|Sociology Students Get Extra Mileage Out of Papers with Presentations at Professional Conference
May 02, 2011
Contact: Bill Giduz
|Davidson's delegation at the conference included (back, l-r) Christina Brown ‘11, Aaron Goodson ‘11, Damian White ‘13, Kim Yarde '11 and (front l-r) Krista Jackson ‘12, Professor Gayle Kaufman, Claudia Ramirez ‘11, Professor Jessica Taft, and Jeanny Vaidya ‘11.
Some Davidson sociology students are getting extra mileage out of major papers they've written this year. In addition to review of that work by their professors, they shared their papers with peers and professional colleagues at the annual meeting of the Southern Sociological Society held in Jacksonville, Fla.
Davidson College routinely provides funding for students to travel to conferences. That usually includes two or three sociology students, but this year nine young scholars chose to attend.
Department chair Professor Gayle Kaufman said it was a good investment for Davidson. "Professional conferences show students the process of sharing scholarship, which is one of the most important aspects of academia. Some of our students were nervous about how people would respond to their work since they're only undergraduates, but it was an overwhelmingly positive experience. They found out how good it feels to sit down and talk with colleagues who are genuinely interested in your research."
Damian White '13 testified, "It was my first trip to a professional conference, but it was one of my best experiences at Davidson. Even though I was one of the youngest students there everyone treated me just like another scholar."
White presented a paper, Daddy's Little Girl: Rethinking Father?Daughter Relationships and How They Influence Future Mate Choice in African?American Females, developed for a "Fatherhood" sociology seminar taught by Kaufman.
Other Davidson papers were developed in an upper-level qualitative methods class taught by Assistant Professor Jessica Taft. The course requires a research project, and sociology majors often use that paper as the basis for their senior thesis.
The other students and paper topics were:
Claudia Ramirez '12: You got that "Jungle Fever": Attitudes towards Interracial Couples from Adolescence to Young Adulthood
Jeanny Vaidya '11: Bollywood and Diasporic Indian Identity Formation
Christina Brown '11: Role of Social Relations in Defining Individual Perceptions on Health Care
Kim Yarde '11: First in Flight: First Generation College Students Achieving Success through Social Support from Home and on Campus
Krista Jackson '12: PE Performance: Doing Gender through Participation in Elementary School PE Classes
Aaron Goodson '11: How I Came to Love the Game: Factors That Influence Athletes to Compete at the Division III Level
Alana Linn '11: Unspoken Support, Distrust and Isolation: Recovery Experiences of Homeless Women in Transitional Housing
Alex Polhill '11: How a Police Career Can Affect Parenthood
The conference was set up so that students presented their papers at roundtables. Each of five presenters at each table had 15 minutes to discuss his or her work. Then five or so graduate students and professional sociologists also at each table gave their feedback. White said, "It was a very positive atmosphere. They encouraged me to continue my study on a larger scale."
Senior Alex Polhill based her paper about female police officers as parents on a summer internship in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. In interviews with about 20 officers she found that their constant exposure to young offenders often leads them to mistrust their own children. They also make an extraordinary effort to communicate clearly with their children, and they show a mistrust of the influence of media on children.
Polhill wrote the paper for Taft's qualitative methods class, and is further developing it now as her senior thesis. Taft encouraged her to present the paper at the conference. "It sounded like a good opportunity to get feedback from some really smart people, so why not?" Polhill said. "It was good practice for my thesis defense."
She continued, "The roundtables turned out to be conversational. It was more like sitting around a lunch table than a formal presentation."
White and Polhill both said the experience reinforced their intention to pursue graduate studies in sociology. White will get some more experience in that pursuit this summer, when he will conduct ten weeks of summer research with Kaufman as she completes a book on "Super Dads." Kaufman is also working with Polhill on developing a section of her parenting and police work thesis into a publishable article.
The Davidson students also had the opportunity to see their professors in professional situations, since both Kaufman and Taft presented papers of their own. Taft presented her work on girl activists and global citizenship, and Kaufman reported on work adjustments after parenthood in Sweden.
Coming from a relatively small Davidson sociology department, the students said the conference was a broadening experience as well. When not engaged in their own roundtable discussions, students mingled with 750 registrants and consulted an 85-page convention program that listed about 180 different panels, plenary sessions, mini-conferences, meetings with authors and receptions they could attend.
Kaufman concluded, "Even for those who won't go on to graduate school, it's a good experience in public speaking and learning about areas in the discipline that our small department doesn't cover. I was excited to see so many students take advantage of the opportunity, and they represented Davidson very well."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,900 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.