Anthropology considers launching student colloquium

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Department looks at extracurricular option to expand experiences.

By Janelle Polcyn

sac-ranger@alamo.edu 

Presenting research papers at a conference outside of class typically doesn’t happen until at least graduate school, but a professor at this college hopes to offer that experience for students in her department through a campus colloquium.

Anthropology Professor Elizabeth de la Portilla said she got the idea from a former student, who suggested it so students could share their research and get feedback from peers and faculty.

“One of the things I’ll be spearheading, so hopefully we’ll have it at the end of this semester or in the fall, is a conference where our students will be able to present papers they have been working on so folks can get kind of an understanding of what it’s like to present a paper at a conference,” de la Portilla said.

The colloquium would be open to students in the department of history, economics, anthropology and political science, she said.

Every year the American Anthropological Association has a similar meeting where anthropologists share their research.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to exchange ideas, and research is really good for anthropologists in general,” Joslyn Osten, marketing communications manager for the association, said of de la Portilla’s idea.

“Exposure of the students’ research really helps students connect with one another. … It’s really helpful to have supporting material of where you’ve been published.”

Whether students are looking for affirmation or networks, a meeting of like-minded intellectuals is a place where many professionals go for a start.

“This would be a way for people to share each other’s work and for our department to see what our students are doing — also, for students to get some practice,” de la Portilla said. “This is just something we’ve been talking about doing.”

Students would choose one topic and research it fully, she said.

“It’s original research, so this would be their research on a topic that’s of interest to them or a topic that’s been covered in class, and the paper would have to be about eight to 12 minutes long,” de la Portilla said.

The association has three ways to present research: a panel of two to four people who collaborated, a roundtable of anthropologists who study a similar topic and discuss their findings, or a solitary presentation.

Each format includes a question-and-answer segment, Osten said.

De la Portilla and the department want students to do solitary presentations. The goal is to get them learning how to research, present and publish a paper for their future careers.

“To gain that name recognition is really useful when you’re applying for a Ph.D. program,” Osten said. “It helps with funding for potential research. If they choose to go a path that’s non-academic, just having that name recognition is really helpful in the workforce. If you are a known expert in a particular field, you are more likely to be hired to do a particular job.”

De la Portilla said the department will have to look at a “date that’s feasible.”

“Probably sometime in April … but before everybody gets real busy with finals,” she said. “This could be something that people are using toward their final. We can have a colloquium so that they can see if they can get feedback on their material.”

De la Portilla said she and her department have some work to do before they can host the colloquium but they have the idea and are spreading the word.

“Our students are smarter than they think they are,” de la Portilla said. “It really is about the students. (They) really are the most important aspect.”

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