AMCS Fall Undergraduate Research Colloquium

DUC 234, 12:00 pm




Presentations from students in 375A, Fieldwork and Capstone Projects. Confused about where to begin with your Projects? Interested in what the Junior Methods class entails? Come Listen to current AMCS Students describe their various AMCS projects. See below Schedule. Lunch provided for Participants & Audience.

Charlotte Borner (2014)

The Great Education Debate: How Charter Schools Affect American Society

Mentor: Linda Lindsey

There is a lot that can be said about the American Educational system. As a fundamental right for Americans, it is said to be the great equalizer and the key to success. But, is it really all of these things? The public school system in America is often viewed as inadequate, causing frequent efforts to reform the system. One of these relatively recent efforts is the Charter School Movement. Charter schools lie somewhere in the abyss that exists between private and public schools. Most often, they receive public funding and are tuition-free, though they have the autonomy of a private school.

In some cases, this heightened independence allows for these schools to hand select their student bodies, therefore producing results that outshine their traditional public counterparts. Herein lies the debate: can Americans celebrate the successes of charter schools if these results do not account for the harmful effects they have on the students left behind? Moreover, do the systems in place in charter schools properly prepare their students for success?

This project examines a specific neighborhood, East Harlem, in New York City, that houses both acclaimed charter schools and traditional public schools. This generally low-income, Hispanic neighborhood provides an area for observational study for the comparison of charter and traditional schools. While ultimately, the charter schools produce positive results of the academic success of their students, the qualitative research proves that the students not chosen to participate in a charter school education are put at an even greater disadvantage; and often, the charter schools themselves do not provide a well rounded education for the students. The charter school movement in America has put many students at a disadvantage and is therefore detrimental to American society.

Casey Crawford

Be Like Mike: Exploring the Evolution of the NBA Through the
Commercialization of its Most Famous Players

The National Basketball Association has witnessed a meteoric rise in popularity over the last 30 years, and numerous factors have played a role in this growth. As a result, there have been many unintended consequences of the league's expansion and evolution, and for the first time, personal brand and identity is equally, if not more, important than the National Basketball Association's brand as a whole, and this is what differentiates the NBA from its contemporary sporting institutions.

While the notion of a celebrity athlete is far from novel in American society, the NBA may be the first American sports league comprised largely of celebrities. Moreover, the NBA itself is largely responsible for the ways in which its players are marketed, and thus, the league and its players have created a symbiotic relationship in which the two intrinsically linked parties provide each other with a distinct set of opportunities and advantages. For the players, this comes in the form of media attention and public exposure, while for NBA teams, the relationship can be viewed as one driven by profitability in the form of ticket sales, television contracts, and a growing fan base.

Now more than ever, players are "taking their talents" to other realms of American culture and industry. Former NBA greats Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson are the owners of two American sports franchises, but there are now an unprecedented number of ways an NBA player can gain notoriety. Lamar Odom and Kris Humphries' relationships with the Kardashians are well documented, as is Nick Young's relationship with pop star Iggy Azalea. Shaq's rap albums, however bad they are, were popular.

This paper will examine the celebrification of NBA players, using Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James as case studies, and pose that the celebrification of NBA players can be viewed as a complex yet mutually beneficial marketing strategy in which certain types of players are used systematically by entities such as the NBA, as well as corporations and the media in a self perpetuating cycle designed to popularize the league and increase market size. The intertwined phenomenons of celebrity, commodification, and commercialization are explored in the context of globalization and race.

Emma Honeyman (2014)

Structural Inequality in Schools: Re-segregation in St. Louis and Across the Nation

Last year, 475 K-12 students from one struggling school district became "pawns" in the political game of accreditation as they were forced to transfer to an unfamiliar school where they are unwanted. The current situation in Normandy serves as a microcosm of the larger national educational failure to provide high-quality education for all American youth. Some relevant scholarly work references the initiation of public education as the supposed 'great equalizer' and yet in reality the structure of American public schools has always propagated inequality and encouraged segregation. The way in which governments allocate funding and resources to schools is one of the primary culprits, which is why I utilize a case study on the unaccredited Normandy school district in St. Louis, Missouri to illuminate factors behind inequality.

I take a historical approach to illuminate the congruence between discrimination in the public school system and segregation in the United States. I address the structural inequality endemic to the American public school system, particularly how it perpetuates disparities across socioeconomic, regional and racial lines. To contend that schools never fully integrated, I examine the historical framework of desegregation in America as a buildup to the current condition where our education system disenfranchises minority and poor students.

The evidence that I employ to support these claims is primarily extracted from personal interviews with educators, news coverage of the events in Normandy and the comprehensive national data released in March by the U.S. Department of Education. I argue that this data expels any lingering notions of education as the 'great equalizer' and elucidates the need for improved communication between federal, state and local governments. Diversity within and between districts must be accounted for to drive realistic progress toward educational equality.

Sophie Revere (2014)

Food for Thought: An Exploration of Cuisine and Regional Identity in the American Bottom

The American Bottom region of southern Illinois is relatively unknown and absent from academic literature; however, some of the most important contemporary conversations about American culture have roots in the region. The American Bottom is home to Cahokia, an architecturally complex pre-Columbian Native American city; the birthplace of controversial agrochemical behemoth Monsanto; and East St. Louis, a town dispossessed from the contemporary social life of St. Louis, yet central to conversations about regional race relations. While these areas have received considerable scholarly attention, the American Bottom has remained a relatively unfamiliar term; the region is often portrayed as a fragmented landscape, comprised of disparate and unrelated areas.

Despite this common outside view of fragmentation, citizens of the American Bottom have a strong sense of regional identity, and many historical and cultural similarities exist between American Bottom towns. My capstone project - a cookbook of recipes from the American Bottom - arose as a means of using food to create a connective narrative across this region that has been previously viewed as discontinuous. The recipes included in my work were gathered from interviews with residents of the American Bottom, community-written cookbooks from the region, and scholarly works. Their origins span the entire breadth of the region, from Alton, the American Bottom's northernmost point, to the banks of the Kaskaskia River, its southern border, in order to holistically encapsulate the spirit of cuisine throughout the region. Each recipe is paired with an accompanying piece detailing a relevant aspect of the region's historical or cultural landscape; these writings both demonstrate the interplay between history, culture, and local cuisine, and highlight similarities between the towns from which the recipes originate. It is my hope that through the familiar and universal medium of food, this document will expand and promote the view of the American Bottom as complex, unified, and deserving of study.

Máire Murphy

Academic Coordinator