Students present research at Harrison Symposium

Amy Sandquist

Lawrence University’s 13th annual Harrison Symposium took place last Saturday morning, May 15, in Main Hall. 27 Lawrence students presented research papers at the symposium, an event named in memory of former Dean of the Faculty and Professor of History Richard A. Harrison.
The symposium is designed to honor students’ research achievements in the humanities and social sciences and to grant students the opportunity to present research in a professional academic manner.
Associate Dean of the Faculty Nancy Wall explained the importance of honoring student research in the humanities and social sciences: “Natural science students have traditionally had the annual Science Hall Poster Session. Students in the fine arts have recitals, performances and art shows.”
Wall continued, “Until the symposium was established by former Dean of Faculty Richard Harrison, there was no opportunity for our humanities and social science students to present their work and accomplishments. As a liberal arts college, we want to celebrate student work in all areas of the college and conservatory.”
This year, students presented on a vast array of topics, covering a broad range of disciplines. Senior Mike Korcek presented the final product of his two-term independent study, “Drag Subcultures of Amsterdam,” with Assistant
Professor of Anthropology Brenda Jenike and Lecturer of Gender Studies Helen Boyd Kramer.
Korcek’s paper, titled “Drag Kinging in Amsterdam: Queer Identity Politics, Subcultural Spaces, and Transformative Potentials,” was based on a fourmonth ethnographic study with a community of drag queen performers in Amsterdam during his term abroad in fall 2009.
When asked about the overall experience of participating in the Harrison Symposium, Korcek said, “I was given a forum to share my research and the experiences of my participants in a forum that was extended to the entire community of social science and humanities faculty and students.”
Korcek also noted that the symposium allowed him to gain recognition for his hard work. He explained, “I was able to gain some experience speaking in a more academic setting and presenting a paper on which I devoted over a year of my time and efforts.”
Faculty members are an integral part of the Harrison Symposium, because professors both nominate students to apply to present at the symposium and moderate the event.
Assistant Professor of Russian Peter Thomas explained his criteria for nominating students. “I look for a serious, well-developed project that lends itself to presentation before a well-meaning, but not necessarily expert, audience,” he said.
Thomas was one of nine faculty members that moderated the symposium. According to Assistant Professor of History Jake Frederick, who also moderated the symposium, the moderators’ jobs were straightforward.
“As a moderator,” Frederick noted, “I simply introduced the speakers and made sure that the question and answer period stayed within time limits.”
Frederick explained that the Harrison Symposium offers students a valuable opportunity to take their academic pursuits more seriously. Said Frederick, “[Participants] go from acting as students to presenting their work as scholars. They aren’t up there being tested, or proving something. They are scholars who are sharing their work with others who have an interest in learning from what these Lawrentians have to say.”
Senior Elizabeth Hoffman, who presented a paper titled “La maternidad, el espacio público y feminismo: Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo,” agreed. “The Harrison Symposium was a one-of-a-kind experience,” she said. “To get up there and present work that you really care about to people who may have never heard you speak in public before. was amazing.