by Julie Jeffery Manwarren
The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) awarded Clarks Summit University’s “Vantage Magazine” the REALM excellent rating.
NCTE is devoted to improving the teaching and learning of English and language arts. Founded in 1911, it is the nation’s oldest organization of educators for pre-K through graduate school. Each year, NCTE recognizes literary magazines in schools across America through their REALM program, “Recognizing Excellence in Art and Literary Magazines.” It is designed to encourage all schools to develop publications that celebrate the art and craft of writing.
CSU’s “Vantage Magazine” is an outlet for creative expression, career preparation and community interaction showcasing the voices and visual talents of CSU students. Vantage’s first issue was published in September 2017. Since then, it has allowed CSU students to explore and showcase their giftedness in areas of writing, editing, photography and design.
The Spring 2022 issue that received the recognition featured the theme of “Strength.” The team that created the issue included student editors, Jillian Mirro, Stephanie Eades, Lydia Peters, Rachel Rinaldi and Kevin Waldron. They were led by faculty advisors Sarah Scranta, associate professor and chair of the Department of English and Communications, and instructor Carleigh Smith.
Senior Kevin Waldron’s poem, “Windows,” was published in the award-winning issue. Waldron has served on the “Vantage” team since 2021. A transfer student from Maine, he is a Communications-Writing major. Waldron plans to pursue a graduate degree following his graduation in May 2023.
“’Vantage Magazine’ is really an interesting exploration of art,” said Waldron. “It’s a literary magazine, but we balance difference kinds of writing and writing styles. I’ve learned a lot through my time at ‘Vantage’ about editing and working with people.”
The Advantage of “Vantage”
The well-rounded digital magazine features fiction, non-fiction, poetry, current events and interviews. Students produce the publication each semester as a co-curricular activity or to receive academic credit.
Scranta sees the magazine as a great opportunity for CSU students in all degree programs to learn writing and editing skills and how to work in a group and collaborate. They also gain resumé building editorial experience, publication experience and marketable skills.
Scranta said, “Vantage is more than just a literary magazine. We feature and celebrate the stories of real people and current events associated with the university as well as the fictional and poetic talents of students. We are a cross between journalism and literary publications.”
Recognition and Reach
“At ‘Vantage,’ we are very mission oriented,” said Scranta. “I try to instill in my students, that when we write for our audience, we can be honest and forthright about the human experience and brokenness in the world, but we need to end with the message of hope. We need to remember that there is a broader reach beyond the students, faculty and alumni of our school. We never know how far the magazine will go.”
In 2022, “Vantage” went farther than anticipated. It was seen across the country by the broad audience of the NCTE. Scranta, who is a long-time member of the NCTE, saw the opportunity for the magazine to gain broader reach and recognition for its excellence in writing, editing and design. She submitted the magazine for NCTE’s Realm Award.
“I remember praying after I sent it, ‘I don’t know what will happen. But please God, let this be seen. Let this truth and the hope that it provides be seen by a larger audience.’ I knew that whatever happened, the truth of the gospel, specifically in this issue with the theme of strength, had very clear touchpoints to biblical truth.”
After it was reviewed by multiple judges across the country, in January 2023, NCTE announced that CSU’s “Vantage Magazine” had received their excellent rating.
“The fact that ‘Vantage Magazine’ was recognized is amazing for us, especially because it’s on a national scale,” said Scranta. “Having students see that their words can impact others and that they can produce work that has reach far beyond themselves and the university is encouraging and exciting.”
Students at CSU who take advantage of the opportunities offered for them to grow in the arts find unexpected blessings and opportunities to gain new skills. Sophomore Lydia Peters, a Communications-Writing major, was on the editing team for the winning issue. Peters also had her poem, “The Armor of God,” published in that issue.
“I like poetry because it is very expressive,” Peters said. “But I also enjoy writing other things. Since working with ‘Vantage,’ I’ve had new opportunities. One thing that was new to me is interviewing people. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy getting to hear other people’s stories and then write about them.”
A spring break trip to Kenya and her work at Mission Scranton has sparked a burden in Peters for intercultural ministry. “I am doing the ‘Vantage’ practicum this semester,” Peters said. “I’ll be continuing to serve as an editor for ‘Vantage,’ but I will also be writing a piece about Mission Scranton for the next issue. Our theme for the next issue is ‘Hope.’ I’m excited to hear how God will use ‘Vantage’ in the future.”
“Vantage Magazine” is more than a co-curricular activity or a for-credit project. It is a platform for Christians to have a voice in the art world.
“’Vantage Magazine’ and the excellent rating we received is a good testament to the Christian’s role in art,” said Waldron. “The ‘Vantage’ issue that won the award was more than just a reflection of Christ because of its content, but also because it was well-designed and well-written, so there is more weight to it.”
Waldron shared that many Christians are wary of entering the art or literary world in this cultural climate but if done with excellence, writing and art can point to an excellent God.
“I think we are losing focus of it as a society,” Waldron warned. “Having a revamp, not only in the arts, but in the Christian worldview of arts is needed…It’s the balance of human expression with expressing something beyond humanity. That is the importance of the magazine. At ‘Vantage Magazine,’ our focus isn’t the individual writers or editors, even though we feature their work, but we’re ultimately pointing to something else and Someone else. That’s what drives us to create. Even ancient writers and artists were focused on the sublime, something beyond this life and beyond themselves that they were striving to portray. For us, we know what that is. It is God, and we want to reflect Him and His truth in our work.”