Butler Undergraduate Research Conference

During January of 2010, I took an Honors class entitled Religion and Conflict. We spent the month of January traveling throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland, learning about the Catholic-Protestant conflict in that region within the context of historic Christian belief. At the end of the term, we returned to Upland to write a research paper as a culmination of our learning. We were given freedom to choose to angle from which we would conduct our research. I have an interest in peace studies, so I wrote about identity and conflict, examining how social and religious identity contributes to conflict maintenance in Northern Ireland.

After submitting the research paper, the course was officially finished. However, the professor, Dr. Scott Moeschberger, told us students about an additional opportunity that would be available in the spring: the Butler Undergraduate Research Conference. I chose to continue working on my paper after the class had finished, preparing to present it at the conference, which took place mid-April. Dr. Moeschberger supported me by attending a practice presentation session, where he gave me advice on how to answer questions that might be posed to me after my presentation at Butler. The Honors Guild also sponsored my trip by paying my registration fee and offering transportation to and from Butler University.

I found the experience of presenting at Butler to be extremely valuable. I became much more invested in my research once it became a continuous project. I learned how to condense a long paper into a five-minute speech. I also gained confidence from the experience of presenting my work to a group of my peers. By attending the conference, I was able to get an idea of the quality of my scholarship compared to that of students from other universities in the region. I was both impressed and inspired by my interactions with other students at Butler, and am already looking forward to attending the conference again next year.

—– Rebekah Briner, Class of 2011

An Insider Look into our Nation’s Capital

Katie Moore is a Junior at Taylor University currently participating in a study/internship experience in Washington DC for the semester.  Here are some of her thoughts:

This semester has been nothing like I expected; well, I guess thats not really true. I wasn’t sure what to expect when coming out here, I just figured I would figure it all out when I got here. I live with four other girls in a two-bedroom, fourth floor walk up apartment about 8 blocks from the Capitol. Three of them are in the Washington Journalism Center program, the other BestSemester program housed in DC which, like the name implies, focuses on journalism. My actual roommate and I are in the American Studies Program. I was a little worried coming to DC about my roommates; the program didn’t send us any information about who we would be living with until the night before we moved in, so I had no idea if we would get along, if I was going to be living with crazies, or really what to expect. I couldn’t have asked for better roommates. They’re all wonderful girls and we get along really well, and when I look at the other two girl apartments I definitely think that I have the best apartment (they’re all great though, don’t get me wrong…I just really love my roomies!)

The majority of the semester we spent studying energy policy, something that I’m really not that interested in, but is increadibly relevant to today. We had to pick a topic within energy policy to write our semester paper on; mine was looking at whether domestic drilling or alternative energies are a better response to our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. A majority of our class sessions were spent meeting with people all over the city from many different organizations, from the Heritage Foundation to the Center for American Progress to the Department of Energy to staffers on the Hill, discussing their views on different energy policies and relating those back to our individual paper topics. I now know more about energy policy than I ever need to or want to.

In addition to these briefings and classes, we did part time internships. The students in ASP have internships all over the District with a wide range of organizations; some work on the Hill in Representative’s offices, some work for ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), one girl has an internship with a PR firm. Mine was spent working for the US Department of State, Foreign Service Institute (FSI). I worked in the Orientation Division at FSI (the State Department loves acronyms, and many times they have one acronym that means different things depending on the context), assisting with incoming Foreign Service Generalist, Foreign Service Specialist, and Civil Service Officer orientation classes. My office was amazing; everyone was really friendly and fun, and I learned so much while working there. I had the opportunity to sit in on the class sessions, so I was able to learn a lot more about what it means to be a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) and what that job looks like, as well as some of the problems or just other things one might encounter while working as an FSO. Its been so great working here; I have learned a ton and am very sad to see my internship come to an end.

It’s hard to put into words the change that has occured in me over this semester. Having this internship has definitely made me grow up a lot – I’ve gotten a taste of what life could be like after graduation, and to be honest it scares me a little. I’m not ready to grow up and have all of this responsibility….but don’t get me wrong, its been great and I’ve loved every minute of it. Living in this city has had its share of surprises as well. To some extent its the Washington you see in the movies, the seat of the Federal Government, one of the most influential cities in the world, dominated by power and politics. But there’s so much more to it than just power and networking, there are so many different subcultures that color the many different neighborhoods and areas of the city. It has its own unique set of unspoken rules and standards, something that you don’t realize until you leave your tourist shoes at home.

Putting Passion into Research and Practice

Last January, I traveled with the Honors Guild to Northern Ireland to study peace and reconciliation.  It was an amazing learning experience where we met with religious leaders, community leaders and politicians to better understand the conflict in Northern Ireland.  As we learned about the controversy between the Irish Catholics and British Protestants, I realized that there is more to the conflict than differences in beliefs.  The people in Northern Ireland were fighting over land, opportunity and dignity for their own right to exist.  I noticed similarities between Northern Ireland and Israel, two religious people groups fighting over land.  But how much of it is truly religion based?  As an economics student, I started wondering how much unemployment, declining GDP, and high interest rates were playing a role in the conflict.

The Honors Guild directors encouraged me to explore this issue.  I met with professors in the Economics and Math departments and developed an independent study class.  Last fall, I met with these professors and a friend and fellow student Benjamin to discuss how I could integrate my love of Economics and my deep interest in this issue.  My professors introduced Benjamin and me to Econometrics, which is math statistics for economists.

