Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Seventh annual diversity symposium gives students platform to present research

At the back of Gorgas 205, behind an unlit projector and rows of empty chairs, there stands an aisle of trifold posters. Next to each one stands its owner, ready to answer the inevitable slew of questions they will receive as attendees slowly begin to fill the room.

These posters served as an early morning kick-off for the UA College of Communication and Information Sciences’ seventh annual diversity symposium, “Discerning Diverse Voices,” on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Robin Boylorn, a UA professor of communications studies and symposium coordinator, said while the research presentations are not the only component of the event, they are an important aspect of the college’s diversity plan that emphasize the further development of diversity research.

“It gives us the opportunity to think about something we’re working on because it doesn’t have to be a completed project,” Boylorn said. 

This, Boylorn said, is especially important to student researchers. While the poster session is not limited to undergraduate and graduate students, it presents them with the opportunity to improve both their research and presentation skills in a relaxed environment.

“It’s more one-on-one,” she said. “They have an opportunity to showcase what they’re doing, think about it visually and articulate it into discussion, respond to questions and prodding about it more informally and intimately. It makes them more comfortable.”

Mary Lieb, a senior majoring in advertising and communications studies, presented her research on Hillary Clinton’s social media engagement with minority groups throughout the course of her presidential campaign. Lieb said even though her research was a class requirement, she was happy that she got to engage with a topic she’s personally attached to.

“I’ve always been interested in political communication,” she said, “and I’ve been able to follow this election more closely than I’ve had the opportunity to in the past. So I thought it was interesting to look at this disparity between officials and their constituents and how they’ve attempted to bridge that gap.”

Some of the research presented hit closer to home. Megan Zartman, a junior majoring in communications studies, interviewed and observed the residents of the UA Rotary House, which she said was a means of analyzing the best practices for facilitating intercultural communication at universities.

“We really need to start thinking about diversity at the undergraduate level to really get things going in academia as whole,” Zartman said.

Boylorn said she believes students are the ones at the forefront of diversity research and hopes to see their efforts continued over the years.

“They have really important and fresh ideas about diversity and are willing to interrogate things that they are experiencing, in their lives and in their relationships, to kind of instigate those questions,” she said. “I think that’s really important and something we should be considering when we’re doing research – how it plays into our everyday life and our relationships.”

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