UTPB faculty and students got a chance to workshop and network at the recent Naylor Workshop on Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies at York College of Pennsylvania.
Dates were Sept. 30-Oct. 2. UTPB has been participating since 2016, Rebecca Babcock, the William and Ordelle Watts Professor in the English Department, said in an email.
To be selected, you fill out an application. Both students and mentors need to apply and be accepted. Students who don’t have a research topic can apply for an equity and access grant also by filling out an application. The applications are usually due in the summer, Babcock wrote.
Those attending mostly come from the U.S., she said.
“(The) benefits to both students and faculty mentors are networking, learning new perspectives, and the opportunity to speak to like-minded people about one’s research project. More tangible results for students would be the ability to make connections with faculty and possible graduate school placements,” Babcock said.
“When applying to graduate school, it always helps if you know one of the faculty members. Other benefits are to the communities where the participants live. Workshop participants come back invigorated to make change in their communities through research and education. Faculty come back refreshed and excited and also honored to be included in such august company. It will show in their teaching. Faculty also get the opportunity to mentor students from other universities which builds more connections,” she wrote.
Leslie Malland, visiting English lecturer, and Candice Harding, a student and undergraduate researcher, attended.
Malland said a department-wide announcement was shared by Babcock. She applied and was accepted.
Harding said she wrote a research proposal for one of the writing studies classes at UTPB with Babcock.
“I applied just as part of a grade, but then it got accepted,” Harding said.
It wasn’t something she had her eye on.
“The research wasn’t necessarily something that I was putting a lot of focus on, but I was told it was really prestigious,” Harding said.
Her research was on the relationship between font and reading speed.
“Times New Roman is the most readable font, as far as science has proven thus far. However, the research that I’m doing is on the font called Bionic Reading, and it guides the eye with artificial fixation points, and allows the brain through metacognition to fill in the remaining parts of the word. That will be done with Texas Tech’s eye tracking lab for the actual data part of the research, so I don’t have any data for it yet,” she said.
Harding said Babcock told her about the eye tracking lab.
“The first night was a meet and greet. We had a formal dinner. Researchers, the plenary speaker and the researchers got up and just gave a quick overview about how their how their research topic aligned with social justice. The kind of underlying theme of the workshop was social justice and social injustices and how they can be looked at through various research aspects and writing studies. My research specifically focuses with just neurodivergent readers, which is something that’s becoming more of a norm now, people self identifying as neurodivergent,” Harding said.
Malland was a mentor.
“The mentor is a little bit different. We were given three mentees. We read their research proposals and came into the workshop ready to ask guiding questions for them. When we did the formal dinner with everybody and then the day of the workshop, we got into small working groups. As a mentor, I worked with another mentor. What we did try to do was spend a little time with each student researcher, asking guiding questions to help them develop their ideas, and then group workshopping each idea so that everyone could have input and helping them develop their ideas,” Malland said.
Then they had two sessions of a roundtable, which Harding said was like a dating workshop with the mentees.
“Our expertise, were put on a map so they could find us if they wanted to talk about our expertise and get guidance on their projects for people that weren’t in my workshop group,” Malland said.
Harding said some mentors might focus on archival studies, while others focus on linguistic justice, or quantitative research, for example.
“You were able to pick the mentor that best suited your methodology,” Harding said.
Malland said she sat for two hours and advised students on their projects.
“Most people came to me for curriculum development questions. I’m not sure how they decided what to put after our expertise, but they did put curriculum development. I do have a lot of background in that, too, so it wasn’t wrong. I was just surprised that they picked that up because I’ve developed a course here and courses in the past,” Malland said.
She developed interdisciplinary writing at UTPB. It is waiting for approval from Austin to get it as a general education course.
“That would serve the nursing students really well to have a third writing course towards our degree,” Malland said.
Harding said there’s only one day of “hot and heavy” workshopping, but the main part of the conference is networking.
“A lot of the faculty worked in graduate programs and were recruiting future graduate students from this pool of undergrads,” Malland said.
They also worked on elevator pitches, she said.
Harding said there was also a focus on getting their work research published and “into the hands and eyes of people who can do something with it. So don’t just let your research stop at publication. That was one thing, is how are you going to implement the research that you’re doing?”
“And so for mine, I just pitched the idea of taking it to accommodation offices. If I could prove through this data eye tracking software that it did help self-identified neurodivergent readers, then if it was petitioned to accommodation offices, then universities and faculty would have to start offering that text, or at least an add-on, things to help out students, because students aren’t always going to seek the accommodations that they need and so it’s best to just have some forms of it readily available without fear of ostracization. But just to get them published and get them in the right hands, and honestly keep pumping money back into research,” Harding said.
Her pitch changed slightly because the font is available as a download on Apple and Kindle, for instance.
The conference also recognized undergraduate researchers as researchers and writers when they are normally just looked at as students.
Malland noted how prestigious this was for UTPB to have two full-time faculty and four students attend the conference.
Malland said it was also exciting for UTPB because it showed the level they’re at as lecturers and they are hiring more.
Myra Salcedo, senior lecturer in the Department of Literature and Language, said the workshop was an incredible experience for her.
“I am hearing impaired and have a hand in disabilities studies. I mentored students in professional writing, young adult novels, and those negotiating physical disabilities. I was just amazed at the level of brilliance demonstrated from the students that I met. The future belongs to them. We are in good hands,” Salcedo said.