Ben Sneyd, who is from Unicoi, has been recognized as the “Student of the Block” for the third block at Tusculum College.
Sneyd, a senior majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing, was honored for his academic excellence, his activities and leadership on campus and strength of character with the award. He was presented the honor during a ceremony in the Living Room of the Niswonger Commons, where a plaque recognizing his accomplishments will be displayed.
The Office of Student Affairs established the award to recognize students for their academic achievement, leadership on campus and contributions to the college community.
Sneyd is a member of the editing staff for the Tusculum Review, the college’s literary magazine, works with an online journal for the English Department and has worked as a journalist for the student newspaper. He was the winner of the poetry category of the Curtis and Billie Owens literary prize in 2011.
He has served as a peer tutor, an officer in the English Student Organization and was the lead mentor for this past year’s orientation class. A talented musician, Sneyd has willingly shared his talents, volunteering to play music for various functions in the Northeast Tennessee region for the college and performing in last spring’s Old Oak Festival on campus.
An unprecedented five nominations for Sneyd to be recognized with the award were submitted, each one from a professor in the English Department filled with high praise for him.
“Ben is simply one of the most gifted and brilliant students I’ve had the pleasure to teach,” said Wayne Thomas, chair of the Fine Arts Department and associate professor of English, in his nomination. “Ben is everything we want a Tusculum student to be: a perpetual and discerning thinker, a conscientious student, a moral human being and a friend. … He’s one of the few students I have asked to guest lecture. Last year, he only missed two days of the Intermediate Creative Writing course, which probably doesn’t seem impressive until you understand that he wasn’t even enrolled in the class. Ben’s the kind of student who shows up just because the material interests him.”
Sneyd’s desire to learn and his excellence in the classroom were also praised by Dr. Shelia Morton and Dr. Clay Matthews in their nominations. “Of all the students I have ever taught, he has the most acute understanding and most insightful reading of difficult theoretical texts,” said Dr. Morton, assistant professor of English.
“He’s a voracious reader and learner, and we’d often spend time after class discussing Falkner or Eliot, making headway on ideas far advanced for his age,” said Dr. Matthews, assistant professor of English. “He has all the traditional markings of an excellent student, but what makes Ben unique is the amount of learning he takes on outside the classroom.”
Heather Patterson, chair of the Department of English and assistant professor of English, noted his willingness to help other students. “Inside and out of the classroom, Sneyd stands out as a mentor and a leader,” she said. “For my students, particularly developmental writers, Ben has offered much of his time tutoring free of charge and ‘off the clock.’ The students’ writing improved and I believe more than one passed the course solely because of the extra time spent with Ben.”
Patterson also commented in her nomination that Sneyd takes pride in being a well-rounded student, doesn’t shy away from leadership roles, cares about his peers and their successes and possesses superior community skills, both oral and written.
Desirae Matherly, assistant professor of English, wrote in her nomination that Sneyd “continually raises the bar for other students; his ability to exceed his instructors’ expectations is another reason why Ben should be honored with this award, along with his gift for urging others around him to work harder.”
Sneyd’s experience has been different than other students, having come to campus as a 16-year-old after graduating early from high school with a 4.0 grade point average. He chose Tusculum because he wanted to be close to home as his mother was battling a serious illness at the time and was also drawn to the school because of the block system, the student to faculty/staff ratio, great and vigorous academic programs and the beauty of the campus.
As a younger student, Sneyd said it was challenging and he made some mistakes before he found his calling. “Tusculum has provided me an opportunity to learn about life,” he said, adding that the college was lenient and allowed him the space to make mistakes and grow as a person.
He also has praise for his faculty. “I could talk for ages about the professors in my major, how they spend long hours outside of the class reading students’ work or preparing events for students or just having a conversation about writing or class. What is so surprising is that the faculty members who work in other departments have also done this for me,” he said. “I remember taking a Commons course and spending a considerable amount of time with the professor outside of class having intelligent and mentally stimulating conversations about politics. It is truly amazing how invested our faculty members are in the students at Tusculum.”
Sneyd is the son of Ricky and Sam Sneyd, brother to Josh and Jen, and husband to Alicia. He is proud of his family’s military service – his mother is a former Marine, his father served in the Army and his sister served in the Navy.