SCOLAS encourages research
Undergraduates often shy away from participating in academic conferences because of a fear of criticism that might arise regarding their research. Some conferences though, like the Southwest Council of Latin American Studies’ annual conference, harbor friendly environments for academics of all levels to present research, regardless of their professional titles.
UMHB sophomore political science major Ashley Davis was one of several students to present a paper at the 2010 SCOLAS conference in Santa Fe, NM. “The conference provided me with the experience of presenting a paper to a scholarly audience,” Davis said.
Christine Nix, professor of social work and criminal justice, attended the conference and presented a paper on the same panel as Davis. Nix said
her favorite part of the conference this year was, “learning that a professor from another university believed Ashley … was of graduate status, and the same professor requested a copy of Ashley’s research.”
Dr. Janet Adamski, professor of political science and 2009-2010 president of SCOLAS, was the first to encourage Davis to become involved with the organization.
Adamski said participation in conferences like SCOLAS “is a great way to get your feet wet. You can make personal connections and it’s good for networking.”
Davis’ paper focused on post-neoliberal economic reforms in Mexico, and it received many positive responses from other students and professors who were present for the panel.
Davis said, “I was able to obtain different perspectives on various issues in Latin American studies.”
Adamski said one of the goals of SCOLAS is to hold “an annual conference so that the members can meet, renew their relationships and formally and informally discuss their research projects…. You make connections that you don’t get other than face to face, and I am happy SCOLAS is able to help those sorts of interactions along.”
The conference hosted a number of panels throughout the week spanning a variety of academic disciplines. Research stretched from food studies to architecture and urban planning.
Attendees had the opportunity to learn about several different interest areas, as well as meet peers in their own fields of study.
“My favorite part of the conference was attending the different panels and learning about different perspectives and research methods,” Davis said.
After successfully presenting her own research, she said, “Students would definitely benefit from attending and presenting at a conference. It is a great opportunity to obtain knowledge about fields students are interested in pursuing further.”
Nix enjoyed seeing Davis succeed in her efforts and agreed that more students should present research at conferences.
“It is a very unique and rewarding experience,” she said. “Students engage in a one-on-one mentoring with a professor, become more adept at scholarly research and meet with scholars from other universities.”
“While it is scary to put your research out there for others to see (and to criticize) that is how you grow as a scholar,” Adamski said. “Some of the best presentations I saw were by students who had worked long and thoughtfully on topics about which they felt passionate.”