Three Honors College students — Emily Horvath, Ella Mayfield, and Lauren Perrone — presented at the Department of Languages, Literature and Culture’s (DLLC) 2023 Spring Symposium — Diversity and (Dis)Connections in the Contemporary Context held on March 23-24 in the Plemmons Student Union. In this annual Spring Symposium, Appalachian State faculty and students make presentations featuring their research, pedagogical initiatives, and creative works. This year's topics included: Intersections of Native Nations and Latinx Literatures, Engagement and Connection in Post-Pandemic Pedagogy, Intersections of Language & Literature in the Spanish Speaking World, and a roundtable of student research.
Emily Horvath, a second-year middle grades education major with a concentration in language arts and social studies and a minor in English, presented "Making Ancient Texts Accessible Through Art” in the DLLC Student Research Roundtable, chaired and moderated by Dr. Paul Worley, professor and chair in the DLLC. Ella Mayfield and Lauren Perrone presented in the Intersections of Native Nations and Latinx Literatures session, chaired and moderated by Dr. Melissa Birkhofer, visiting assistant professor in the Department of English. Mayfield, a first-year physics major with a concentration in astronomy and a minor in English, presented “Ways of Belonging: Varying Native Experiences with the Concepts of Home and Homeland." Perrone, a second-year sociology major with a concentration in criminology presented, "Mental Colonization: A Tool of White Supremacy."
Mayfield explained how the experience of presenting at the DLLC Symposium connected to her Honors education:
“My experience presenting at the conference contributes to my Honors education because it had the unique function of giving me a valuable academic experience in something that wasn’t even remotely related to my major or career interests, but was still mentally enriching and helped prepare me for my future academic goals, which is one of the fundamental characteristics of an Honors education.”
For Horvath, this opportunity emerged as a result of her work in LLC 2025, Literature in Translation: Global Indigenous Literature, a general education class that she took with Dr. Worley in the Fall 2022 semester. In the class, students read a large section of the Popol wuj, the K'iche Mayan creation story, and created a creative project based on a smaller section of the story. Dr. Worley approached six students in the class and encouraged them to speak at the DLLC symposium about their projects. Horvath’s presentation discussed how she interpreted and retold ancient stories with modern art focusing on three key ideas: compression, representation, and respect. About this opportunity, she shared,
“I was absolutely thrilled when Dr. Worley asked us to do this, because I really loved the project, had never presented at a conference before, and generally enjoy public speaking and sharing my passions with others. I think it is great to have such a fun and informational presentation under my belt. While it was intimidating to present information, I'm by no means an expert on to a group of faculty I did not know, the support I received from my classmates and professor was the most valuable part of the experience.
Photo above feature Emily Horvath (left) presenting her work at the DLLC Symposium 2023 in the Plemmons Student Union.
Similarly, the literary analyses that Mayfield and Perrone presented at the DLLC symposium evolved out of their work in ENG 2130: Ethnic American Literature, a general education course that they took with Dr. Birkhofer in the Fall 2022 semester. Mayfield explained that in that class, “We read poems from a particularly powerful anthology called Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First People’s Poetry in her class, and I was struck by one poem in particular, called 'This Island on which I Love You' by Brandy Nālani McDougall. I thought the poem was beautiful and I was particularly fascinated by the author’s portrayal of the concepts of home and belonging through the lenses of nature and family. I decided to focus on these concepts and compare McDougall’s poem to another poem in the same anthology, ‘Off-Island Chamorus’ by Craig Santos Perez, that also discusses homeland and belonging, but in a completely different tone and context. I did research on the variety and complexity of indigenous experiences with home and homeland, especially how they are affected by migration and colonization, to tie everything together.”
Mayfield and Perrone, along with other students in Dr. Birkhofer’s class, first presented their research at the Southeastern Association of Cultural Studies (SEACS) Annual 2023 meeting held at UNC Charlotte from February 17-18. The SEACS meetings were the first time either had presented at a conference. The organizers of the DLLC Symposium heard about their presentations at SEACS and invited them to come and present their work to a different audience.
Photo above features (left to right): Anna Gretz, Lauren Perrone, Dr. Melissa Birkhofer, Natalie Allen, Jeffrey Lankford, Ella Mayfield at the SEACS 2023 conference held at the UNC Charlotte. Photo below pictures the same students with Dr. Birkhofer introducing their session at the SEACS 2023 meetings.
It is early in the academic career of these three students, and they are each only in the beginning stages thinking and planning towards their Honors theses. Mayfield explained that this was an important first-step experience, stating, “I wanted to gain some experience professionally presenting research since I know I will have to do it again with my honors thesis in a few years, and this was a great way to do that since I already had the paper written. Aside from that, it was also just really fun to get to talk about poetry, which is something I’m passionate about and interested in, with people who care about it and are interested in my analysis of it.”
These presentation experiences resulted from all three students expanding on their work in first- or second-year general education courses. As Horvath explained, “While this doesn't directly tie into my Honors thesis (a process I will begin next semester), it has given me a new passion for the topic of indigenous literature and culture, as well as given me experience with a professional presentation ahead of defending my thesis next spring.” Reflecting on the experience presenting at the DLLC Symposium, Perrone further added,
“Presenting at the symposium was a really cool experience because I was able to present my research to industry professionals who were seriously engaging with what I had to say…This experience was incredibly rewarding as a white Latina woman. It is really hard to figure out individual identities when a lot of the messaging is scrutinizing whether you are Latinx or Indigenous enough. It was just a really special opportunity to gain insight into some of the feelings I and many others have experienced. This conference has made me feel more confident going into planning my thesis and beginning research.”
Mayfield emphasized the benefits of presentation experiences like these for all Honors students. She related,
“There are lots of practical benefits from this experience—I have practice speaking at a professional research conference now, and since it was about something relatively low stakes (i.e., a paper I wrote for a class and not a giant thesis project) it was a great way to get my feet wet in the research conference world. And no one can deny that it looks great on resumes and grad school applications!”
The Honors College encourages Honors students to talk to their general education instructors about opportunities to develop and present their work. Stay tuned to the Honors Wednesday Memo to learn about opportunities to present at future DLLC Symposia held each spring.
Top photo features Emily Horvath (third from left) with Dr. Worley (far left) and the rest of the students on the DLLC Student Research Roundtable at the DLLC 2023 Symposium held in the Plemmons Student Union.