For students aspiring to a career in academics, the opportunity to present scholarly research at a national conference is an invaluable experience—a great way to meet other people working in your field as well as exceptional preparation for graduate school.
This spring, eight Knox students—Alexandros Papastergiou ’21, Priscilla Lagunas ’23, Charles Ericksen ’22, Isaac Hughes ’21, Sarah Lohmann ’21, Tina Jeon ’21, Marion Frank ’21, and Rae Sullivan ’21—took the virtual stage at the Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium, sponsored by Johns Hopkins University and held online April 24-25, 2021. While Knox students have presented at the Macksey Symposium in the past, noted Lisa Harris, director of the Gerald and Carol Vovis Center for Research and Advanced Study, this is the first time so many have been accepted in the same year.
Their presentations represented the scope and innovation within the humanities at Knox, with students from disciplines ranging from literature to anthropology and sociology.
Creative writing major Sarah Lohmann ’21 shared work related to her Honors project, an English translation of a Korean novel and a critique of a previous English translation. “I’ve been studying Korean for about five years now, and I was always looking for ways for that to get involved with my work in creative writing. I ended up taking a class on poetry translation my first year at Knox, and I’ve been really interested in translation ever since.”
She hoped that her presentation would spark further interest in the art of literary translation. “I’ve honed in on what I value in a translation and what I think makes it good or accurate. As an academic and literary field, it’s really underrepresented.” She was nominated for the symposium by one of the members of her Honors committee, Associate Professor and Chair of Asian Studies Weihung Du, who also helped her prepare an abstract of her research.
“I'm planning to pursue a graduate degree in literary translation after Knox,” said Lohmann, “and Knox has given me so many opportunities to showcase my work and receive advice and criticism.”
Philosophy major Charlie Erickson ’23 started pondering questions about the differences of experiencing things in time and things in their physical space when he took a course called “Memory and Perception” during winter term. “The liminal spaces we inhabit while reading philosophical texts and participating in psychoanalytic therapy are really about temporality, not spatiality,” he said. He decided to examine how liminal spaces—that is, the moments in which changes happen—are represented in the works of Freud, Nietzsche, and James Baldwin. When the course instructor, Associate Professor of Philosophy Dan Wack, offered to help Erickson expand an essay he wrote in the class into a larger research project, “I drafted an abstract that took the best sentences from my essay and weaved it into something I could be proud of. I learned quickly that my work on the topic was barely scratching the surface, and that I would love to expand upon it further.”
Presenting his work at the Macksey Symposium convinced Erickson “that academia is far more accessible than I previously thought, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.” He plans to submit a revised and lengthened version of his presentation to the Johns Hopkins undergraduate journal.
Tina Jeon ’21, a double major in education and anthropology and sociology, turned her attention to one of the most pressing issues in her field: how different educational systems and teachers have adapted in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “I’ve always been interested in how education settings and values are different in different social and cultural contexts, and wanted to do a cross-cultural study to see how teachers in the U.S. and South Korea (my native country) are going through this pandemic situation differently,” she said. She noted that South Korea had a centralized e-learning platform in place before the pandemic, while U.S. teachers have been working from a variety of private-sector solutions—and they connect with students differently. “American teachers are using technology and online platforms to practice acknowledging social and emotional learning, to check in and acknowledge students' well-being.”
Jeon plans to pursue a career as an instructional and technical coach for teachers, helping them find the right technology to support their content areas and adopt strategies that make it easier for students to learn. “I want to help teachers acknowledge students’ different backgrounds and learning styles,” she said.
Special thanks to Sarah Lohmann ’21 with assistance reporting this story.
Donor support helped cover application fees and other expenses for students participating in the Macksey Symposium. Learn more about funded research opportunities for students through the Vovis Center for Research and Advanced Study.
Above: Marion Frank '21, one of eight students to present at the Macksey Symposium, directs a production of The Violent Outburst that Drew Me to You in 2019.