Symposium features work in humanities and social sciences

By Hannah Kinzer

Student projects in the humanities and social sciences were showcased at the annual Richard A. Harrison Symposium, held in Main Hall on Saturday, May 16.

The first Annual Student Humanities and Social Science Symposium was organized in 1996, by then Dean of Faculty and Professor of History at Lawrence University, Richard Harrison. He organized the symposium to highlight research achievements, observing, “The intimate intellectual association of students and faculty members is a central characteristic of Lawrence’s approach to undergraduate education.” Harrison died suddenly in 1997, and the symposium was named in his honor.

This year was the 18th annual Harrison symposium. It featured 26 different student presentations with topics ranging from “The ISIS Crisis: How Western Perceptions Shape the Discussion of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State” to “La Vera Pohl’s Selective History of American Art.”

Nine rooms in Main Hall were used for the presentations, which were split into two sessions, with up to three presentations in each session. Copies of the presentation abstracts were also posted online on the Lawrence University website after the event.

Students presented their projects in a professional format for the Harrison symposium. Senior Anna Bolgrien, who presented her project titled “Demographics and Pro-natal Policy in the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation” said, “it forces you to really explain all of the parts of your research and why they are important.”

Professors introduced presenters and moderated each presentation room. Students explained their research to audience members in 20-minute long presentations, followed by ten minutes for the student to answer audience questions.

The presentations were selected from faculty nominations by the Provost’s Office. In addition, one Richard A. Harrison Award is given to a distinguished student presentation. This year’s award was given to senior Eli Massey for the project “Moving Beyond the Zapatista Uprising: Alternative Participatory Modes of Organizing.”

Many projects were senior capstone or independent study projects. Attendees consisted mostly of family, friends, professors and fellow presenters.

The symposium offers a chance to learn about and support student research on campus. Ottilia Buerger Professor of Classical Studies and Professor of Art History Carol Lawton, one of the moderators of the event, said, “It’s a wonderful showcase for student projects … it enables them to present them to the campus at large, and also, of course, their families can come and see what they have been working on all this time.”

While she was disappointed that more students did not attend the talks, Lawton hopes more people will hear about the event in the future. She recognizes the potential of the presentations to engage and inspire younger students.

Bolgrien also acknowledged the importance of the event, saying, “The Harrison Symposium is important for the Lawrence community, not only because it allows upperclassmen to present their work, but it can inspire underclassmen by showing them the possibilities for future research and funding. It shows the diversity of interests and the quality of work that students produce as undergraduates.”