University Writing & Research Conference Program Spring 2021

Thu, 4 March, 2021 5:00pm

Spring 2021 Conference Schedule

Join us for this spring's virtual University Writing Program Writing and Research Conference on Thursday, March 4 & Friday, March 5.

All sessions are 50 minutes in length. Please arrive on time and plan to stay for the entire session, including the Q&A, which is an important component of the panel discussion.


All sessions will be online via Zoom:

Join the Conference on Zoom


Check Out These Prizes Celebrating Undergraduate Writing at GW:

Session T1: Thursday, March 4, 5:00 PM

UW Alumni Rountable #1: Writing in the University and Beyond

Moderator: Elizabeth Chacko, Associate Provost for Special Programs & the Mount Vernon Academic Experience, Professor of Geography & International Affairs


Featuring UW Alumni: 

Emma Alzner, Jarid Shields, Nicollette Santos, Alex Bandis, Najya Williams


Join former UW students—all past conference presenters—for a discussion of how they use and continue to grow their writing skills in other classes, the workplace, their communities, and other situations beyond UW1020.

Session T2: Thursday, March 4, 6:15 PM

Young, Feminist, Activist: Exploring the strategies of young women's activism on campus and climate

Moderator: Evelyn Boatend-Ade


Women’s Rights in 1913 and 1970’s: GW’s Impact and Involvement

Lily Hagin

Professor: Troutman

As a university located within the nation’s capital, evidence found within historical archives show that The George Washington University is home to many politically active students. Archives show that George Washington students have shown their political support throughout many historical events and are continuing to show their political activism during present events as well. Women’s rights have played a large role in the political activism on GW’s campus. When taking a look at the first and second waves of feminism within our country, it is shown that many events that took place within our nation’s capital held a large number of college students advocating for gender equality and women’s rights. Considering that George Washington is a largely politically active school, how did GW’s community get involved within the first and second waves of feminism? Throughout my project, I used GW’s student led newspaper, The Hatchet, to show how the two feminism movements and student’s activism compare from the years 1913 to the 1970’s.


The Importance of Moral Appeals by Indigenous Youth in Galvanizing Bi-partisan Climate Justice Support

Brooke Giffin

Professor: Jacoby

Previous research by Dominique David-Chavez, Robyn Eckersley, and Jaskiran Dhillion on the subject of appeals and frameworks within environmental deliberation found that the use of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), Ecofeminism, and Decolonization are viable avenues of communication in democratic debate for indigenous environmental activists to make use of. I agree with these findings and expand on them by looking at Autumn Peltier’s United Nations speeches to account for the use of these communicative tools in her own climate rhetoric, and I analyze the effectiveness of these communication avenues in making strong, bipartisan moral appeals by using Mathew Feinberg’s and Robb Willer’s ideas on moral framing. I argue that Peltier’s climate communications are critical to the climate justice conversation because they commonly utilize the most effective bi-partisan moral appeals as described by Feinberg and Willer, and because they shift the nature of the conversation into one with non-negotiable values as described by Morgan Marietta’s theory on sacred rhetoric. Through the avenues of TEK, Ecofeminism, and decolonization, this conversation comes closer to a bi-partisan absolutist dialogue, which is critical for the advancement of the climate justice movement.

Session T3: Thursday, March 4, 7:30 PM

Remixing the Classics: Centering Women to Uncover History

Moderator: Emma Alzner


The Book on my Head: Exploring the History and Politics of Black Women’s Hair

Aigner Muschette

Professor: Kristensen

Hair has tremendous psychological and cultural value, as it is a physical representation of your identity. It can display one’s genealogical past, and can simultaneously describe one’s current self. This essay focuses on Black women’s hair and its political and cultural significance and explores this by looking at the overall history of Black hair. In this paper, I question the stigmas attached to Black women’s hair, why they exist, and who has helped them persist for this long. These stigmas turn into oppression of Black women through the appearance of their hair, but it’s not only systematic. With it being so ingrained into Black history, these stigmas are also internalized by some Black people, leaving it to be a controversial and layered topic within the community. The goal of this essay was to evaluate the complex history of Black women’s hair and encourage more conversation about it, as it was and always will be relevant.