Before we could tackle Northern Ireland, we designed an econometric model to examine conflict in countries around the world.  We collected data from the World Bank and then developed regression models.  Basically, the models asked “if GDP is this much, unemployment is this much, literacy rates are this much, population is this much, the poverty rate is this much…” and so on, what is the expected level of conflict in that area.  We gathered data for over 120 variables.

From our final models, Benjamin and I wrote a paper explaining this exploratory process.  Dr. Scott Moeschberger encouraged me back in Ireland to find a topic to research and then submit it to a conference.  Eleven months later, I did just that.

Benjamin and I submitted our paper to the Bowling Green Undergraduate Paper contest.  We were chosen as finalists and asked to travel to Bowling Green to present our paper.  We presented in front of professors and students from 10 other universities including the University of Michigan, Kent State and the University of Dayton and then were asked to do a Q&A session.  We ended up receiving 1st place in the Macroeconomic division and were awarded a cash prize.

While we were honored to have our work recognized, it was really motivating to see what students at other universities were studying.  Some of the students were working on projects such as making the European railway more efficient or developing a valuation method for community preferences.  These topics were fascinating and I got to ask them questions about their experiences and research.

This experience shows why I have enjoyed studying at Taylor.  The professors encouraged me to study my passions, mentored me through it and then made sure that my work was recognized.  I was able to study both economics and Irish History as well as learn about conflict around the world.  Being a part of the Honors Guild provided me with the resources to travel and present my work ,but the Honors Guild also provides a group of passionate students willing to challenge my thinking and ideas.  I am already eager to start preparing my submission for next year’s conference.

By Maggie O’Connell, Junior at Taylor University

Interview with author Amy Green

Amy Green is a sophomore professional writing major at Taylor who recently received a book contract for two Christian fantasy chapter books. She’s also a member of the honors guild. We asked her to answer some questions about Taylor, writing, and life, and here’s what she said.

Q: First, tell us a little bit about your books. What are they about?

A: The first book, “Search for the Scorpion’s Jewel” is the story of Jesse, a crippled teenager, who joins an elite group of young people and journeys through the desert to complete a dangerous mission for the king. In the second book, “Escape from Riddler’s Pass,” Jesse and his friends have to rescue their squad captain from the Rebellion prison deep in a maze-like cave. In both books, I deal with questions like, “Why does a good God allow suffering?” and “How can we be sure that God exists even if we can’t see Him?” because those were my biggest questions when I was the age of the kids in my target audience.

Q: What motivated you to become a writer?

A: Ever since elementary school, I’ve wanted to write kids’ books. When I was in sixth grade, I remember running out of books to check out of the library. I decided that someday I should just write books myself so other kids would have more to read. I love words, stories, and people. So it makes sense that I would use words to tell stories about people.

Q: What are the steps you went through to write the books?

A: Everyone has a different method, but mine is kind of like my approach to the rest of life: I plan out a vague outline, then make up the rest as I go. For these books, I started with Jesse moping around and wanting something interesting to happen. Then I decided what that interesting thing would be. The poor kid didn’t realize what he was getting into – I tend to put my characters in peril of their lives about every other chapter. After I got the rough draft done, I edited it like crazy and had several other people make corrections too: my mom, my twin sister, my roommate, my suitemate, and the fifth graders in the small group I lead. After that, I edited some more, fixing the bigger things like plot flaws and fine-tuning dialogue. Then I edited again. And again. Contrary to myth, lots of boring, old-fashioned hard work goes into writing.

Q: What is something you’ve learned through writing these books, or through the process of getting them published?

A: Well, for one thing, I’ve learned that “all that glitters is not gold.” Don’t get me wrong – I’m really excited that my stories are becoming actual books. But along with that comes the not-so-great things: the stress of meeting editing deadlines, the worry that my friends will read the books and hate them, the fear that I’ll start putting my identity in my career as a writer instead of God. My anthem for the past few months has been the verse from “Be Thou My Vision” that goes: “Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise. Thou my inheritance, now and always. Thou and Thou only first in my heart. High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.” It’s good for me to be reminded of that. Sorry – that’s probably deeper than you what you were looking for.

Q: You’re a professional writing major, but you’re also an honors student. Did your participation in the honors program influence your writing?

A: Actually, the two honors literature classes I took, George Macdonald and C.S. Lewis and Friends, helped shaped how I look at fantasy. I especially remember one day when we were discussing Macdonald’s essay “The Fantastic Imagination,” where he talks about the power of myth to demonstrate truth, especially truth about the Christian faith. I knew that was something I wanted to do in my writing. Oh, and my main character, Jesse, would definitely be in the honors guild if he went to Taylor.

Q: Why do you say that?

A: Well, Jesse likes asking questions, especially about God and faith, and he doesn’t accept the easy answers. For him, it’s not enough to know what happened or how things are done – he insists on knowing why. Jesse and I have a lot in common, actually. Except that my life is a lot more boring. I mean, there aren’t any assassins, underground passages, or poisonous creatures on Taylor’s campus. At least, none that I know of.

The Honors Guild blog

This blog was made to create a space for Honors students at Taylor to share and reflect on their experiences within the Honors program and their own personal experiences.  This intentional space will provide an avenue for students to highlight their work and encourage others to continuously embark on new opportunities and to remain curious about the variety of issues we experience in the world.