Archives for November 2017

Kane York: First Conference Experience

I attended the Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA) conference in San Antonio, Texas between March 31st and April 2nd. Before the conference enjoyed research; however, it seemed as if I was working in a vacuum. The only people I could discuss my findings with were my professor and a select few people in the department. This changed when I was able to attend SWPA. Walking into the poster room blew me away. I expected there to be a good amount of people in attendance, but witnessing the amount of posters and people discussing the subjects made it all the more real. This became even more poignant when I stepped back and thought of the amount of work each project took. Each poster or presentation was the result of hours of data collection, critical thought, and analysis.

Each day consisted of a myriad of talks and poster sessions. The first day I attended a talk discussing the manner in which we value human lives in and out of war. The speaker drew upon themes in psychology, economics, and philosophy to enlighten the discussion. We addressed questions regarding donations made to nonprofit organizations, how we as a developed country form our views of people in war torn countries, and how we allow the state to place value on certain lives. This talk impressed me because of how the speaker and the audience drew upon different disciplines. It displayed that psychology is a field that draws from many sources.

In the latter portion of that day, I observed a symposium with Cognitive Psychology as a focus of the talks. I was excited to hear this presentation since the content differed from the social psychology presentations I had already heard. A common theme through all of the speakers was studying the visual system using visual search tasks. In short, this is a task in which a participant needs to “search” for a target object among other objects known as distractors. This tasks allows the experimenter to manipulate the stimuli that appear on the screen and draw conclusions from the participants input. From this we can make inferences about unobservable mental processes. This provided me with more reference material for a project I plan to work on next semester, one that studies ensemble processing—the ability of humans to make quick judgments when presented with large amounts of visual stimuli. It brought me joy to see that my area of study was alive and well.

During the second day I attended another talk that was about how teachers can approach learning differently. The speaker quoted a number of studies in discussing how professors and students need to stop thinking of lectures as a transferring of knowledge from one container to the next. He claimed that it was an active process on both parts. His presentation gave me new insights to learning and was able to dispel some myths. The amount of false assumptions I had was a bit surprising. One interesting takeaway from his lecture was that students are responsible for 50% of their learning. This puts a number of student problems into perspective. Later, it was time for my poster presentation. What I figured was going to be an event full of anxiety turned out to quite enjoyable. What I expected was to be rigorously questioned by professors and academics, but this did not happen. People expressed a genuine interest in my research and asked understandable questions.

This was a fantastic first conference experience. To see the amount of and how diverse the people in attendance brought me much joy. Seeing so many studying in my field gives me confidence that I am choosing a worthwhile degree.

Russell Jeffrey: Rwanda

You Need a Friend

Mr. Gaby was the first person we met in Rwanda, and without him we would have been completely lost. His head, shorn like the heads of most Rwandan men, balanced on his body more than six feet in the air – inches above the tallest in our group. Gaby seemed to know his way around everywhere, and he could bargain, discuss, argue and talk his way around until he got what he had come for. We were naturally curious when we discovered that he could speak seven languages. He advised us that the first word to learn in any language is “thank you,” or, in Kinyarwanda, “moracoze.” After that, it is up to you.

The second person we met on our trip was Gaspar, the bus driver who drove us all across the country. He was a very shy, humble person who was probably the best bus driver in Rwanda. Gaby knew that Gaspar was excellent, and the bus company knew that Gaspar was Gaby’s first, second, and third choice if he needed transportation for a group like us. We soon learned that Gaspar could squeeze the bus through gaps in the rush-hour streets of Kigali as smoothly as he could cruise through the hills, and because of our trust in Gaspar’s skill, the bus became a safe place for us throughout our trip.

We spent our first week in the capital, Kigali, at a guesthouse called Kings. As such, we became familiar with the staff members, Justine, Augustine, and Celestia, and the owner, Mr. Amos. Justine could not stand idly by as the white, American students struggled to do the most rudimentary household chores. She often had to show us the proper ways of doing things like washing clothes and peeling potatoes after she had a good chuckle. Augustine was a cheery fellow who always greeted us with a smile, but we were never quite sure exactly how much English he understood. He always smiled and nodded politely when we asked him questions, but we found that some conversations required much more pointing and gesturing than others. Luckily, he was quite familiar with the English phrases, “There is no hot water,” and “There is no Wi-Fi.”

I met another person in the village of Kanembwe. At the time that we visited, there was some confusion about the ownership of the land we were working on, so while Gaby was off talking his way through a Rwandan police force, an electric company, and a village of several thousand people to sort things out, we were left with little more than hand gestures and the Kinyarwanda words for “yes”, “no”, “thank you”, and “white person”. The guy I met seemed to be about my age or a bit younger, and he was one of the only people we met in the village who spoke a lick of English. He wore a red snapback cap turned around backwards, and he called himself Jumeve. (Pronounced with a soft “J”, Ju-may-vay is my best attempt at spelling the name from I-don’t-know-what-language that I only saw written as “JMV”).