Rembrandt’s Roman Women: A Classical Dutch Perspective

Serena Korkmaz

Professor: Pollack

This paper analyzes Rembrandt van Rijn’s usage of Roman women within his paintings and attempts to prove that the master’s unique interpretations of these women suggest a critique of society and values during the Dutch Golden Age. My analysis is accomplished by primarily focusing on three of Rembrandt’s works, The Abduction of Proserpine, Juno, and Lucretia (1664). By comparing Rembrandt’s works to his European contemporaries, one is able to distinguish how Rembrandt paints these women in a unique and often honorable manner as, at the time, male artists’ stylization of intensely emotional female subjects led to the tendency of sexualizing these subjects. In order to explain why Rembrandt painted such majestic and honorable interpretations, the paintings were compared with the original Latin text of famous accounts of their respective myths. Through this, it was possible to draw upon similarities between Rembrandt’s works and the original descriptions of each of these Roman legends. By painting each of these women with an emphasis on Roman interpretation, Rembrandt demonstrates that these women should be seen as honorable, innocent, and pure rather than being sexualized and demeaned simply due to the fact that Dutch society might’ve seen their actions as deserving of such.

Session T4: Thursday, March 4, 8:45 PM

In/Action: Symbols and Signs

Moderator: Myles Laurie


The Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C – unquestioned answers instead of unanswered questions –

Tim Neumann

Professor: Mantler

My research project examines the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C., and questions whether the memorial can be considered a true victims memorial. The thesis is developed that the site does not act as sincere victims memorial and likewise also does not host educational features that would offer a bottom-up education to the visitor. Ultimately, my research resulted in the claim that the memorial fails to both educate on radical ideology and to inspire a true desire for freedom.


The "No Smoking" Paradox

Sara Alassaf

Professor: Fletcher

The second half of the 20th century defined a successful shift in public policy against the unhealthy phenomenon of smoking, with one unintended exception: the no smoking sign. My research paper applies the psychological theories of ironic processing and subliminal perception to highlight the paradoxical effect of the no smoking symbol, that has become a widespread tool aimed at limiting the consumption of cigarettes in public spaces (and further, reducing smoking altogether). By analyzing the stylistic elements of this popular symbol and the interaction between the symbol and the viewer, this paper demonstrates the weaknesses of the no smoking sign that entice an urge to smoke within viewers. Furthermore, the paper employs and analyzes research on smoking advertisements to propose an alternative strategy for successful public policy through the use of subliminal messaging that targets the viewer’s unconscious, to link the act of smoking to detrimental consequences in daily life. The solution reached in this research paper advocates a possibility of utilizing psychological phenomenon towards the common good, rather than allowing certain mental processes to unintendedly reverse the efforts of bureaucratic organizations in supporting a healthier population.

Session F5: Friday. March 5, 8:30 AM

The History and Politcs of Black Expression: Sports & Theatre

Moderator: Alex Brandis


African American Theatre and the Authenticity of a Narrative

Reeya Dighe

Professor: Marcus

A chronological study of the history of black theatre in America that examines the effects of these pieces on not only the artistic community but society as a whole. The concept of “American” theatre is a relatively new tradition, and for the most part, incorrectly labeled. Modern theatre owes its roots to early African forms of oral expression. While black theatre began as a response to offensive caricature depicted by Hollywood and Broadway, African-American written and produced drama soon came to signify an artistic and cultural assertion of black authenticity and experience.


Gatekeeping in Sports: A Longitudinal Study of Prejudice Against Athletes of Color

Jacques Dugue

Professor: Quave

My paper serves to address both the historical and present occurrences that contribute to racist ideology in the field of sports, primarily as observed within the United States. Racism in sports spans a vast spectrum, impacting many racial minorities, along with even more strongly stigmatized groups, such as Women of Color, who are often entirely excluded from the sphere. Because of this, it becomes incredibly difficult for these athletes to penetrate the barrier and maintain a legacy, frequently being overshadowed by their White counterparts in sport. 

Anecdotal evidence is analyzed to form a comprehensive picture of the impact of discriminatory sports organization, alongside statistics that look into the received payment of athletes/coaches of divergent races. A thorough evaluation is also carried out, in regards to fandom activity, and how behavior often corresponds to the race of the athlete being discussed.

