ALANA Hosts Student Research on Diversity

Katherine Byrnes

Throughout the entire month of February, the African, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center is hosting the Student Research Forum on Race and Ethnicity. Each Tuesday from 11:15 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., a student will present his or her research project. The projects span a wide variety of topics, including race in conjunction with class, gender, identity, public policy and media expression. Specifically, the presentations will focus on issues such as colorism in the African American community, media coverage of Muslims and terrorism and Jewish female identity.

Research projects were recommended by Associate Professor of Political Science Nina Moore and Associate Professor of Political Science John Palmer, both of whom played a fundamental role in the organization of this month-long event. This program also has a wide variety of sponsors, including the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, the Humanities, Social Sciences, and University Studies Divisions, the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization, the Africana and Latin American Studies program, the Office of Undergraduate Studies, as well as the history, English, psychology, education and political science departments. This range of sponsors reflects the wide range of ideologies presented through the student research projects.

Professor Moore expected that this forum would be of particular benefit to attending students because it does not involve mere discussion on various opinions of these racial issues. Instead, it involves “students doing serious work” in this field of research. Not only do the projects present original field research on their topics, but they also involve thorough analyses and presentations of a portion of the wide variety of literature within this field.

One of the first presentations in the forum was senior Josh Cohen’s project entitled “Institutional Racism: The Impact of Education on Opportunity,” which discussed how the public school system as an institution is inherently biased against African American students. He focused on three aspects of the public school system: funding, resources and teaching.

Through the examination of these aspects, Cohen said that, “The public school system creates a distinct inequality against African Americans for higher education and future employment opportunities.”

Sophomore Christina Gayles, a future presenter in the forum, whose project looks at the racial disparities between black and white students’ educational performance in public and private schools feels as though she has gained quite a bit from her experience with this project.

“Workingonmy research projecthas been rewarding,” Gayles said. “It has allowed me to do scholarly work and challenge myself academically. I was able to focus on an issue that I feel rather passionately about.”

This is a unique opportunity for students to witness the product of serious research by fellow students, and so attendance is encouraged.