Christina Romeo is a senior English major graduating this May. During a winter storm, we spoke about the Christina’s experience as an English major and a student at Saint Rose. Christina received the Progessor S.R Swaminathan Award on behalf of the English Department, and is a member of the English Honor Society and the Education Honor Society.
Christina and her friends run the literary Magazine Speak Out. To see what they’ve written, visit: www.speakoutsaintrose.com
BA In May you’ll be graduating with a degree in English. Was this your original intention when you enrolled at Saint Rose?
CR At first, I was an English and Psychology Major with a Clinical/Counseling Concentration. The next year, I dropped Psychology and made it a minor, and then was in English Adolescent Education. During this past summer, I dropped education and my minor and became and English Major.
BA Of the three paths you followed, the straight English seems the least directed in terms of how you answer ‘What are you going to do next?’ What was your motivation for the switch?
CR I think, in the end, it all connected to wanting to serve others. I realized that having an English degree made me better equipped to think critically, make connections, and solve problems. You know, research skills. I also wanted to take more classes in the humanities—like political science, for example—and the BA in English allowed me the space to take those classes.
BA Have you been able to act on your studies in political science?
CR I was recently accepted to the International Human Rights Law Program at Lancaster University, but my options are still open right now. Specifically the MA in Political Science at SUNY Albany and the MPP/ MA Gender+Cultural Studies at Simmons College are still a possibility. My recent internship at the Legislative Women’s Caucus has been wonderful. I do a lot of background research for bills that the caucus wants to propose as well as compose small memos about why this bill should be proposed and put into law. I run all social media accounts, edit historical textbooks on women legislators and historical women firsts in NYS, write letters, and such.
The English Department prepared me and guided me towards wanting to work in public service because they too have always taught from their hearts. It sound super corny and cliche, but without their passion for their craft and always challenging me to connect literature to social, historical, and political contexts made me more aware of how we always have to think larger than ourselves in every aspect of our lives. They certainly made me care more, and that is why I see myself heading into public service.
BA You have been very active within the campus community while at Saint Rose. Do you approach community membership in this same spirit of public service?
CR I do! Public service is about serving your community and maintaining that same transparency. English Club in particular has taught me how to be a good democratic leader.
BA What sort of qualities does a good democratic leader have?
CR I guess I can explain this through how English Club has been run for all these years. We don’t have a set hierarchy. All decisions are made with the E-Board and members unitarily. Everyone has their fair share in how each event will be run and we make sure that every member, no matter their title, has an equal share in the decision. It’s about being transparent, humble, honest, and human. Not about having more power than the person next to you, because in the end you’re all here because you have the same purpose and passion.
BA What kinds of decisions does the English club make in this way?
CR So when it comes to how our events are organized, we plan the details of an event—like the Vagina Monologues—throughout the month all the way down to the finest detail about what color tablecloth we want. We added new follow-up events this year due to the interest of our members. They’re the future of English club, so we made their ideas work. Usually events are planned through E-boards with some suggestions from members. We start from the bottom-up and that’s why our events have a different, home-like feel to them. Another way we use this collective leadership style is through how we run elections. We promote honest conversation, perhaps because of the size of our club, about the next executive board instead of having speeches and a vote.
BA So, you’re advocating for a leader who listens to all members including, in some cases, the person running for the same organizational position.
BA Have you come across similar examples of this leadership style during your academic studies as an English major?
CR Melville taught me to question authority that doesn’t exhibit this type of leadership style. In “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” the walls dividing workers, the unnecessary isolation, and the allocation of importance showed me the authorial controls that are not in service to the greater community.
(Christina opens a copy of Bartleby the Scrivener and shares the photos on the first pages.)
So these 5 photos all come one after another before you begin reading “Bartleby the Scrivener.” The photos gave me a sense of the isolation of labor and self during this time period. With the empty desks, it’s a very compact environment and separated from the rest of the office because they are put in this box. The next photo spread was a prison set right in New York City which contrasts to the last photograph of New York City and one of the bustling city streets. This juxtaposition interested me because with the organization of the desks with then the organization of the cells…it just made me realize how segregated people were back then just as they are now. Also, how the writing desks and the prison cells, of course not the same but both of the constructions had the same type of idea. They both want to confine a person to a space to then be watched over and observed. With the two photographs of the same city but with drastic differences of people, it made me realize that spaces are purposely separated to represent where you should and should not go. It really resonated with the text and helped me understand the story better.