Meet Our New Intern: Sydney Peay

Image of Sydney Peay wearing a pink coat, a pink beret, and glasses, and standing with a cane

Growing up, I always had a passion for reading and telling stories. One of my teachers said I always knew how to entertain myself, and it was because I always had a book in my hand or a story in my head. I loved to tell myself stories each day, and when I got to middle school, I started to write them down. I kept writing until my junior year of high school, when my AP English class made me realize that I enjoyed reading and analyzing fiction far more than I enjoyed writing it. At the same time, I started taking art classes and began dreaming of a career as an animator, using art to tell beautiful stories. I also developed a passion for social justice, as I advocated for the rights of LGBT people at my school.

Yet, when colleges asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I said I wanted to study chemistry with the goal of developing psychiatric medications. While I did genuinely enjoy studying chemistry, there was no passion there. I just wanted to choose a career that would help me earn money, and I didn’t think I would get that with literature, art, or social justice.

In March of my senior year, I was invited to interview for the Haslam Scholars Program at the University of Tennessee, where I gladly peddled my story about a passion for studying chemistry until, during one of the events, a speaker asked us “What do you imagine your ideal self doing?” I started sobbing, because I couldn’t picture my ideal self, but I knew I couldn’t dedicate my career to chemistry. That night, I told my mom that I was going to attend the University of Tennessee and change my major.

I ended up changing my major to sociology, even though I honestly wasn’t sure what sociology was. I found that I enjoyed the program when I arrived at UT, but I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. It wasn’t until I took my first university English class that I realized that what I was missing was the thrill that analyzing stories provided. There was something so special to me about stories and the way they work, and I missed the feeling of close reading, developing an argument, and writing an analysis. It was that spring that I decided to major in English literature.

I have spent the rest of my time at UT studying the intersection between literature and social theory. My thesis project is going to be a podcast dedicated to analyzing the sociological messages of science fiction films and texts, with a focus on how authors and directors use literary techniques to develop social commentary in their work. I am going to continue studying this intersection of literature and social theory when I pursue my masters of library sciences after I graduate.

I am so excited to learn more about the innovative and progressive work that Sundress Publications does, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share this work as the social media intern.

Sydney Peay is a senior at the University of Tennessee pursuing a BA in sociology and English Literature. In addition to managing the social media for Sundress Publications, they manage the social media for the Voices Out Loud Project, an LGBTQ+ archive of East Tennessee.