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Undergrads get rare opportunity

Submitted by Taylor Hoffard on March 1, 2012 – 11:14 pmNo Comment

The National Association of African American Studies and Affiliates Con- ference in Baton Rouge, La. is highly competitive. With over 850 applicants, it is considered rare for undergraduate students to get accepted, but two UALR students did just that.

For her application, senior Eng- lish major Deannah Johnson followed the theme of the book, “The Astonish- ing Life of Octavian Nothing,” by M.T. Anderson. According to Johnson, the subject of the conference was, ‘Solving Social Issues through Multicultural Ex- periences.’

“Although the novel is impressive and impactful on its own, after tak- ing American Literature and African American Literature, I had a different perspective of the novel. These two courses had completely changed my perspective and had ignited a passion for early American literature and the untold story. ‘Octavian Nothing’ was the perfect combination of adolescent literature and early American litera- ture, which is why I chose it. It allowed me to combine my two passions,” John- son said.

According to Johnson, her research

focused on 18th century Boston and the use of science for the creation of small- pox inoculation versus the misuse of science for the pseudo-science of racial intelligence.

The conference also included pre- sentations by the National Association of Hispanic and Latino Studies, Nation- al Association of Native American Stud- ies and the International Association of Asian Studies. The Center for Islamic Studies was present as a special guest.

“There were only 30 [McNair] schol- ars from around the country that were accepted to present at this conference,” Johnson said. “I was accepted into the poster board presentation category. My project was my research that I complet- ed this past summer with James Lever- nier for the McNair Scholars Program.”

Johnson credits Levernier with her accomplishment. She said he was very supportive and gave her the proper guidance she needed.

Samuel Brown, junior English major, was the other undergraduate student who was accepted into the conference. He previously presented his paper at the annual McNair Research Confer- ence in Atlanta.

“The poster … is one that I presented last spring at the UALR Undergraduate Research Expo. The poster was well

received at the Expo, which prompted Levernier and I to apply to Posters on the Hill.”

According to Brown, the application process involved supplying basic infor- mation about himself, his future plans, a curriculum vitae, an abstract and a letter of recommendation, from Lever- nier.

“You are expected to convey a lot of information within that space,” he said. “After we turned in all our materials, it was basically a waiting game. More than 850 applications were turned in, and they only accepted 74.”

Brown said he still has to finish get- ting his presentation ready, contact state senators and pack his bags. “It’s going to be a very interesting and very busy next couple of months,” Brown said.

“The greatest satisfaction that an instructor can experience is watch- ing students achieve and the greatest honor is having had the opportunity to participate with the students in that process,” Levernier said. “In many ways, they have taught me more about teaching and learning than I have been able to teach them about research and writing. I have been both challenged and inspired by Deannah and Samuel and their work.”


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