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Sharing Borders

Student researchers weigh in on current U.S. and Canadian issues

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Nearly 80 undergraduates from Bridgewater and other universities will share the results of their research on topics ranging from NAFTA to immigration when the Canadian Studies Department hosts its annual spring symposium this Friday. 

Since its inception 12 years ago, the symposium has brought together scholars to present their research on subjects related to US-Canadian relations. But in a change, this year’s forum is dedicated to undergraduate research.

Set for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Dunn conference rooms, “Canada, the United States and Quebec in the Age of Trump,” will feature presentations by 78 students –  individually and in teams –  in 12 panels chaired by faculty members.

More than 50 of the students are from BSU, with the remainder from eight other US and Canadian colleges and universities, according to Dr. Andrew Holman, a professor of history and director of the university’s Canadian Studies Program.

“I’m very excited. I think this brings a new kind of energy to our offerings at BSU,” he said. “And there’s nothing more exciting than to see undergraduate researchers discovering what presenting their work really means in terms of the effort required and the responses they get and the contacts they make with their peers.”

Dr. Holman said the decision to try a new format this year was prompted in part by the success of BSU’s undergraduate research program under the leadership of its former director Dr. Jenny Shanahan, now an assistant provost. 

“She’s been an inspiration to me,” he said. “I thought why not do what we can to bring students together around something like Canadian-American relations.”

Erin Best, ’19, one of the symposium participants, will present her paper on “The Emergence of White Nationalism in United States Politics.” The work draws on an honors paper the Brockton resident wrote last semester about the Ku Klux Klan’s targeting of Franco-Americans in the 1920s, and her more recent research on how they fought that bigotry –   notably through the ballot box.

“My main theme is that often voting can be a tool to combat racial hatred,” she said.

Ms. Best said she looks forward to the symposium as a chance to “share my knowledge and my research with other people,” and to prepare herself for making future research presentations when she pursues a graduate degree. (Story by John Laidler for University News)

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