Student Spotlight: Maddie Burke

Student Spotlight: Maddie BurkeThe College of Social Sciences and Communication (CSSC) offers a number of great, interdisciplinary programs. Among them is the International Studies program, where students take courses that emphasize global awareness in preparation for careers in international service. Students in this major tend to be able to shine across a number of fields, and this is especially true of International Studies major Maddie Burke.

As her second year begins, Maddie Burke is coming back from a big win at a national conference. On August 10, Maddie won the award for the outstanding student paper at the national conference of the Academy of Legal Studies in Business, which was held in Savannah, Georgia.

“I was really shocked when I won,” says Maddie. She was up against three other, much older students from Indiana University, the University of Georgia, and Alma College, which is located in Michigan. Dr. Casey Rockwell, Maddie’s faculty sponsor, calls this conference “the big leagues.”

Maddie had never participated in a national academic conference like this before. Although she presented at state-level science fairs during her time in high school, Maddie was a little nervous about presenting in Savannah. The audience, made up of professors and professionals, was understandably intimidating even though, as Maddie puts it, “they were all really nice.”

Usually, students compete in smaller regional conferences their first time. “It’s competitive and it’s a big stage for your first foray out there,” says Dr. Rockwell, who is an Assistant Professor of Marketing and Advertising.

How it all started…

During the Fall 2016 semester, Maddie enrolled in Dr. Rockwell’s Legal Environment of Business course, which is a pre-requisite for International Studies majors. Students in this course receive an introduction to the legal foundations of the private sector. By taking courses such as these, International Studies students are exposed to departments all across campus. “One of the benefits of an interdisciplinary program like International Studies is that it opens up so many unexpected opportunities for students to gain new experiences and to learn about different approaches to studying the world,” said Dr. Joseph Giammo, Interim Director of the School of Public Affairs. “It is a testament to what a great student Maddie is that she was able to take advantage of those opportunities so early in her college career and beat out so many more experienced students.”

Maddie’s award-winning paper is entitled “The 1920 Death on High Seas Act: An Outdated and Ambiguous Admiralty Law Shielding Cruise Line Companies from Civil Liabilities.” Dr. Rockwell describes the paper as “…a really thoughtful comparison of tort liability between airlines and cruise ships and looking at how they’re using laws for competitive advantage.”

A graduate of the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts, Maddie has lived in Central Arkansas ever since she was a baby. After choosing UA Little Rock and CSSC, Maddie was initially interested in pursuing a degree in international business but ended up choosing International Studies as her major. “I was just attracted to the different courses [the International Studies program] offers in their curriculum,” says Maddie. She is also pursuing a minor in Legal Studies, which is housed in the School of Public Affairs, along with International Studies.

Preparing for Conference

Late last spring, Dr. Rockwell received an email from the UA Little Rock Office of Research and Sponsored Programs about possible awards for student conference travel. Even though she was not a business major, Maddie was nonetheless one of four students that Dr. Rockwell thought “…had a really creative perspective on things or kind of saw things through a different lens…” So Maddie applied for and was awarded, a grant to attend this conference.

Although the conference was held in August, all papers need to be submitted in May for consideration of an award. When Maddie decided to attend the conference, she only had four weeks to submit a finished draft of her paper. Dr. Rockwell presented Maddie with a list of potential topics and Maddie chose “…the most obscure topic out of the entire list,” according to Dr. Rockwell. A week and a half later, Maddie had a first draft for Dr. Rockwell to look over.

While the award is based on the merits of the paper alone, each author is also required to present their paper at the conference. So in early August, Maddie boarded a plane bound for Georgia to give her presentation.

When it was time for students to present their topics at the conference, Maddie went first. After presenting, she took questions from the audience which, according to Dr. Rockwell, Maddie handled “brilliantly.” Later that evening, Maddie was presented with the award at a banquet and used that time to network.

Future Plans

Now that she’s back after her big win in Savannah, Maddie is thinking about what’s next. In addition to focusing on keeping her grades up, Maddie wants to get her paper published in a scholarly journal and then start working on another article to present at future conferences.

Interim Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Communication Dr. Julien Mirivel was delighted to learn of Maddie’s accomplishment. “Students like Maddie really exemplify the mission of our college, which is to apply theory and research to drive social change and inspire human expression, reflection, and interconnection. Congratulations Maddie!” said Dr. Mirivel.

Maddie plans to attend law school after getting her undergrad degree. Ultimately, Maddie would like to find a position doing research, writing law reviews, and travel in her free time.

Maddie offers this advice to new students in the College of Social Sciences and Communication: “Sometimes you can get overwhelmed with the work and just being a college student,” but all you need to do “is just take it one day at a time.”

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