Posted: 2/09/17

TAMIU Students Present Original Research at Conference


TAMIU students
TAMIU students, from left to right, Jessica Garcia, Johann Salazar, Jessica Villalon, Tirza Guerra and Bryan Cardenas, each gave presentations on original research at an academic conference.  

A group of five Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) students had a successful debut at the National Association of Hispanic and Latino/a Studies Conference last fall in South Padre Island where they presented original research. The conference was co-hosted by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Dr. Jonathan Murphy, TAMIU assistant professor of English, led the group after seeing the benefits of organizing these events by other faculty members.

“In years past, my colleagues led similar trips for their senior and graduate classes. Dr. Manuel Broncano chaperoned his students to Albuquerque to visit the acclaimed author, Rudolfo Anaya, and Dr. John Dean mentored his students at a multidisciplinary conference in San Antonio.  I had the good fortune to offer an English senior seminar this past fall, and when I received the call for papers, I thought this would be another excellent opportunity for our students to present their research to a wider public,” explained Dr. Murphy.

Johann Salazar, Jessica Garcia, Tirza Guerra, Jessica Villalon and Bryan Cardenas, all seniors, each presented a paper on a different topic.

Salazar, an English major, presented, “Identifying the Underlying Issues of Chicano Identity as a Synthesis between Pure American Identity and Pure Mexican Identity.”

Cardenas, a mathematics major, presented, “NAFTA and the Effects on Mexico.”

Garcia, majoring in English with an education certificate, presented, “Diversity in the Media,” a study of whitewashing and race-bending in film and television.

 “Having the opportunity to present on a topic that I feel passionate about in front of people was really refreshing,” she said.  “I had a great time hearing other people's essays and getting to learn new things,” said Garcia.

Guerra, also majoring in English with a certificate in education, presented, “Living Side by Side: The Hard Work of Hispanic Laborers and the Dual Identities of American-Hispanics.”

Villalon presented, “Octavio Paz and the Prime Embodiment of Mexican Solitude.” She said her experience at the Conference was like no other.

“I was expected to produce and present quality conference content to a room full of academics and was held to the same expectations as the academics themselves. As an undergraduate, to be held to the standard of professors and teachers with Ph.D.’s was both flattering and nerve-wracking,” Villalon said.

Guerra agreed.

“Writing the essay for the Conference was a challenge because it made me step out of my comfort zone and explore a new issue. I am usually a bit nervous to present in front of people, so this was a great challenge which gave me practice in a warm and inviting environment,” Guerra said.

“I found myself learning more and more about how to write well and how to present—a set of crucial skills in the sphere of academia. On the day of my presentation, I learned more about what I was doing wrong and how to fix it—speak louder, stand taller, engage with the audience. Learning how to present is not a skill one learns overnight,” Guerra said.

At the Conference, students listened to presentations on issues affecting Hispanics in different parts of the state and the world. It wasn’t just academic work though. After students received feedback from academics, they were finally able to relax.

“On a personal level, the Conference was a great opportunity to bond with my peers and explore the beach.  School and work can be pretty draining and tiresome, so it was wonderful and rewarding to get away and enjoy the sun,” Guerra said.

She added, “I am grateful for the funds from TAMIU which made this experience possible and also for my professor who encouraged us to apply to the Conference. I feel so blessed to have been given this opportunity to enhance my academic skills by putting hard work and effort into my own presentation and learning from many other caring and intelligent people who did the same for their own.”

The experience made a powerful and lasting impact on all of the students.

“I am inspired to reach out and seek other conferences. I have been recently approached by a history professor to submit an abstract for a labor history conference in February—an opportunity I enthusiastically seized,” Villalon said.

Salazar expressed similar sentiments.

Jonathan Murphy and students in front of a painting of parrots

Dr. Jonathan Murphy, left, took the group of students to the NAHLS Conference. Dr. Lemuel Berry Jr., right, is executive director of the Conference.

“I was able to obtain constructive criticism to enhance my presentation style and the contents of my research.  The conference definitely left a positive impression on me, and I am grateful for the opportunity,” he said.

Dr. Murphy was very impressed by the papers the students presented at the conference. 

“They made TAMIU proud,” he said. “Presenting your research before an audience of strangers, and academics at that, can be a very intimidating prospect. Our students engaged in a topic that is very important to their lives, the Hispanic experience in America, and contributed their voices to this important conversation. They certainly rose to the occasion, and I applaud each of them for their individual efforts and accomplishments.

“Our attendance at the conference would not have been possible if it were not for the financial support approved by Dr. Claudia San Miguel, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Dan Mott, Director of Act on Ideas,” said Murphy.

He added that there are many other opportunities for students to experience different intellectual and cultural environments during their tenure at TAMIU.

In Summer Semester II, 2017, Murphy will be offering a study abroad course on Canadian literature in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Murphy was awarded “Global Scholar of the Year” in 2016 for his participation in the TAMIU Study Abroad program.

For more information, contact Murphy at jonathan.murphy@tamiu.edu or 326.2602, or visit his office in Anthony J. and Georgia A. Pellegrino, room 216C.

University office hours are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.