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2022 Undergraduate Writing Symposium Program

Schedule-at-a-Glance: Undergraduate Writing Symposium (Thursday, March 31)

Event updates

*Any updates about the event and its schedule will be posted here. Please check back regularly.

When: Thursday, March 31, 3:00-6:00 PM CDT | Where: Commons Center

  • 3:00-3:15: Panelist Check-In
  • 3:15-3:30: Welcome from the Writing Studio
  • 3:30-4:00: Spotlight Panel
  • 4:05-4:55: “Author Talk” Breakout Panels
  • 5:00-6:00: “Author Talk” Breakout Panels
  • 6:00: Closing Remarks and Reception

Full schedule including presenters, their bios and abstracts available below.

Full Schedule: Undergraduate Writing Symposium (Thursday, March 31)

3:00-3:15: Panelist Check-In

3:15-3:30: Welcome from the Writing Studio

3:30-4:00: Spotlight Panel

  • Panelists: Emily Wiley and Virginia Richards

Emily Wiley: Can’t See the Forest for the Trees: Confronting the Challenges of Arden

Presenter Bio: Emily Wiley is a member of the class of 2025 from Darien, Connecticut. She is currently undecided yet considering pursuing a major in English and minors in Business and Data Science. In her free time, Emily enjoys working out on the Vanderbilt Club Tennis Team and with Studio V fitness for women. She is passionate about journaling and spending time with friends and family.

Abstract: An analysis on the forest of Arden in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, this essay contrasts the superficial and in-depth views of nature. This piece dives into the imagery, characters, and moral conflicts of Duke Senior and Jaques, ultimately investigating the question of how humans confront challenges.

Virginia Richards: “A White Girl Elopes With a Burly Negro”: Interracial Elopement Articles as a Site of Late 19th-Century Anti-Miscegenation Fearmongering

Presenter Bio: Virginia Richards is an undergraduate senior majoring in Law, History, & Society and Political Science. She is a scholar of Vanderbilt’s History Department’s History Honors Program, a selective, three-semester program of individual undergraduate research, guided by faculty advisers. As a part of the program, Virginia proposed, researched, and wrote a baccalaureate thesis on an original topic, that thesis being the piece of writing she has shared with the Undergraduate Writing Symposium.

Virginia enjoys exploring historical areas revolving around race, gender, and class. The last several research papers that Virginia has written have included an analysis of Black women’s depictions in the American press from the 20th-century onward, depictions of gender within the 17th-century British Mercurius newsbooks, and understandings of beauty among Anglo-American missionaries in China within the 19th-century.

Abstract: This piece is a History Department Honors thesis that systematically analyzes the late-19th century interracial elopement genre that was constructed by the post-Civil War American press. Both white and Black newspapers had respective political objectives in publishing these sensational tales- white newspapers utilized this genre as a form of racial alarmism in response to the enfranchisement of Black men through Reconstruction. Black newspapers, on the other hand, used the elopement genre as a means to discourage Black men from engaging in miscegenation to avoid being stereotyped as assailants of white women.

4:05-4:55: “Author Talk” Breakout Rooms

  • Breakout A Panelists: Emily Wiley, Muthoni Kamau, and Eva Elton
  • Breakout B Panelists: Ainsley Gill, Blythe Bouza, Victoria Stewart, Virginia Richards

Panel Chair, Paul Durst (Assistant Professor in the Practice of Biological Sciences, Director of Initiatives in STEM Education for the College of Arts and Science)

Emily Wiley: Can’t See the Forest for the Trees: Confronting the Challenges of Arden

Presenter Bio: Emily Wiley is a member of the class of 2025 from Darien, Connecticut. She is currently undecided yet considering pursuing a major in English and minors in Business and Data Science. In her free time, Emily enjoys working out on the Vanderbilt Club Tennis Team and with Studio V fitness for women. She is passionate about journaling and spending time with friends and family.

Abstract: An analysis on the forest of Arden in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, this essay contrasts the superficial and in-depth views of nature. This piece dives into the imagery, characters, and moral conflicts of Duke Senior and Jaques, ultimately investigating the question of how humans confront challenges.

Muthoni Kamau: Momaday and Knowledge as Identity in House Made of Dawn

Presenter Bio: Muthoni Kamau is a member of the class of 2024.

Abstract: This piece discusses the ways in which N. Scott Momaday’s novel, House Made of Dawn, dissects and reinvents conceptions of indigenous identity within the cultural conceptions of Indigenous, Chicanx, and White Americans. Furthermore, it emphasizes the critical nature of his work in its unique positioning at the beginnings of the Native American Renaissance and highlights the ways it utilizes coexisting literary traditions to recenter indigeneity for living indigenous people.