Session F6: Friday. March 5, 10:00 AM

The Power and Influence of Wealth on Media and the Arts

Moderator: Chandler R. Nutall


Avaritia et Luxuria: Wealth and Transience in Dutch Golden Age Still Lifes

Bassam Alwash

Professor: Pollack


During the 17th Century, an age of prosperity and innovation within Europe, the Dutch Republic was among the period's greatest benefactors. Recently liberated from Spanish rule, their strong maritime traditions allowed them to acquire great wealth from distant lands, and as a result, lead to a flourishing of the arts. Young, ambitious painters and old, masterful artists sought inspiration from the themes of Dutch Society, and so they came upon still life painting. Some painters such as Willem Kalf were inspired by the upper-class's ability to consume expensive commodities and foreign products, which they depicted in its full decadent splendor. Others like Jan Davidsz de Heem combined this wealth with Protestant or Catholic values on materialism, using still lifes as a cautionary tale on consumerism and a reminder of the importance of spiritual pursuits. This essay is an analysis of the still life genre, its trends and themes with a tour of the works of some of its most prolific painters.


The Circulation of Fake News on Social Media: An Impending Threat to Democracy

Taniya Barot

Professor: Tomlinson


On December 4th, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch travelled to D.C after reading about an alleged child sex ring in the basement of a famous local pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong; armed with a handgun, shotgun, and an AR-15, he stormed into the busy restaurant where families began scuffling their children out of the way terrified and unknown to Welch’s intentions. These were to “save the children” from Hilary Clinton, but he ended up having to surrender to police after they told him Pizzagate was a debunked conspiracy theory (LaFrance). Social media platforms have become a conduit for others to manipulate how people think about social, political, and economic subjects. Fake news on social media has become a spotlight issue since the 2016 presidential election; researchers have found an overwhelming amount of qualitative data supporting the idea that fake news on media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. manipulated the American population into believing one candidate was better than the other. The spread of fake information causes hysteria and creates a sense of untrustworthiness within society. The weaponization of social media platforms by groups like QAnon can lead the Americans down a dark path of conspiracy theorists and those believing them taking matters into their own hands just like Edgar Maddison Welch. With the evidence, the inability to recognize the distinction between the truth and the lies could lead to the beginning of an era of censorship. 

 As fake news begins to affect aspects of American democracy, such as presidential elections, social media groups will have to succumb to government restrictions that require corporations to create more of an effort in protecting the legitimacy of reporting factual and trustworthy news.

Session F7: Friday. March 5, 11:30 AM

Setting the Record Straight: Re-writing the Gay Male Character on Screen

Moderator: Caitlin Chan


Setting the Record Straight: Understanding the Portrayal of Homosexuality in Love, Simon

Jack Bloom

Professor: Smith

Love, Simon received rave reviews in the popular press for its fresh portrayal of the gay experience, but is Simon’s story counterproductive? Building off the work of cultural scholars and gender theorists, this essay looks at how the character of Simon fits into the canon of gay male characters on screen, as well as the broader paradigm of stereotypical masculinity. Through various close readings I demonstrate how Simon, though certainty unlike his queer contemporaries, is only different because he leans into problematic straight stereotypes. In turn, I show how Simon represents an interesting dichotomy: his story is both revolutionary in its departure from the stock and static gay best friend characters that preceded him, though simultaneously problematic in its embrace of other troubling traits. In brief, though Simon offers a new understanding of gay males on screen, new is not necessarily better. In concluding, I call on the viewership to accept Simon even with his flaws.

Session F8: Friday. March 5, 1:00 PM

Transforming Systems of Structural Violence against African American Communities

Moderator: Najya Williams


Standing on a Stalled Escalator: The Impact of Race on the Mobility of Black Americans and African Americans Within the Workplace

Riya Sharma

Professor: Quave

Minority communities, particularly Black Americans and African Americans, have faced numerous challenges in navigating employment, navigating the workplace, and ascending to higher positions due to their race. The barriers that hinder these populations from progressing are fueled by the history of systematic racism and discrimination that has continually attempted to disenfranchise and deter mobility of minorities within the United States, especially in the workplace setting. This literature review, in turn, attempts to answer the following: what are the most significant impacts of race on career success and treatment within the workplace for minorities, particularly Black and African American employees, within the United States? To elucidate relevant information concerning this question, an analysis of existing research was conducted through multidisciplinary perspectives, such as sociological; medical; and intersectional in order to further understand the extent to which discrimination is prevalent within the workplace and why diversity and related workplace interventions are necessary to restart the stalled escalator of minority mobility in the United States.


Homelessness, Structural Violence, and Covid-19

Ihechikarageme Munonye

Professor: Kristensen

This paper discusses the general history of Black homelessness in America and goes a step further by talking about homelessness specifically in New York City. By doing this I was able to define homelessness among African Americans in NYC as structural/ institutional violence. I highlighted that in order to solve such an issue there must be a shift in the necropolitical regard of African Americans, and the cycle of victim-blaming must end. This paper touches on how the Coronavirus has highlighted these underlying issues laid above and attempts to hold state political powers accountable.


