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From l-r, sitting: Jaiyvohn Davis, Konnie Wells, Horzabrey West, Jo-Ann Morgan, Breeia Little; standing: Kyle Brown, Brandon Scates, Michael Gibson, Samantha Kay, Rayvon Shelton, Alphonso Simpson
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WIU AAS Students Prepping for Nat'l Conference

March 1, 2012

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MACOMB, IL – Ten Western Illinois University undergraduate students will travel to Atlanta next week to present their research papers at the 36th annual National Council for Black Studies (NCBS). The WIU students will join undergraduate and graduate students and faculty from institutions across the U.S., including Cornell, Purdue, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, UCLA and the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, among many others.

To be considered for the national conference, students were first invited to submit their research abstracts to the chair of Western's African American studies (AAS) department to begin the review process. According to AAS Interim Chair Alphonso Simpson, eight WIU faculty and administrators affiliated with the Department of African American Studies then judged the papers, which remained anonymous. Thirteen abstracts were submitted, with 10 being forwarded to the National Council of Black Studies for final decision.

"The reviewers were asked to rank the abstracts based on relevance to the discipline, interest, originality and clarity of concept. The students knew that this was going to be a competitive process because I was only going to push 10 abstracts forward to be reviewed by the NCBS," Simpson said.

After being selected by the WIU reviewers, the papers were sent to the national council to be reviewed by a committee comprised of professors from across the country.

"This conference is not traditionally geared toward undergraduate students, so for 10 WIU undergraduate students to be chosen to present is a tremendous honor," he noted. "Western's appearance at the 36th Annual Conference is the largest delegation of undergraduate students from one academic institution to give individual research presentations in the past decade. While there have been numerous undergraduate students in times past, they have all been pre-planned panels, not individual presentations."

The students and their research include:

Kyle H. Brown, a sophomore AAS major from Chicago: "From the Yard to the Office: The Dilemmas College Students Face in Transitioning from a Major in African American Studies Toward the Professional Career Arena."

Jaiyvohn J. Davis, a senior AAS major from Chicago: "We Wear the Mask: The Mis-Representation of African American People in Politics, Media, and Entertainment."

Elizabeth V. Etta, a sophomore AAS major from Macomb: "Speaking Our Language: Positive Steps for a Positive Future."

Michael T. Gibson, a freshman AAS and law enforcement and justice administration major from Harvey: "Strong as the Weakest Link: A Question of Masculinity today in the Black Family."

Samantha K. Kay, a senior AAS major from Walnut (IL): "A Long Race Home: The Sociological Perspectives as to why Black Children are Least Selected for Adoption."

Breeia N. Little, a junior AAS and law enforcement and justice administration major from Peoria: "The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same: A Question of Social, Cultural, and Political agencies in Black America."

Brandon L. Scates, a junior AAS major from Chicago: "Socializing and Politicking: Generating Revolution Through Urban Politics in Inner-City Communities Nationwide."

Rayvon K. Shelton, a senior journalism and AAS major from Broadview: "The Wearied Souls of Black Folk: The Struggle with the Inferiority Complex in Black America."

Konnie S. Wells, a sophomore AAS major from Decatur: "Propaganda without Preparation: Mis-Education of the Black College Freshman Student in the 21st Century."

Horzabrey West, a freshman AAS major from Chicago: "The Trouble with the Trouble: Black 'At-Risk' Adolescents in the Crucible of Public Education."

At the conference, which will be held March 7-10, there are more than 110 sessions per day, Simpson explained. Keynote speakers include Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, and Haki Madhubuti, the founder, publisher and chair of the board of Third World Press (established in 1967), which is the largest independent black-owned press in the United States.

"I am amazed at the level of commitment each student has shown in preparation for this conference. They have collectively put their best foot forward and will represent Western Illinois University well," Simpson said.

Each student received a WIU College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity Grant to pay for travel expenses and registration fees associated with their conference presentation.

The students will also present their research at Western's Annual Undergraduate Research Day April 18.

Along with Simpson, African American studies associate professors Audrey Watkins and Jo-Ann Morgan will present at the conference. Simpson, Watkins, Morgan and assistant professor Laurian Bowles mentored the students who prepared papers for the NCBS conference presentations.

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