Harrison Symposium recognizes superb research in the humanities and social sciences

Tammy Tran

Students, faculty and parents gathered in Main Hall for the 14th annual Harrison Symposium on Saturday, May 14.

The Harrison Symposium is named after former Lawrence University Dean of Faculty Richard A. Harrison. In 1996, Harrison established the symposium as a venue for students to present their accomplishments in the humanities and social sciences.

“Richard was a person who very much believed in excellence and very much believed in individual work and achievement,” said Provost and Dean of the Faculty David Burrows. “After his untimely death, the symposium was renamed in his honor and that’s how it exists today.”

The process of selecting student presenters for the Harrison Symposium began with nominations by faculty members. Nominated students were invited to submit abstracts of their papers, from which 27 were officially selected.

The event began with a brief reception, where Burrows acknowledged the impressive efforts of Lawrence students and faculty. Said Burrows, “[These students] have achieved excellence, shown their intellectual ability and, most of all, have shown their ability to do things no one else has ever done before.”

Attendees and presenters then dispersed into different rooms, organized by topics or fields of interest. A faculty member was assigned to each room to moderate the panel session and provide introductions for student presenters. Each presentation lasted approximately 20 minutes and was followed by 10 minutes of questions and comments.

“When you think about learning, it starts with being able to understand the ideas and theories of others,” shared Burrows. “But it moves on to a very important stage, which I think [these students] have reached. That is the stage where [students] are not simply reflecting the ideas and achievements of others, but creating their own.”

Senior Dorothea Schurr’s presentation titled “Yan’an’s Influence on The Evolution of Propaganda Music in China,” explored the evolution of propaganda music in China since 1942. She has been researching Chinese propaganda music since Spring Term of her sophomore year. Since then, she has received guidance and feedback from faculty in the Chinese, government and East Asian studies departments. Schurr also furthered her research while studying abroad in China. Said Schurr, “It has been a very long process, but there are still so many aspects about the topic I want to research.”

“I really enjoyed presenting at the Harrison Symposium,” Schurr continued. “I had the opportunity to present my paper for my major requirements a couple of weeks ago where I worked out all of the potential bumps in my presentation, so the Harrison Symposium was just a good opportunity to present my paper in a serious setting, one that allowed me to see where I am in my research, and how much more I can still explore.”

Senior government major Angela Ting also presented at the symposium. Her presentation, “Gender-based Violence in Post-Conflict Situations: The New Face of GBV in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone,” explored gender-based violence as a common phenomenon in many post-conflict societies. According to Ting, women and girls are not guaranteed the security and stability that they hope for after policy makers and humanitarian actors arrive. By using Sierra Leone as a case study, Ting concluded that widespread violence creates new societal conditions that allow gender-based violence to breed silently.

Ting’s project began in December when she visited Sierra Leone with Associate Professor of Government and Edwin & Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science Claudena Skran. Ting gathered information through interviewing various international and grassroots organizations. The data collected allowed her to reach reliable conclusions about the current gender-based violence conditions in the country as well as the challenges facing humanitarian actors in addressing the issue in a post-conflict environment.

Said Ting, “The ability to personally interview and hear from women and girls who have suffered violence themselves helped to enrich my experience while doing the project. It adds a personal connection to the work which I otherwise would not have experienced.”

Faculty moderators of the various panels represented departments as diverse as music history, Chinese, government, history, Spanish, art history, gender studies, psychology and religious studies. Many projects were interdisciplinary in nature.

“[Participating in the Harrison Symposium is] rewarding in that you are sharing an original thesis and work that you developed yourself,” continued Ting. “We are essentially contributing to the field of social science and humanities by developing ideas that no one has created before…Being able to hear from the audience — the opinions and the questions they had — helped to open up ways to look at the project. This allowed me to rethink the ways I can further develop or improve [my] project.”