The College’s Undergraduate Research Symposium: Distinctive Scholarship Across the College’s Disciplines

by Anne Reynolds

Gender stereotypes, police-community relations, domestic goats, and the retail price of cocaine represented just a few of the topics covered in the nearly 100 oral or poster presentations that came together at the 2015 College of Humanities and Social Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium.

This year's symposium, held on April 28, is a yearly event that allows students in all of the college’s departments to present research findings to a panel of faculty judges. Students apply for a space in the symposium, working closely with a faculty advisor to conduct the research and with Mason’s Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) to create effective and professional poster presentations.

“We look forward to this event each year,” says college dean Deborah Boehm-Davis. “The breadth of the topics covered and the scholarship behind each of the presentations never fails to impress me.”

The poster presentations filled Dewberry Hall, staffed by enthusiastic undergraduate researchers who walked the judges, faculty, students, and members of the public through their work. Twelve other participants gave oral presentations of 15 minutes apiece. The oral presentations span the fields of study within the college; because there are relatively few slots available, the oral presentation spots tend to be more competitive.

Seven students received awards for their presentations:

Best Overall Research and Scholarship, Oral Presentation

Anjana Radhakrishnan, Economics, Impact of Human Capital Attainment on Female Labor Force Participation: A Special Analysis of Kerala, India

Best Overall Research and Scholarship, Poster Presentation

Alan Williams, Global Affairs, Civil Society and Democratic Consolidation: Cases from Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia

Outstanding Oral Presentation

Emily Harvey, Anthropology, The Black Student Community, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, and the Role that Knowledge of Family History Plays

Outstanding Poster Presentations

Amanda Harwood, Psychology, Distraction Suppression and Video Game Training: Far Transfer Effects to Fluid Intelligence

Hilarie K. Huley, Anthropology, New Evidence of Tuberculosis in Northern Peru: Context, Differential Diagnoses and Interpretation of Late Pre-Hispanic and Colonial Era Mycobacterial Infection

Karla Ponciano, Communication, Relational Dissolution: Can It Take a Knapp?

Marcos Portillo, Economics, Cocaine & Crime: How the Retail Price of Cocaine Affects Criminal Activity

“The presentations truly reflect a higher level of thinking,” observes Vita Vock, senior assistant dean, undergraduate academic affairs. “The fact that the number of presentations increases every year is exciting, and seeing all of the students really engaging with the presenters shows what great support there is for the student researchers.”

Jamie Cooper, associate dean for academic affairs, agrees. “We are glad to see increasing interest in the symposium as it grows year over year,” he says. “But what really strikes me with each symposium is the quality of the research and of the presentations.”