Eva Elton: Epistemic Injustice in Science Education

Presenter Bio: Eva Elton is a senior from Boston, MA. She plans to pursue graduate studies in Education to become a science teacher after graduation.

Abstract: Epistemic injustice describes the inequalities that arise from privileging certain types of knowledge. This project aims to examine what types of epistemic resources students are leveraging when asked about a scientific concept as well as how they respond when positioned with epistemic agency. These questions were investigated through a series of virtual one-on-one interviews in which 5thgrade students engaged with questions about a set of images related to ecosystems and food webs. These interviews revealed the types of lived experiences, cultural knowledge, and prior academic experiences students draw on to make sense of scientific concepts and potentially offer insight into epistemic resources teachers can incorporate to make the science classroom a more inclusive space.

Ainsley Gill: The Pen is in Her Hands

Presenter Bio: Ainsley Gill is a member of the Class of 2025 from Houston, Texas. She plans to major in Political Science and Law, History, & Society with a minor in Gender & Sexuality Studies. On campus, she is a College Scholar and a member of the Vanderbilt Debate Team and the Undergraduate Honor Council. She also enjoys writing for the Vanderbilt Political Review and dancing with VU Pointe.

Abstract: In Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland “cannot be interested in” the “real solemn history” prescribed by the period’s educational expectations for young women, instead finding romances to be far more captivating. Through Catherine’s clear preference for Gothic novels over history, Austen highlights a larger shared experience that women of the time had with traditional history texts and emphasizes the merit of novels as being much more capable of speaking to women’s experiences and interests in order to credit these novels for what they truly were to many -an early form of women’s history.

Blythe Bouza: ROCKA(GOOD)BYE HAMLET: A DISCUSSION OF THE FLOP ROCK MUSICAL ROCKABYE HAMLET

Presenter Bio: Blythe Bouza is a member of the Class of 2025 from New Orleans, Louisiana. She intends to double major in Neuroscience and English with a minor in Theatre. On campus, she’s a Staff Writer for the Life section of the Vanderbilt Hustler, a member of Relay for Life’s PR team, and a Creative Communications Team member for The Music Room. In her free time, Blythe enjoys creatively writing about films on her blog, reading, or curating the ideal Spotify playlist.

Abstract: This paper focuses on Rockabye Hamlet, a 70s rock-musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.This piece discusses the musical’s shortcomings and the political pitfalls of the theatre industry itself, which aided in the musical’s demise and rather short life-span. The essay analyzes what the creative team could have done better to allow the show to thrive in an environment where it was simultaneously set up to fail.

Victoria Stewart: Buddhist Nationalism and Islamophobia Define and Fuel Discrimination Against Muslims in Myanmar

Presenter Bio: Victoria Stewart is a member of the class of 2022.

Abstract: The history of the conflict in Myanmar is a prime example through which we can understand the harmful role British Colonialism has had in defining religions and establishing religious hierarchies. This project seeks to outline the Orientalist ideas that have historically lead to religious conflict and continue to do so today.

Virginia Richards: “A White Girl Elopes With a Burly Negro”: Interracial Elopement Articles as a Site of Late 19th-Century Anti-Miscegenation Fearmongering

Presenter Bio: Virginia Richards is an undergraduate senior majoring in Law, History, & Society and Political Science. She is a scholar of Vanderbilt’s History Department’s History Honors Program, a selective, three-semester program of individual undergraduate research, guided by faculty advisers. As a part of the program, Virginia proposed, researched, and wrote a baccalaureate thesis on an original topic, that thesis being the piece of writing she has shared with the Undergraduate Writing Symposium.

Virginia enjoys exploring historical areas revolving around race, gender, and class. The last several research papers that Virginia has written have included an analysis of Black women’s depictions in the American press from the 20th-century onward, depictions of gender within the 17th-century British Mercurius newsbooks, and understandings of beauty among Anglo-American missionaries in China within the 19th-century.

Abstract: This piece is a History Department Honors thesis that systematically analyzes the late-19th century interracial elopement genre that was constructed by the post-Civil War American press. Both white and Black newspapers had respective political objectives in publishing these sensational tales- white newspapers utilized this genre as a form of racial alarmism in response to the enfranchisement of Black men through Reconstruction. Black newspapers, on the other hand, used the elopement genre as a means to discourage Black men from engaging in miscegenation to avoid being stereotyped as assailants of white women.

