CHSS Celebrates Undergraduate Research at 2021 Spring Symposium 

In collaboration with the university’s OSCAR Celebration of Scholarship, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences held its second virtual Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium on May 5, 2021. Students prepared and presented more than 70 video presentations in the virtual format, which were enjoyed and reviewed by faculty and staff judges.

Lisa Breglia, the college’s senior associate dean of undergraduate academic affairs, hosted the ceremony, acknowledging the “agonizing and exhilarating" aspects of research. She was joined by the college’s associate dean for research, Michele Schwietz, and director of student outreach, Troy Lowery, to present the awards.

Research is transformational, Schwietz told the students, "because research and scholarly projects add depth and context to your learning experience... the work expands your ideas about yourself—what you are capable of and where you might like to go next.”

The college offered awards in three categories this year: research with the greatest potential for social impact, research that innovates in methods or ideas, and overall excellence in research.

In the category of Social Impact in Research, the college recognized Mariam Qureshi for the project, “Bringing Poetic Pedagogies to Prisons.” Honorable mentions in this category were awarded to Freddy Lopez for the project, “Who are We? Understanding Identities Within the Labor Movement as it Grapples with Black Lives Matter,” and to Al-Batool Ibrahim for the project, “Influenced Identities: the Relationship between American Muslim Religious Identification and Muslim Instagram Influencers.”

In the category of Innovation in Methods and Ideas in Research, the college awarded its top prize to Jessica Burgess for the project “Mental Illness in Post Civil War Virginia: Identifying Inequalities Using Historic Records,” and honorable mentions to Mattison Smith for the project, “Queering the Fandom: the Function of Queer Identity in the Transformers Fandom,” and to Janie Ritter for the project entitled “’I just Don’t Get It:’ Methods of Engagement with Abstract Art.”

In the overall Excellence in Research category, the college awarded top honors to Sarah Blanton for the research project, “Pandemic and Protest: Graduate Student Unionization,” a project that combined original, timely, and relevant ethnographic research with a connection to broader scholarly and intellectual debates regarding current social and political issues.

The research team of Mark Monson, Kayley McPhail, Samantha Ridgeway, Julia Malloy, and Kaydee Anderson received honorable mentions for their individual and collective contributions to the project, “Do the Short Die Young?” The project, supervised by mentor Bethany Usher, studied medieval and post medieval children’s growth patterns.

An honorable mention for excellence in research was also received by the entire class of Beidi Dong’s CRIM 492 honors seminar for their consistently high-quality research across the board. The award goes to Jordan Brown, Kelsey Bush, Dina Chatila, Madison Durner, Madeline Feierstein, Amanda Ocasio Rivera, Alicia Orellana Melgar, and Ashley Rodriguez for their research on gun violence, focusing on mass shootings and prevention.

“As an undergraduate student, carrying out a research project from idea to actualization is a truly enriching and liberating learning experience,” said Breglia. “The skills you develop as you become a researcher—in puzzling through research problems, in gathering data, and in conducting analysis — stick with you no matter what you go on to do in life and career. In short, research is invaluable and continues to reward you for years to come.”