Meet Madison Sides

Photo Credit: Student Spotlight Madison Sides
Wed, 01/11/2023 - 09:33

Photo above: Madison in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

Majors: French, English
Hometown: Beaver Lake, Nebraska

Why did you select your majors?
I decided to declare a major in French towards the end of the second semester of my sophomore year, when I was in both 203 and 204. At that point, I was a French minor, and I'd decided to pursue French because I was already really passionate about the language and being a global citizen. When I realized I'd only need to take about four extra classes, I was determined to make it happen. Catherine Johnson, one of the French faculty members, really inspired me to pursue a French degree because of her consistent encouragement (and faith in my language-learning abilities!).

I decided to major in English once I realized that I wanted to pursue poetry and dedicate more time to my writing. I was a little bit nervous because of the negative stereotypes surrounding majoring in the humanities, but I'm so glad that I did. French and English feel right for me.

What is your favorite course you have taken from your programs and why?
My favorite French course I've taken was French 304, "Advanced Grammar and Composition" with Professor Stump. I think that Prof. Stump is a brilliant professor. The class was always engaging, and I learned so much about the French language. I've never felt so challenged to be an active learner! I put a lot of time into the class, but I feel like I got a lot out of it. I have to also mention French 319, which is phonetics with Prof. Johnson. I recommend this class to every single person that I can! It improved my listening and speaking abilities by 100x.

My favorite English course I've taken was English 453, "Advanced Poetry Writing". I think there's something very special about creative writing courses that rely heavily on workshops; it can either go very well or very poorly. My class was a phenomenal group of writers and people—my poetry improved, but I gained a lot of lifelong friends from the course.

Who have been some of your strongest mentors or role models here?
In the French department, my strongest mentors are Prof. Catherine Johnson and Dr. Julia Frengs. They've both known me for most of my French career at UNL, and have always encouraged me to strive for the highest. Catherine is always reaching out to me with new opportunities, and Dr. Frengs is always her students' number one supporter. I'm so grateful for both of them. Additionally, Alex Claussen, one of our grad students, has been instrumental in my French learning! He's a great professor and always brings out my passion for speaking French.

In the English department, my two strongest mentors are my two thesis advisors, Dr. Katie Henson and Dr. Stacey Waite. Not only are they both phenomenal poets themselves, they're also wonderful mentors and readers. They've spent a lot of time generously providing feedback on my poems—particularly Katie, who has taught every poetry class that I've taken here at UNL. Katie was the one who made me believe that I could write in the first place!

Have you had an internship or job?
I worked in the Writing Center for a year and half, which was a great experience. I loved meeting with new people every appointment, from engineering PhD students to undeclared freshman studying abroad at UNL. I'm very passionate about writing, so it was wonderful to be able to help others gain confidence in their writing.

I've also been an intern with the Nebraska Writers Collective, working with their secondary school poetry program. I was able to share my passion for poetry with the next generation of college students and poets, which was incredibly rewarding.

I'm currently wrapping up my time at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on campus where I'm the education intern. As you can probably tell from the other jobs I've held, I'm really passionate about working with other people and creating opportunities for others to engage with their own creativity.

Through this internship, I was able to help share performances with students pre-K through 12 all across the state of Nebraska.

What are you involved in on campus or in the community?
I'm heavily involved with the band programs on campus. I am the captain of the Marching Band's color guard, and I'm also president of the band fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi. I also play oboe in one of the concert bands.

I'm also a member of the Innocents Society, which is the Chancellor's Senior Honorary. That means that I'm one of 13 seniors who are working to promote school spirit and the betterment of UNL. I was chosen based off of superior academic achievement, unparalleled leadership, and selfless service to the university and community!

I've also held positions on campus with the UNL Young Democrats and the Residence Hall Association, and I am a College of Arts and Sciences Student Ambassador.

In addition, I go to the French Conversation Table nearly every Thursday! It's usually one of the highlights of my week.

What are your plans after graduation?
I have a couple of options that I'm considering, and I feel grateful that I'll be able to pursue whatever I decide is best. At the moment, I'm applying to TAPIF (teaching assistantship program in France), the French MA program, and copywriting positions.