Creating New Knowledge

Undergraduate Research Colloquium is part of Undergraduate Research Week. Previous Undergraduate Research Colloquium participants have represented disciplines across science and engineering and the social sciences, humanities and fine arts. Courtesy photo.

Undergraduate Research Colloquium is part of Undergraduate Research Week. Previous Undergraduate Research Colloquium participants have represented disciplines across science and engineering and the social sciences, humanities and fine arts. Courtesy photo.

A week of events spotlights undergraduate student-led research initiatives and projects

Many believe that no research is ever quite complete, and the true value of the work is that it opens the way for something better. Aiming to spread the joy that comes with educational discovery, UC Santa Barbara’s debut Undergraduate Research Week offers a variety of ways to share ideas.

“A university is supposed to be about the interchange of ideas and thought and I want to encourage as many students as possible to feel like they can be a part of that,” said Anne Charity Hudley, director of undergraduate research in the Office of Undergraduate Education and North Hall Endowed Chair in Linguistics, who is leading Undergraduate Research Week.

Last year’s two-day event was so popular that the undergraduate research showcase expands to a full week of events beginning Monday, May 6. The traditional Undergraduate Research Colloquium will take place Tuesday and Wednesday, May 7 and 8, in Corwin Pavilion.

“I’m really excited to see the number of projects grow,” said Charity Hudley. “The thing I like to emphasize to students is that you should share your work, no matter what stage you are in, rather than just thinking that it has to be a culminating experience. The actual discussion and sharing of ideas and information is the most important takeaway.”

Undergraduate Research Colloquium is part of Undergraduate Research Week. Previous Undergraduate Research Colloquium participants have represented disciplines across science and engineering and the social sciences, humanities and fine arts. Courtesy photo.

Undergraduate Research Colloquium is part of Undergraduate Research Week. Previous Undergraduate Research Colloquium participants have represented disciplines across science and engineering and the social sciences, humanities and fine arts. Courtesy photo.

The variety of projects on display will be rich and varied. Xochitl Briseno’s research — performed under the guidance of Rebeca Mireles Rios, an assistant professor in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education — explores the role of Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) in supporting the Latinx scholar. It also addresses the factors that contribute to the retention and persistence of Latinx students as well as the importance of an HSI’s role in supporting high-impact practices that provide a second form of engagement to aid the second through third year transition.

Graduating senior Erika Prado’s research sheds light on the interactional competence of autistic individuals. Prado will pursue a Ph.D. in comparative human development at the University of Chicago next fall, and credits her decision to do so in part to her undergraduate research experiences — with the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences’s Attention Lab, the Koegel Autism Center and as a McNair Scholar in the Department of Linguistics — as well as her work as a peer mentor for the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA).

All undergraduate students had the option to participate in the Colloquium, which includes traditional poster presentations; Colloquium Unbound, which includes videos, graphic novels, board games, performances and other artifacts that represent the essence of the research; or the Undergraduate Research Slam, a lively competition in which students, vying for the $2,500 prize, present their research in three minutes or less to a panel of judges.

Charity Hudley encourages students, faculty and staff to attend any or all of Undergraduate Research Week. “It’s really celebrating the students’ achievements from a developmental perspective,” she said. “We expect these research projects to grow and change over time — the more that they can learn from each other the more that will also strengthen their research. It’s more than just a showcase to show your friends or your professors your research, it’s also a great opportunity to learn from seeing what other people are doing.”

Schedule of Events:

May 6 – Undergraduate Research Panels – Library 1312

10 a.m. URCA & FRAP Mentors, featuring:

•          Jennifer King, Geography

•          Nadège Clitandre, Global Studies

•           Stuart Feinstein, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology

•           Andrew Griffin, English

1 p.m. Newer Faculty, featuring:

•          Daniel Conroy-Beam, Psychology

•          Janet Bourne, Music

•          Anne H. Charity Hudley, Linguistics

3 p.m. Research Centers on Campus featuring:

•           Samantha Davis, Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships (CSEP)

•           Erin Nerstad, Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC)

•           Linda Adler-Kassner, Center for Innovative Teaching, Research & Learning  (CITRAL)

5 p.m. Peter Felten of Elon University’s Center for Engaged Learning

May 7 – Undergraduate Research Colloquium – Corwin Pavilion

11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Math, Life and Physical Sciences

May 8 – Undergraduate Research Colloquium – Corwin Pavilion

11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Social Sciences, Humanities and Fine Arts

May 9 – Undergraduate Research Slam Finals – Old Little Theater

5:30 – 8 p.m. Sixteen finalists compete for the top prize of $2,500 the People Choice award of $1,000

May 10 – Undergraduate Research Trivia – CITRAL (Library 1576, ground floor Oceanside)

3 – 5 p.m. Put together your team and join in an afternoon of trivia

Originally published in the UCSB Current on May 3, 2019.

Dance Drives Dialogue

International colloquium in dance and performance studies addresses issues of race and racism in American classical ballet

The beauty and artistry of ballet can belie the sometimes painful truths that exist behind the dance.

