Harrison Symposium allows students to share their research

Erik Wyse

Saturday May 16, the 12th Annual Harrison Symposium showcased individual student research and papers in the humanities and social sciences. The symposium started in 1996, and was renamed in honor of the dean of faculty at the time, Richard A. Harrison, who died a year after its creation.
Accompanying the Harrison Symposium is the Richard A. Harrison Award, which is given to one of the student presenters each year.
This year’s recipient was Chris McGeorge for his research paper “Social Problems and the Dickensian Solution.” The student presenters are separated into subject-specific groups, with each group being moderated by a faculty member. The faculty members included professors Podair, Guenther-Pal, Chang, Rico, McQuinn and Ward. For the participants, the symposium was the end of a long period of intellectual inquiry.
Hayley Vatch, whose paper focused on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in Minnesota, unofficially began her research many summers ago when she first visited the BWCA. Last fall, she wrote a paper on the topic of the boundary waters for her history of travel and tourism class. Vatch continued to build on this paper, turning it into her honors project and eventually her research paper for the Harrison Symposium.
In her final paper, “Wilderness Ideologies, Economic Values, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota,” Vatch concluded that the BWCA was being overcrowded, making everyday life and recreation hard for the residents of nearby Ely, Minn.
By the end of the process, Vatch felt she was an expert on the subject. She said, “I would suggest other students pursue particular areas of interest to the fullest.”
For John Andrew Olson, the experience and process was not entirely different from Vatch’s. His research, culminating in his paper “Approaching Babi Yar: Intersections of Music, Text, and Genre in Shostakovich’s Thirteenth Symphony,” began nearly two years ago.
He cites professors McQuinn and Thomas as providing the most direction in his study. After writing a 130-page paper as part of an honors project, the challenge for Olson was to break down the paper into a concise, 20-minute presentation for the symposium. Olson described this arduous task as being useful for graduate school.
Presenter Madhuri Vijay did much of her research overseas. Over the past summer, she worked with Senior Lecturer Tendayi Viki at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. Vijay also has been working towards the symposium since last year.
Upon returning to Lawrence this fall, she continued her work as part of her capstone course with professor Peter Glick. The final topic of her research as presented at the symposium was “The Effects of Sexist Humor on Men’s Tendency to be Sexually Aggressive.”
As part of the symposium, Vijay was grouped with students Chris McGeorge and Emma Nager, who both explored similar themes of gender. This collaborative, atmosphere was one of the more rewarding aspects of the event for Vijay.
She stated that the symposium offers students another way to explore interdisciplinary areas of interest, in conjunction with the goals of a liberal arts education.