,” she said.

When Sagan was a freshman in 2018, she traveled to India with Eck after taking her Contemporary Global Literature class. She said she was encouraged to go by both Eck and her mother.

Sagan said they had the opportunity to do a homestay and experience life in a small village, as well as help the community by cleaning up a local body of water.

While in India, Sagan had the chance to take pictures of the mynah bird, which is native to the country, as well as the landscapes of the beaches.

She also enjoyed the opportunity to build human connections, specifically with a 12-year-old boy named Sidharth.

Sagan described the experience as “unbelievable” and “an adventure.

“It was a really great learning experience, just to see how different the culture is,” she added.

Sagan works as a help desk associate in the IT Department. She helps faculty, professors, and students with their technological questions. She said whether it’s an easy fix or something “super complicated,” she’s always happy to help.

“It can be a puzzle at times, and it's kind of fun to use my critical thinking skills,” she said.

When she applied for the job, she was concerned they were looking for a computer science major, but it turned out critical thinking skills were just as important as technical skills. These were exactly the skills Sagan learned in her English courses by analyzing texts. She said they could easily be applied to troubleshooting an issue with someone’s computer.

“Humanities can build critical thinking skills that can lead to the job world,” she said. "You could go into something more like technical writing or technology. That’s really cool about being an English major.”

It isn’t unusual to see Sagan dressed in non-traditional outfits. When she was in high school, she was inspired by a classmate to take part in what is known as alternative fashion.

She said wearing striking clothing helped her come out of her shell, as it created a conversation starter.

Sagan gets many of her unique outfits from Hot Topic, and she even made some dresses with her grandmother.

“I wear these nice funky outfits because it just feels more original,” she said. “It's kind of like an art project, and if you can wear art, it feels very special and very heartwarming.

“I just think more people should dress weirdly and however they want so they don't feel forced to wear a certain outfit,” she added.

Sagan was inspired to come to FSU by her mother, biology professor Robin Kolnicki.

“When I was 14 or 15, I would actually go to my mom's classes and listen and see what the audience is like,” she said. “I just thought college students were the coolest people - I thought they were so smart. I was like, ‘Oh, I can't wait to be in college and learn all this fun stuff!’”

Now that Sagan is an FSU student, she and Kolnicki commute to campus together. She even pays her mom visits when her class schedule allows.

“Sometimes if there's a gap in my schedule, I like to hang out in her class for a couple of minutes - see what's going on because she's always teaching super-interesting things, from human biology to animal biology,” Sagan said.

“She's one of my inspirations because she always pushes me to go on these trips and go out of my comfort zone,” she added.

Kolnicki said, “I am very proud of Sarah's success at FSU. She truly enjoys being involved in campus activities, leading the English Club and being part of the Gaming Club and Honors Program.

“I will miss her being on campus once she graduates,” she added, “but I think it is likely she will return for future events and adventures.”


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