UConn Students Present Research at Annual Exhibition

Over 150 students presented their original research at the eighteenth annual Frontiers in Undergraduate Research poster exhibition on Friday, April 10. These students represented a diverse range of majors, from political science to chemical engineering to studio art. Below is just a small sample of research projects produced by the University of Connecticut’s students.

“Muslim Masculinities: A Search for the Ideal Man in the Qur’an,” by sixth-semester global science, women’s studies, and human rights major and University Scholar Abdullah Hasan, with advisor and political science professor Zehra F. Kabasakal Arat.

Hasan did a latent content analysis of the Qur’an, through which he evaluated its verses for patterns, similarities, and differences, and compared different translations of the text.

“It’s the highest revered text,” said Hasan. “What prescriptions does it provide for masculinity?”

Hasan found five main character traits in the Qur’an that inform masculinity: steadfastness, submissiveness, altruism, violence, and righteousness. These traits are manifested differently depending on the institutional system in place and the group of people portraying the traits.

“What steadfastness will mean during a war is different from what it will mean in the family or community,” he explained.

Hasan found that these situational elements create different types of men, such as the Leader, the Worldly Man, and the Breadwinner.

Hasan also studied some very modern texts, such as tweets from Dzhokar Tsarnaev that were examined as part of the Boston Marathon Bombing trial. He said that some of these tweets focused on concepts like martyrdom, sacrifice and jihad, while others centered on girls and cars.

“Both of these are about masculinities,” said Hasan.

Hasan said that he wants to continue researching which types of Muslim masculinity post-9/11 discourse has focused on, and how the emergence of female attackers in ISIS might affect the typologies.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Scenic Design,” by sixth-semester technical theatre major Lindsay Duval, with advisors and assistant dramatic arts professors Tim Brown and Edward Weingart.

Duval was the co-scenic designer for the Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s performance of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” last semester. She started the design process in August and created a white model for the set by September.

Since the musical takes place in a stage in a school gymnasium, the set featured a second stage on top of the theatre’s actual stage.

“There were a lot of tricks with it,” said Duval, noting that the set’s bleachers were on a pivot, the character Jesus came on stage via a fly-system and the curtain in the background opened to reveal a Taj Mahal during one scene, before every backdrop opened to reveal the band at the very end of the show.

Duval, who is also a carpenter, worked to build this set after the design was complete. She was awarded a travel grant through the Office of Undergraduate Research to present her design at the United States Institute for Theatre Technology’s conference.

“I kept a stack of resumes and business cards with me at all times,” said Duval.

“Identifying Strategies for Family Engagement in Low Income Schools,” by eighth-semester human development and family studies major Melissa Lovitz, with advisor and human development and family studies assistant professor Alaina Brenick.

Lovitz noticed a disparity between support at home and school while she was volunteering with City Year before coming to UConn.

“Parent engagement is so important for education, but there are a lot of barriers to that in low-income families,” she said.

Through surveys and interviews with parents who had different levels of school involvement, Lovitz identified five different themes (awareness, parental efficacy, desire for more parent engagement, communication, and relations with school staff) and asked the parents what those themes meant to them.

Whereas highly involved parents saw involvement as volunteering and helping with homework, moderately involved parents were often constrained by outside factors such as work hours. Still, they engaged with their children’s educations by teaching them to value hard work, often saying that they wanted their kids to have a better life than they had.

“It’s not necessary a lack of involvement, but a different type of involvement,” said Lovitz.

Lovitz noted that communication between teachers and parents needs to be improved on all levels of involvement. She will continue studying family-school partnerships next year in Brown University’s program for Urban Education Policy.

“‘Cause I’ve Never Been Free:’ Examining the U.S. State, Liberatory Lyrics, and Assata Shakur,” by eighth-semester women’s, gender and sexuality studies and Africana studies major Marina Powell, with advisor and WGSS professor Heather Turcotte.

Powell has listened to a number of hip hop songs that referenced Assata Shakur, a famed former Black Panther member, political refugee and first woman on the FBI’s “Most Wanted List.” After listening to “A Song for Assata” by Common and “Assata’s Song” by Paris, she decided to research the ways in which hip-hop has redefined Shakur as an emancipatory figure.

In addition to analyzing lyrics, Powell also read biographies and used information from the FBI’s website.

“Hip hop can be productive,” she said, noting that in addition to the songs by Paris and Common, Mos Def and Dead Prez have also contributed to Shakur’s narrative. “These artists rewrote her history.”

Powell concluded that hip hop’s construction of Shakur as an emancipatory figure rather than as a terrorist and murderer forces people to think about the discussion of U.S. state violence and the definition of violence in general.

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