Over the course of the two days we spent in Kanembwe, there were many occasions that sent me in search of Jumeve to make sense of the ideas that the people were trying to communicate to us. I was told that I could be cut by sharp minerals if I touched the cement, I was told that it was considered a “blessing” to get peed on by a baby, and I declined the requests of several men who thought it was my job to marry off the ladies in our group. None of these messages were understood without the help of Jumeve. At the end of our stay in Kanembwe, I briefly got to say goodbye to him. His grin, which I had always received when I smiled at him in passing, fell away when he understood that we were leaving. He gave me his WhatsApp number and asked for something to remember me by. I thought frantically: Shoes? I need those; Notebook? Tattered; Money? Impersonal; Tape measure? Cheap. Then it struck me: Pocket knife. I unclipped it from my belt and handed it to him. He nodded, we exchanged mournful smiles, and I went on my way to join the others for the ride back to our hotel.

On the morning of our trip home, Gaby arrived with a different bus driver (Gaspar had a scheduling conflict) and took us to the airport. I was comfortable letting everyone else take pictures that would be shared after the trip, but my biggest regret about the trip is that I failed to capture Gaby. There are very few pictures of him in our shared folder for, I suspect, the same reason that there are not many pictures of Gaspar’s bus. In the rush and jumble of our first few days, Gaby and Gaspar quickly became the secure foundation from which we operated – the giants whose shoulders we stood on to see Rwanda. I only have one recording of Gaby speaking. In the recording he says one word, “Nzagukumbura,” which is the Kinyarwanda word for, “I will miss you.” I miss him, too. Because, although I have returned from Rwanda, I left a little piece of me behind. I left it on purpose, and maybe someday I will go back to look for it.

Radishes, Swiss Chard, and Kale, Oh my! by Tessa Wolff

Many students are unaware that UCA has its own organic garden on campus. It’s called the Dee Brown Memorial Garden and it’s named after Dorris Alexander “Dee” Brown. Dee Brown attended Arkansas State Teacher’s College (now known as UCA) from 1928 to 1931. He is well-known for his influential book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” which chronicles the history of Native Americans in the early western U.S.

​This semester, my classmates and I had the opportunity to learn about the impact and history of gardening in our world today by attempting to grow our own organic garden. “Organic” horticulture incorporates sustainable, environmentally friendly methods of gardening by eliminating synthetic pest and weed controls, chemical fertilizers, and GMO seed varieties. In contrast to today’s industrial agricultural habit of monoculture, organic horticulture attempts to mimic the natural world by promoting the integration of various types of plants and animals into a single garden ecosystem. It also requires a lot of work, which my classmates and I were soon to realize. We started out with thirteen empty garden beds, from which (we hoped) would soon flourish many fall crops. To prepare the beds, we added compost from our campus compost pile which provided a foundational amount of nutrients for our baby plants. Then, we took to our hands and knees and began to plant seeds and seedlings in the fresh Earth. We planted Swiss Chard, Cabbage, Lettuce, Radishes, Broccoli, Kale, Spinach, Carrots, and my favorite, “Baby Bear” Pumpkins (which, unfortunately did not do well this season). We added Pansies and Marigolds to attract pollinators and add to the beauty of the garden.

Many hours were spent watering, weeding, amending the soil with extra compost, and inspecting for insects, all in an attempt to make sure our harvest came to fruition. Additionally, we planted three beds with peas to prepare them for the next growing season. Peas are nitrogen fixers; they take nitrogen from the air and return it back to the soil. This is an important step in preparing beds for future vegetables that require high amounts of nitrogen, such as tomatoes or squash. Over time, our baby plants grew into mature plants and finally started producing vegetables! The leaves of Swiss Chard and Kale can be harvested as they grow and the plant will continue producing leaves for further harvest. The broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, and pumpkins take a bit longer to produce fruit, but patience is a virtue! As we wait for the rest of our veggies to grow, we continue to learn about the benefits of organic horticulture to humanity and the environment. We’ve learned that agricultural costs aren’t strictly limited to monetary ones. By not using synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, organic gardeners and farmers are reducing agriculture’s harmful impact on the Earth. For example, synthetics can cause soil depletion, increased insect resistance, pollution, and may even have long term, detrimental health effects on humans. By gardening organically and selling locally, farmers reduce the use of oil in transportation and preservatives in shipping. They also promote the growing of fruits and vegetables during their proper growing season and preserve the important heritage of heirloom seeds, which are natural, non-genetically modified seeds that have been preserved over generations.

​I came into this class with what I thought was a pretty good amount of gardening experience and knowledge. The first day of class, we were told to rate ourselves on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 meaning “gardening genius” and 1 meaning “clueless.” I rated myself a 5. The fact was, I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did and I have certainly had a bit of a wakeup call when it comes to the astonishingly far reaching effects that food production has on our world. My classmates and I are proud of our little garden, knowing that our hard work paid off and that we did our own small part in treating the Earth respectfully.