Author Archives: keatonbenfield

A Passion for Piedmont: Dr. Stephen Whited Profile Story By Keaton Benfield

In the philosophy of Dr. Stephen Whited, Piedmont College offers students a unique learning opportunity, the community aspect of a small college, that is crucial to creating and fostering an environment for exceptional learning.

“My hope is that people will realize that this is an awesome opportunity to dig in and be independent and take control of your education,” said Dr. Stephen Whited, a professor of English at Piedmont College. “You’re surrounded by people who help you with this and you’re not doing this alone.”

Whited found his way to Piedmont College 25 years ago, but before he became the English professor that he is today, he really didn’t expect to have such a passion for English as a major.

“It never occurred to me to be one,” Whited said. “Once I was in it, I loved it.”

“Some of it was just kind of following an instinct, it really wasn’t a plan,” Whited said. “It was an instinct that worked out.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in English and poetry from Georgia State College, Whited went on to receive his doctorate in English from the University of Kentucky. He began to harness his appreciation for English through teaching experience.

“At the University of Kentucky I liked it,” Whited said. “I was kind of getting the hang of this thing of asking people questions and pestering them to think a little bit.”

In 1993, after teaching at another small college near Lake Michigan, Whited decided to move south and he finally discovered Piedmont College.

“It’ll be 26 years in August,” Whited said. “It’s been a good run, and I’ve had a lot of fun.”

While teaching at Piedmont, Whited integrated a game into some of his courses. This game gives his students a direct approach to the subjects discussed, as well as an appreciation for the history the games represent.

“It’s kind of a hyper setup of a debate,” Whited said. “All of them are arranged around some historical moment. By playing the game you not only have to know the history, you argue it out to see what would happen, and you learn that history sounds like a roll of the dice. It’s life!”

Allyson McCollum, a 21-year-old junior English major, had the opportunity to experience two classes involving these games.

“People were invested in their roles,” McCollum said. “The ones in ‘Nature Writers’ were more difficult because they were newer, but they were still kind of enjoyable.”

Alongside teaching, Whited also took over the reins of the Piedmont chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, known as Alpha Delta Phi, an international English Honor Society.

“I was in Sigma Tau Delta when I was an undergraduate, and it started here right after I got here,” Whited said. “It’s a club for people who like to read. It tends to be English majors, but we do have people from other humanities and departments, and I would like for it to be a bigger blend of that.”

Emily Pierce, a 21-year-old senior English major and social justice minor, is the current president of Sigma Tau Delta at Piedmont College. Looking to the future, she hopes the club continues to grow and prosper.

“We tend to go to the Shakespeare Tavern every semester and many of our members go to conferences,” Pierce said. “I’ve had hopes for the club that haven’t panned out, but I haven’t given up on them, either.”

Whited encourages students to explore their interests, adding that he does not regret any of his college experiences. He only wishes that he knew about Piedmont College during his undergraduate years.

“If I were an undergraduate right now, I would do this in a heartbeat,” Whited said, referring to Piedmont College. “I just think it’s a great little school.”

Whited’s enthusiasm for inspiring students to achieve their goals shines through his teaching and he wants students to appreciate the time they get to spend at Piedmont.

“I just hope people realize that this is a great little place, and a great opportunity to learn,” Whited said. “You’ll never have it again.”


Profile: Austin Elliott by Keaton Benfield

The ability to say or write exactly what one means is a valuable skill to have. That is what 21-year-old Piedmont College student Austin Elliott wants to stress to anyone pursuing a career involving any type of writing or communication that benefits from having these skills.

“I would urge more people to try writing a script. You have to be concise, so you have to say what you mean and you have to take this huge idea that you have. You have to say exactly what you mean as concisely as you can, and more people need to be able to have that skill,” Elliott said.

In his free time, or when he is able, Elliott helps his friend Sam with a short film series called “Tell Me a Story” that is currently in production. Even though he loves making films, Elliott does not want to turn it into a full-time career.

“That is not my career path at all. I could probably turn it into a career, but I don’t want to,” Elliott said. “I still do films all the time and it means a lot to a lot of people and it’s cool, so that’s why I do it.”

Despite his decision to not pursue filmmaking, Elliott is very passionate about his projects, and while he works on his family’s farm, Sunburst Stables, he thinks about trying to be a radio journalist in the future.

“I would absolutely be a radio journalist. I would love to have a podcast. I think that would be the coolest thing ever to do that on the side, as like a side hustle,” Elliott said.

While creating his short films or getting involved in journalism, Elliott discovers the importance of being concise. He knows that he must first be aware of how to convey the ideas that he wants to put out into the world.

“If you write a script and you put those things on paper of a situation that maybe is from your own life, you can get really good at exactly what you want to say,” Elliott said. “If you get good at writing what you want to say, you can get good at saying what you want to say, too. The world would be a much better place.”

Elliott continuously strives to improve his own work and his writing skills. He often finds new ways to not only help himself but those around him, as well, all while remaining proud of the work he has already produced.

“You’re always looking for what the next cool scene, setting, view, inspiration is going to be,” Elliott said. “What’s around the next corner is always really exciting.”

Keaton Benfield: Reading Response #4

Writing a great lede is crucial to your story. It sets up for what is to come and helps all of your information flow smoothly. Both Knight and Filak have written about the importance of having a strong lede, and even though I already feel a little stressed about making sure that I have written a lede that successfully gets across the overall idea of what I want to talk about in my story, even though I haven’t even written one yet, I know that all of this information that both have provided will help me feel less stressed about it all.

