Over the later part of this past week and the early half of the weekend, I traveled with three other honors students and three members of Graceland’s faculty to South Dakota State University for the annual Upper Midwest Honors Conference. Every year the program brings students to the conference to present their work, upperclassmen or otherwise, and learn from other honors students around the country. Graceland students presented research of their liking at this conference, and some will go on to present the same research at Scholars Showcase in April.
On Friday, Bianca Pensy Aba presented a general session titled “Race Relations in the U.S. and Brazil After Slavery: A Comparative Analysis”. The purpose of Pensy Aba’s research was to compare race relations between whites and blacks in Brazil and the U.S. after the abolition of slavery in each country.
The next morning, Azra Pita and Lejla Malkoc presented “Dreams are Stronger Than Borders”. They focused on the refugee crisis and the difference between refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people. The other big part of their presentation related to the misunderstandings with Islam and Jihad and how they are often blamed for terrorism. They want to fill the gap of understanding that lays with people who believe that Islam is a religion that promotes violence and terrorism, and how that impacts refugees and asylum-seekers.
After that, I presented similar research to what I worked on in the fall with my junior honors seminar. My research focused on transboundary protected areas, commonly referred to as “peace parks”, and the impact of environmental and political stability they have in developing nations (primary in South Africa). Bioregions are separated by arbitrary borders, and with the implementation of peace parks into particularly developing countries, these problems would see a dramatic decline environmentally.
Along with the abundance of presentations we attended, we got the chance to taste SDSU’s homemade ice cream (they are the creators of Cookies & Cream ice cream – patented and everything), play bingo, win prizes, and meet honors students from other colleges.
Three honors professors got the chance to learn how honors programs impact liberal arts education and how to better our own program moving forward. Professors Karen Gergely, Dan Platt, and Brian White accompanied the students on the trip.
The honors program is currently under the supervision of six faculty members included Gergely, Platt, and White, and also professors Brad Mercer, Raquel Moreira Portilho, and Tim Robbins. The next Academic Honors Day is April 1st, and it’s an opportunity for prospective students to look at Graceland’s honors program and apply for the program and associated scholarships.
Next year, Graceland will host UMHC 2018, and the preparations for the conference are already in full swing.
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