The Results of Restrictions

Alexandra Hudepohl

Professor: Wolfe

I discovered how the lack of fundamental freedoms coupled with sub-humane treatment and its effects on social groups' eventual reintegration because the experience of a predetermined rigid lifestyle ultimately leads to practical obstacles and a cycle of emotional turmoil, demonstrating the significance of identifying commonalities within these groups to combat society's overarching crises. In Phase One, the Structure and Regulation for the Military, Prisons, and Abusive Households are outlined as those who live within a heavily structured system must adhere to demanding restraints developing a life-long struggle with personal decision-making ability. Next, Phase Two reviews the result of rigid living conditions as members of heavily restricted communities struggle to reintegrate into society due to the lack of structure and uniformity, creating practical obstacles that result in material problems. Finally, Phase Three demonstrates how, in coordination with a failure to materially reintegrate into society and the development of emotional turmoil, consequences such as Suicide, Recidivism, and Abuse emerge. The vitality of this research is evident from the prior lack of investigation and analysis from past administrations in combining many social groups in order to identify a common solution at the root.

Session F9: Friday. March 5, 2:30 PM

Recovering Black Histories / Reclaiming Black Bodies: Cowboys & Ballerinas Unite to Transform Stereotypes 

Moderator: Nicollette Santos


The Reclamation of Black Female Bodies

Kamille Tracy

Professor: Marcus

Historically, Black women have been dehumanized and hyper-sexualized as a consequence of white supremacy. Using sport, art, and fashion I examine these three areas to answer the question of how Black women have found ways to reclaim their bodies despite years of sexualization. With sport I examine two different texts on how ballet and figure skating accept Black women into each field and how, if at all, they are able to gain reclamation from it. Through art, I explore a text that questions how Black women are depicted in the art world and whether they have found ways to reclaim their bodies through that medium. Lastly, using fashion I analyze how plus size Black women reclaim their bodies in their communities. Throughout each text I focus on the idea of what reclamation looks like and how the act of finding it is a nuanced concept.


Black Cowboys Confront the American Cowboy Myth

Alex Griffin

Professor: Marcus

The image of an American cowboy is based in an idea of American machismo and on the ideas of American exceptionalism and rugged individualism. Despite a majority of Americans living in urban areas, many American folktales and mythologies are based on the idea of an American “Heartland” and a culture of adventure and exploration. Furthermore, the image of America’s frontier is dominated by white cowboy settlers and their struggles to dominate over the American West. This framework discredits the work and legacies of America’s Black cowboys and their role, for better or worse, in our country’s development of the West. Black cowboys and cowgirls have been largely written out of our history and understanding of the American experience, but their story is just as important, if not more important than the story of the mythical American cowboy we imagine and tell ourselves to believe. My project aims to tell the stories and legacies of America’s Black cowboys to ensure that their lives of strength and solidarity are not overshadowed by the white experience of the American West, and more importantly, pose this question: who gets to be a cowboy?

Session F10: Friday. March 5, 4:00 PM

Disability Studies in Everyday Life: Exploring the Psychological and Social Dimensions of Chronic Illness, Disability, and Healing

Moderator: Arion Laws


Mukbangs: Satisfying Enough to Replace a Meal

Madeline Ley

Professor: Larsen

This paper examines the effects of watching online eating videos called mukbangs on viewers with anorexia, an eating disorder characterized by the restriction of food intake. Using mukbang fan communities on YouTube, Reddit, and Tumblr, and discussion forums on MyProAna as case studies show that the visual and auditory components highlighted in mukbangs create a visceral experience for viewers which enables virtual food consumption, satiating them enough to reduce the urge to eat in real life. This is understood through the lens of Morewedge et al. and Larson et al.’s studies of satiation and habituation that occur as a result of not only viewing images of food, but also by imagining ingestion. Mukbangs have become increasingly popular around the world, therefore, it is significant to understand how people in the anorexia community use them as a tool for vicarious eating through a screen.


'Make the Most of Your Current Situation': Experiences of Young People with Rare Movement Disorders.