5:00-6:00: “Author Talk” Breakout Rooms

  • Breakout C Panelists: Victoria He, Neomi Chen, and Rishabh Gharekhan
  • Breakout D Panelists: Brina Ratangee, Zacarias Negron, Mark Grujic, Andrew Ruan

Panel Chair, Melissa Mallon (Associate University Librarian for Teaching and Learning; Director of Peabody Library)

Victoria He: A Critical Literature Review on Anorexia Nervosa

Presenter Bio: Victoria He is a member of the class of 2025 from Tampa, Florida. She is double majoring in Psychology and Human & Organizational Development and double minoring in Data Science and Business. Victoria intends to pursue a career in law or business, although she is also very passionate about the field of psychology. On campus, she is involved in Mock Trial, the Undergraduate Honor Council, and the BRAINS Lab where she conducts research on anxiety and depressive disorders. In her free time, Victoria enjoys singing, attending concerts with friends, running, and watching movies.

Abstract: This scientific literature review, written for a First Year Writing Seminar on the psychology of eating disorders, analyzes the characteristics, diagnosis, epidemiology, and complications of anorexia nervosa. It highlights the most substantiated research from peer-reviewed journal articles to provide recommendations for prevention and treatment, as well as necessary areas of further research. Anorexia nervosa is a dangerous, multifaceted mental disorder that disrupts numerous areas of life, including mental, emotional, and physical realms. It can significantly reduce lifespan and be fatal if left untreated. It is characterized by deliberate self-starvation to reach an excessively low weight, along with other practices like overexercising. These behaviors stem from an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body perception. The prevalence of anorexia has overall increased since the 1960s, particularly throughout adolescent girls in modern Western cultures due to the heightened ideal of thinness. In addition to environmental risk factors, genetics can also increase the likelihood of anorexia, such as a mother with a history of eating disorders. Comorbid complications often arise with anorexia, such as anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and social phobia. Physical ailments also occur, including cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis. Although some health abnormalities linked at heart disease return to normal after a full recovery from anorexia, other diseases like osteoporosis can remain for a lifetime. People diagnosed with anorexia receive either inpatient, partial, or outpatient treatment, in combination with psychotherapy. There should be a greater movement toward body positivity in the media, and stigma around mental disorders should be eliminated.

Neomi Chen: Symbol of Antigone: Selfless or Selfish?

Presenter Bio: Neomi Chen is a member of Vanderbilt’s Class of 2025. Although currently undecided in the College of Arts and Science, Neomi is pursuing the pre-dental track. She was born and raised in New York along with her three siblings and nine goldfish. In her free time, she loves embarking on both familiar and fresh food adventures with her family or friends in Nashville—especially since cheesecake is her favorite dessert.

Abstract: After reading Sophocles’ play Antigone, one may believe that Antigone selflessly defied an anti-burial law by burying her brother because she loved him and wanted to honor the gods. However, this paper examines the various instances before and after the burial in which Antigone constantly seeks external validation and attention from her peers, thereby asserting that Antigone selfishly wanted to become a symbol of martyrdom.

Rishabh Gharekhan: The Building Blocks of Demonetization and The Consequences When They Fall

Presenter Bio: Rishabh Gharekhan is a a member of the class of 2024 from New York studying Political Science, Economics and Business. He enjoys playing sports, reading, discussing international politics, and visiting historical sites. He hopes to pursue a career in business after graduation and strives to make people smile in the process!

Abstract: This research project explores demonetization, an economic anti-corruption strategy, and a set of conditions required for its success. The project then uses the framework to explore India’s demonetization effort and the reasons for its failure.

Panel Chair, Elizabeth Covington (Principal Senior Lecturer in English and Gender and Sexuality Studies, Associate Chair of Gender and Sexuality Studies)

Brina Ratangee: An Analysis of Samra Habib’s We Have Always Been Here

Presenter Bio: Brina Ratangee is a member of the Class of 2025 from Frederick, MD. She plans to pursue the pre-medical track with majors in Medicine, Health, and Society and Neuroscience and a minor in History. When not in class, Brina can be found writing news stories for The Hustler, working on initiatives for VSG’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, playing in the Vanderbilt Commodore Orchestra, or solving crosswords and trivia.