Calvin Royal III and Unity Phelan in George Balanchine’s “Agon” (1957), Vail International Dance Festival 2018. Restaged by Heather Watts. Photo by Eric Baiano.

Calvin Royal III and Unity Phelan in George Balanchine’s “Agon” (1957), Vail International Dance Festival 2018. Restaged by Heather Watts. Photo by Eric Baiano.

“Those dances by George Balanchine and other 20th-century neoclassical choreographers reveal how the idiom of classical ballet has institutionalized and subverted American racism,” said Ninotchka D. Bennahum, a professor of dance and performance studies at UC Santa Barbara.

These ballets — such as the iconic, Civil Rights-era Balanchine ballet “Agon” from 1957 — reveal the complex relationship ballet and preeminent cultural institutions share with racial consciousness in the United States before and after World War II, she added. “Dance artists asked to undertake these roles have the capacity, the moral responsibility to shift our consciousness or to raise our consciousness. No work of art belongs solely to its time,” Bennahum said.

These topics and others will be considered when distinguished scholars and world-class performers gather Monday, April 29 in UC Santa Barbara’s ballet studio for the colloquium “Race, Ballet, American Dance,” a day of discussion and demonstration. Co-curated by Bennahum and Stephanie Batiste, an associate professor of English and of Black studies, the conference is the inaugural event of the International Colloquium for the Study of Dance and Performance Studies.

“We will pose the question, ‘What is the value of these actual works of ballet as historical archive?”

Combining elements of live performance and music, discussion and filmography, the multidisciplinary colloquium — which is free and open to the public — will explore the critical role of art in capturing and commenting on American history, specifically examining how racism has been institutionalized in American classical ballet.

“The history of the civil rights movement is written by ballet choreographers and modern choreographers,” said Bennahum. “Dancing bodies play a vital role in getting audiences, in raising public awareness to issues of injustice, to issues of joy and love and sexuality, and things that are not so easy to articulate with words.

“But these are not happenstance dances, these are dances that happened in very particular moments of time,” she added. “The relationship between African American vernacular dance, African American choreographed ballet and Russian, British, American ballet, really became a symbol of race relations in the United States.”

Participants will enter the event through a lobby exhibition featuring an archival collection of photographs curated by Bennahum from the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library, the largest and most comprehensive archive in the world devoted to the documentation of dance.

“I really feel that it’s very important for students that we show them dancing bodies they cannot see in Santa Barbara,” Bennahum said. “The gravitational center of dance in the world is New York and I just felt we had to bring it to them, and we had to bring it in the form of performance and in the form of art exhibit, images on the walls, so they see that this is an intellectual, academic subject they can study. But it cannot happen without performance because without that the archive is missing. You have to have a sense of the geography of the stage. For these kids learning to dance, to know and feel their way through history, kinesthetic awareness is really significant.”

Further to that end, the colloquium’s featured guests include Heather Watts, former principal dancer of New York City Ballet and a distinguished lecturer, who will present and stage two seminal works: George Balanchine’s “Agon,” with music by Igor Stravinsky, and Jerome Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun,” with music by Claude Debussy. The pieces will be danced by Calvin Royal III (principal dancer, American Ballet Theatre) and Unity Phelan (soloist, New York City Ballet), accompanied by New York City Ballet Orchestra pianist Cameron Grant.

“In different ways, at their premieres both Balanchine’s “Agon” (1957) and Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun” (1953) addressed issues of race,” said Watts. “I’m looking forward to sharing and examining these works at the colloquium, focusing on their impact felt not only in the mid-century civil rights era in which they were created, but also today as they live on through new generations of dancers.”

Also performing is Alicia Graf Mack, chair of dance at The Juilliard School and former principal dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Alonzo King/LINES. Her piece will be followed by a conversation with Lynn Garafola, professor emerita of dance at Barnard College, Columbia University and “preeminent ballet scholar in the United States who, with her husband (American historian Eric Foner of Columbia University) is a really important race scholar,” noted Bennahum. Garafola also will lecture on the African American Presence in Postwar American Dance.

An artists’ roundtable early in the day will provide insight direct from dancers themselves, while a later artist-scholar discussion will offer a multi-pronged analysis of what has taken place during the conference.

“My research on Black dance often has a lot to do with analysis of form and in terms of movement and repertoire,” Batiste said. “Dancers often think about dance in ways that are really different from how scholars think about dance. Those two approaches to how the body makes meaning together in one space show the value of what scholars bring and what dancers bring to same work of art.”

Batiste gave much of the credit to Bennahum for putting together the colloquium, while Bennahum extended credit to Watts, to donors John and Jody Arnhold and to Majewski. “Dance is very expensive,” said Bennahum. “Classical ballet is very expensive and they have made this possible for the university, and believed that UC Santa Barbara, above every other place in the country, was the place to create a laboratory, a think tank, about race and ballet.

“We’re at a very tense moment in history,” she concluded. “Art plays a significant role in that conversation in these moments in time.”

Originally published in the UCSB Current on April 23, 2019.