Wednesday, April 20, 2016

English Department Students Present at URCA 2016

By Dr. Linda Joyce Brown

The Department of English was well represented at this year’s College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium, which was held April 12 in the John C. Meyers Convocation Center.

Four Creative Writing majors—Maggie Andrews, María Cardona, Emily Nieberding, and Garrison Stima—read from their work. Andrews, Cardona, and Stima were advised by Dr. Joe Mackall, and Nieberding was advised by Dr. Maura Grady.

Maggie Andrews reads her short story, "My Return to Route 77"
María Cardona notes that it can be difficult to choose a particular creative work to present. She eventually chose part of her historical novel, Lares, and found that sharing it was rewarding: “I loved being able to share my story with faculty and students, and the feedback I received afterwards was great!”

Maria Cardona reads from her historical novel Lares in traditional Puerto Rican garments
Garrison Stima had a similarly difficult but equally fulfilling process of choosing and revising a piece to present. Stima, who read from his nonfiction essay “My Tree House,” emphasizes that the experience of presenting at URCA can be ground-shifting for a writer. He notes, “the impact my stories have had on the people who’ve come to listen has easily been the most amazing and gratifying feeling of all. To have a person or group thank you for a connection they were able to make with your work is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever known.”

Department of English students also presented their scholarly research. Kouri Weber, an Integrated Language Arts major, and Alexandra Newhouse, who is studying Integrated Language Arts and Creative Writing, both presented original arguments in literary criticism. Weber, who was advised by Dr. Deborah Fleming, explored some of the differences between Ralph Waldo Emerson’s and Walt Whitman’s views of spirituality and nature. Newhouse, who was advised by Dr. Linda Joyce Brown, analyzed the illustrations in Willa Cather’s novel My Àntonia. Newhouse recommends that students who are interested in presenting at URCA choose a topic they are truly interested in. She explains, “While I loved the initial idea of my presentation, I didn't consider the fact that I would be spending time with it on not only my happy days, but also my grumpy I-don't-want-to-do-anything-today kind of days, and the only way to overcome that loss of motivation is if you have a topic that you are truly passionate about.”

Allie Newhouse presents her interpretation of the illustrations in Willa Cather’s novel My Àntonia 
Several other students affiliated with the Department presented at URCA. Dane Zunich, an English and Psychology double-major, studied how reliant people have become on the Internet to provide and store information. Joey Barretta, a minor in English, presented on Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.

Furthermore, two Department of English faculty sponsored projects by students who are majoring in other disciplines: Dr. Maura Grady advised Lucas Trott’s presentation, “Pressure and Time: A Critique of the American Penal System in The Shawshank Redemption,” and Dr. Sharleen Mondal advised Charlie Michel’s project, “#BlackMindsMatter: The Psychological Repercussions of Racial Prejudice.” Both of these projects grew out of courses offered by the Department of English.

Charlie Michel with his faculty sponsor, Dr. Sharleen Mondal
The planning of this year’s symposium was led by Dr. Diane Bonfiglio, Associate Professor of Psychology, and Department of English chair, Dr. Hilary Donatini. Dr. Donatini notes the unique perspective that her service on the committee affords her: “From the perspective of a co-chair of the URCA committee, I love to see the evolution from the original project—often for a class or senior thesis—to the abstract and to the finished oral presentation or poster. Over the course of this process, I see tremendous growth and improvement in even the most polished submissions. Our students gain skills in professionalism as they respond to the committee's feedback on the abstracts and try to communicate their discipline-specific ideas to a broader audience. In both the poster session and the oral presentations, presenters learn how to respond to questions about their work. URCA is an affirmation of our students' membership in our academic community and a showcase for their talent and hard work.”

This sense of personal development is shared by the students who participate. Garrison Stima hopes that more students will take advantage of the opportunity of presenting at URCA: “I believe URCA to be an all-around fantastic experience worth every step.”