Nicole Dimock

Professor: Wilkerson

Our research question that guided our ethnography is: how does the pressure of society and the fast-paced world affect the social and psychological experiences of students living with a rare movement disorder, and how are they able to properly adapt? By utilizing qualitative data collection methods, we have delved deeper into the social lives of two individuals — Jake and Nicole — who have rare movement disorders. We compiled a list of questions to interview one of the interviewees in order to develop his narrative, and the second narrative is an autoethnography. The purpose of our research is to prove that living with a rare movement disorder creates not only physical challenges, but mental and social obstacles as well. In our results, we found that the social stigmas and negative connotations associated with rare movement disabilities placed a burden on each of the individuals. We hope to educate society on the importance of acknowledging and validating these disabilities in order to create acceptance.


Holidays and Heart Transplants: The Disheartening Depiction of Recovery in Last Christmas

Malavika Mahendran

Professor: Smith

In an attempt to create an idealized image of the human condition, holiday romantic comedies can become incompatible with serious societal considerations. Paul Feig’s Last Christmas (2019) offers a surprising twist on the genre by incorporating narratives of illness and recovery. The film centers around Kate, a woman struggling to readjust from the trauma of a chronic illness and heart transplant. Her spirits are lifted when she falls for a charming stranger named Tom, who pushes her to turn her life back around. This work evaluates Kate’s recovery storyline from a psychosocial perspective, focusing on the film’s dismissal of supportive resources and promotion of harmful societal narratives of transplants and mental illness. Ultimately, while Last Christmas deviates from the standard holiday romantic comedy in its discussion of illness and recovery, it adds to the genre’s trend of incompatibility with “seriousness” by trivializing Kate’s recovery process.

Session F11: Friday. March 5, 5:10 PM

Pathways to Empowerment: Harnessing the Hidden Superpowers of Student Organizing and Language Equality

Moderator: Jarid Shields


“GW BSU’s Conception and Early Development: Finding A New Purpose”

Jontae Lamont Burton

Professor: Troutman

The first Black Student Union (BSU) was established at San Francisco State University in 1966 and the movement spread to the George Washington University in 1968 to confront the issues on their campus affecting Black Students. With the University residing in the epicenter of political action in Washington D.C. meanwhile, the city had 67% of its population identified as Black in 1968 created an environment ripe for organizing. A question arises whenever an organization is created; what is going to be the focus of the group and where will it be honed in on? The early GW Black Student Union changed many times due to different stances they would take on this question. However, there was a shift from focusing solely on Black Students on GW’s campus to focusing on D.C. as a whole in their early years. This shift continues on to the contemporary movements of Black Lives Matter and protests that shook this nation during the summer of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd. GW’s BSU took action to aid D.C. as a whole during this time of need. The Black Student Union at the George Washington University is one of the most long-standing organizations at this institution. This research serves to chronicle how the GW BSU built its foundation and find its aim in the early years to effectively assist the D.C. Black Community.


Defiant Tongues: An argument for the recognition of a language barrier in American classrooms.

Nikhil Samuel

Professor: Marcus

Language is very much the medium by which one interprets the world. When the language one speaks is diminished as "an informal dialect," the consequences on that individual can be devastating. In the U.S., many African American students face such a dilemma. The language of their home (African American Vernacular English) has no formal recognition in educational institutions. "Defiant Tongues" analyzes the history of AAVE in the classroom and argues that recognition of AAVE as a spoken language is imperative in facilitating equitable education reform.


Equality! An Analysis of Gender-Based Linguistic Bias

Rubin Roy & Amy Chang

Professor: Martinez

This paper investigates the double standards often applied in workplace communication, particularly towards women, as well as the ways this has manifested at a more structural level in terms of legislation and policy. Through analyzing these disparities, the authors hope to bring attention to a pervasive and intersectional issue that is generally well-known but often unacknowledged due to lack of available data. The scope of this analysis is then expanded to include comparative analysis on how various countries have implemented national languages and the implications that this has for racial and ethnic minority groups. This paper is a general survey of some of the many ways that linguistic biases harmfully manifest, with the goal to draw attention to both the existence of these issues and decisive ways to address them—through policy on the macro-level and individual change and accountability on the micro-level.

Session F12: Friday. March 5, 6:20 PM

Alumni Roundtable #2: Writing in the University and Beyond

Moderator: Rachel Riedner, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Professor of Writing and of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Featuring UW Alumni:

Chandler R. Nutall, Caitlin Chan, Evelyn Boateng-Ade, Arion Laws, Myles Laurie


Join former UW students—all past conference presenters—for a discussion of how they use and continue to grow their writing skills in other classes, the workplace, their communities, and other situations beyond UW1020.

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