Abstract: Samra Habib is a queer Pakistani Canadian writer, photographer, and activist recognized by Lambda Literary in 2019 for her memoir We Have Always Been Here. In the memoir, Habib discusses her experiences as a queer person of color, religious minority, and immigrant. I contextualized her lived experiences within the various health frameworks I was introduced to in Professor Kirsty Clark’s “LGBTQ Health Disparities” course—life course perspective, minority stress theory, intersectionality, and the social-ecological model—to examine how Habib’s intersecting identities shaped the challenges she faced and her transformation into a leading LGBTQ+ activist and role model.

Zacarias Negron: When Common Faith Divides:  The Paradox of Orthodoxy in Ukraine and Russia

Presenter Bio: Zacarias Negron is a Chancellor’s Scholar at Vanderbilt University, where he is majoring in Political Science (International Track) and Law, History, & Society. He is minoring in Russian Studies and Islamic Studies with a particular focus on the Caucasus and Central Asian regions. He is a member of the Vanderbilt University Debate Team, competing in collegiate and British Parliamentary and Case Competition debates, both foreign and domestic.

Abstract: Amidst growing political division and strife, the Russian and Ukrainian peoples are united by a common faith—Orthodoxy. While much literature and punditry offer commentary on the widening chasm between the region’s two predominant iterations of Orthodoxy—Russian and Ukrainian—this author provides a synthesis of religious and sociopolitical history to illuminate the sects’ common beginnings and constitutions. As a result, the author finds that it is not Orthodoxy itself that has fractured the two peoples. Rather, it is strategic usury and politicization that have corrupted Orthodoxy in the post-Soviet space. In response, the author suggests a return to the simplicity of orthodox Orthodoxy, the augmentation of believers’ perceptions of one another, and perhaps a bit of ‘holy foolishness.’

Mark Grujic: The Success of Post-War Ethnic Integration in Bosnia’s Brčko District

Presenter Bio: Mark Grujic is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University studying History and Public Policy, with a minor in Classics. He is especially interested in historical international relations and hopes to one day go into law. On campus, Mark is a research assistant for the Latin American Public Opinion Project and a Senior Editor for the Vanderbilt Political Review. He also helps plan events for Vanderbilt’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity and enjoys exploring Nashville’s local food scene.

Abstract: How does effective ethnic reconciliation take place in the wake of brutal ethnic conflict? The international community was forced to grapple with this issue following the Bosnian War, yet their efforts culminated in what is today a highly polarized Bosnia and Herzegovina with a number of segregated schools and an active Serbian secessionist movement. However, the markedly different approaches undertaken in Bosnia’s multiethnic Brčko District have made for a democratic, ethnically integrated society–one which can largely be owed to a nondemocratic, somewhat forceful approach to peacebuilding in the region.

Andrew Ruan: Water for Whom? The Social Distribution of Public-Private Partnerships in Rural Water Supply

Presenter Bio: Andy Ruan is a senior from Chicago double majoring in economics and sociology. He is passionate about global development and is interested in writing about and working in fields related to global infrastructure. On campus, he has been involved as a researcher in the political science department, a peer advisor for the Global Education Office, and a member of various service organizations like Camp Kesem. After graduation, he will we working in US public infrastructure finance.

Abstract: The dual challenges posed by the climate crisis and population growth are intensifying water insecurities in the most vulnerable parts of the world. Water supply management and infrastructure have come to the forefront of global development policy debates. The need to source alternative funding and delivery models for rural water service provision in developing countries has led to greater liberalization of water sectors and a rise in public-private partnerships (PPP). The use case and distribution of these infrastructure delivery models speak to the heart of issues surrounding new development regimes and privatization, yet the socioeconomic contexts behind their deployment have been understudied. Water management is deeply connected to social structures and processes. Failure to account for these dynamics can lead to adverse outcomes or result in conflict among stakeholders. This study aims to understand why and how shifts in water governance approaches are occurring and who is benefitting. A combination of quantitative and qualitative evidence is used to identify underlying factors predicting the distribution of rural water PPPs. Data on PPP counts in sub-national districts (N = 202) from four sub-Saharan African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria) are tested against per capita income and other independent variables in a zero-inflated negative binomial regression model. Results show PPP-managed water points appear more often in districts with higher GDP per capita and less often in districts with higher water stress. PPP was found to be a substitute to community-based management models in districts where no PPP existed at all.

6:00: Closing Remarks and Reception

Please join us for closing remarks and a buffet reception following the event.

Access Scaffold, Volume 4

Available Now! Check out volume 4 of Scaffold: A Showcase of Vanderbilt First-Year Writing to read many of the works featured above and listen to author reflections.