I see a lede as being similar to writing a great introductory paragraph in an essay, it has to capture the reader and make them curious about what comes next. It must inform the reader of the 5 W’s and H in a way that draws them in to reading more into the story. Making sure that quotes are used correctly can be viewed similarly and both authors here have done a great job at showing how to use them effectively and even when to stop writing if it seems like I am just dumping all of my information into my story.

Figuring out what information I should keep and what I should abandon will also make a story stronger. Adding the important information, as well as any that might be of use to the reader and the progression of the story, creates a well-rounded piece, and even though writing a lede seems intimidating to me now, Knight’s inclusion of tips from veteran journalists was really helpful and I will have to think about those as I begin my own ledes for my stories!

Keaton Benfield: Reading Response #3

I started off by reading Knight’s chapter on “Building the Story” and I enjoyed how he started off by describing his own experience with former president Richard Nixon, how he only only received information that any other reporter could’ve figured out. Knight goes on to talk about the issues that he could have mentioned to the president and how he failed in doing so, telling the reader that this was not how an interview should be conducted.

It was helpful to read about ways to improve an interview and how to obtain more information from other sources if needed in order to fully flesh out the story wanting to be told. Learning about the various techniques that outlets use to write their articles was another interesting thing to take note of here, as well as knowing when to stop describing everything in too much detail.

Filak complements Knight’s chapter very well and it’ll definitely be helpful when we have to begin our own profile assignment. He goes through the process of conducting this type of interview and the importance of secondary sources in order to get a well-rounded perspective on the subject, which I thought was very helpful and I’ll go back to this section when the time comes if I need any assistance.

Keaton Benfield: Reading Response #2

These two chapters gave me some important tips on how to be more concise, direct and even how to spot what would be called murky writing. A lot of the information Knight gives in these chapters will definitely be helpful for me going forward, especially when it comes to cleaning up my own sentences and being more direct with what I am trying to convey to the audience.

I’ve struggled with writing more information than is needed, not only because of all of my English major habits but also because I am afraid that I will leave something out that the audience may need to understand. However, Knight shows us that you can present all of our information by simply changing up verbs, sentence structure or even dropping complex sentences altogether and separating them so that it does not feel redundant or bloated with content.

Both chapters provided me with great examples of all of these issues and I know I will look back at them for future reference. I haven’t really noticed it until now but I can sometimes get active and passive voice mixed up in my writing and figuring out where they both are supposed to be will definitely improve the quality of my work and the way that I get information across to others. I also found the last paragraph of Chapter 6 to be very important, where Knight says that we still need to have fun with our writing, and we can still develop or keep our own writing style when writing in a way that might be a little different compared to how we are used to writing.

Keaton Benfield: Reading Response #1

Whenever I make errors in my own writing in English classes, I always hear from my professors that I am writing too much, that I need to simplify and be more concise with what I am attempting to explain to the audience. This is also a crucial step in the process of reporting and writing pieces in journalism. It is a difficult thing to accomplish, but it is a very important rule to keep in mind when writing anything. Knight emphasizes that the writer must not over-simplify complicated subject matters, but he/she must use words that everyone is able to comprehend.

Knight also goes into detail about the English language itself and the way that it is utilized. It was interesting to read about the complexities of the language and I even learned valuable information that I had no knowledge of before. Techniques and skills that I use within my other English classes can also carry over to this course and the style of writing. Many of the same rules apply to both but in different ways that set them apart, despite the similarities.

Even though I had known about many of the ideas and tips that Knight has written about here, I still feel like it was a fresh take on subjects that I had previous information of. It made me look back at my own writing again and I feel as if I am more aware of how I need to improve.  

Keaton Benfield: The Past, Present, and on to the Future!

Ever since I was little I knew immediately that I wanted to have a career involving two things that I loved doing the most: reading and writing… I just didn’t know how to get there. Growing up I was a very avid reader and the video games that my older sister let me play on her Nintendo 64 when I was little showed me that the imagination can take you absolutely anywhere and can let you create anything you set your mind to. Those moments of my childhood fueled my intense interest in rich storytelling, pop culture, and video games, whose influences have found their way into my own writing.

My English/ Language Arts teachers throughout middle school and high school taught me how to find my own voice through my writing and I’ve built upon those lessons ever since, constantly trying to improve in any possible way that I can.

During my senior year of high school, my English teachers, as well as my family, encouraged me to send some of my work to the Young Georgia Authors. So with nothing to lose I submitted a piece called “The Power of Words” which led me to receive the award for my grade level and that motivated me to write even more, to improve upon what I’ve already accomplished. I also had some of my own art pieces published in seasonal books that collected works from every high school in the United States. However, I have not gotten to pursue anything in that field since then due to my current focus being on my English degree as well as the future.

Now, as a junior at Piedmont, I have gotten the opportunity to speak at the Pop Culture Association of the South Conference (or PCAS) in New Orleans, Louisiana where I presented my paper, “The Nietzschian Superman and Crime Noir,” and with constant support and feedback from my family, boyfriend and friends, I am currently planning out what I may choose to do after I graduate from Piedmont with a B.A. in English and quite possibly a minor in Mass Communications/ Journalism. Whether that involves continuing my education, moving on into graduate school or even sending off a portfolio of my work to various outlets that revolve around pop culture and the gaming community for possible future employment options, whatever I may choose to do, I believe that I will enjoy anything that leads me closer to pursuing the job I’ve always dreamed of.