Undergraduate students had a chance to shine by presenting their own research at an academic conference held Saturday in the Old University Union.
At the first-ever Latin American, Caribbean, Latina and Indigenous Studies Undergraduate Student Conference and Banquet, 25 students participated in a series of panels that explored the role of feminism, drugs and history in forming the culture and economy of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ten panels, each presented by at least two students, were held throughout the day, followed by an evening celebratory banquet held in the Susquehanna Room.
To take part, students had to submit 100-word abstracts outlining their presentations to the Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies program.
Genesis Castro, a student assistant in the LACAS program and a freshman in the Decker School of Nursing, said the majority of students who applied were either interested in Latin American studies or taking classes in the LACAS program.
“I didn’t think we were going to have many students that were interested,” Castro said.
Castro said that although the program only publicized the event on campus, students from other schools also submitted applications. Among the panelists were students from SUNY Albany, Buffalo State University, Broome Community College, SUNY Oneonta and University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
“We were supposed only to send the invitations to submit a proposal to Binghamton [University] students,” she said. “But somehow people from other schools found out about it, and they sent in their proposals, and we just took them in.”
Gabriela Corbera, a junior at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, said she read about the conference in a newsletter at her school’s Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies.
At the conference, Corbera presented her research on gender equity in Chile, a subject she focused on to write a proposal for a research travel grant.
“I was like, ‘Oh! it would be really great to present and elaborate on the topic here,’” Corbera said.
The banquet that followed the panel featured a reading by Carole Boyce Davies, a professor of English and Africana Studies at Cornell University who worked as an instructor at BU until 1997. Davies used research from her books about the African Diaspora, a term used to refer to the migration of Africans and their descendants around the world. She also spoke about the Caribbean intellectual tradition and the influence of that tradition beyond island culture.
“Binghamton students have always been very smart,” Davies told Pipe Dream. “To me, it’s critical not to present to them in a way that assumes basic or minimal knowledge, but to speak in a way that has them ready to go follow up in the libraries with new ideas.”
More than 120 people, mostly students, attended the dinner banquet, according to Marcol Rodriguez, the other student assistant in the LACAS program and a freshman double-majoring in biology and theater. He said that, like the number of students who applied to be panelists, the turnout exceeded expectations.
“The student conference isn’t much of a social event,” Rodriguez said. “It’s more of an academic event, so I expected less students to show up.”
Rodriguez said that he spent most of Saturday preparing the banquet that followed the panel, but he had the opportunity to attend one of the panels in the morning about Casta paintings, a genre of 18th century painting in Mexico depicting mixed-race families.
“It was really informative,” Rodriguez said. “Thank God I had the opportunity to go to at least one of them, because I got something out of it for sure.”