As one of only a handful of undergraduates at the 2019 Caribbean Studies Association conference, Christelle Lauture, ’20, could have felt intimidated. After all, she was there to present her research alongside professional scholars. However, the Randolph resident picked a different word to describe how she felt: validated.
“To me, it said the work I’m doing is important and has real-word applications,” said Christelle, an English major and graphic design minor. “Meeting people who were already doing what I want to be doing – that was a very unique and invaluable opportunity.”
In June, Christelle presented on the Haitian Kweyol language at the annual CSA conference in Santa Marta, Colombia. She was one of nine BSU undergraduates who traveled to South America with Dr. Allyson Ferrante, an associate professor of English.
With more than 1,100 members, the CSA has been the premier organization of international scholars of Caribbean Studies for more than 44 years. BSU has built a reputation for sending its undergraduates to present their research at the annual conference; this marked the fifth consecutive year Bears have attended.
For some students, this is their first taste of travel outside the country and whets their appetite for other international experiences. Presenting alongside professors, doctoral candidates and other scholars prompts students to up their academic game.
“Now, they have to think of their scholarship in terms of the academic community and making original contributions,” Ferrante said. “I’ve found it really inspires students to take their scholarship seriously. They choose projects out of passion rather than what they think is the easiest to complete.”
The size of the BSU contingent attending the conference has grown along with student interest in BSU’s Latin American and Caribbean studies minor. The minor serves 39 students, up from just one a mere five years ago. Ferrante attributes that growth to an introductory course and on-campus events such as the LACS Carnival Week held every March.
BSU is often students’ first opportunity to study Latin America and the Caribbean in an academic setting. They learn it is much more than a cruise destination and home for all-inclusive resorts. Rather, the region is a leader in the fight against climate change and an example of people coming together to make new nations and cultures after the devastation of slavery, indentured servitude and colonialism.
“The region is one of the most dynamic, modern and complex places in the world,” Ferrante explained.
Jenna Flaherty, ’20, an English and elementary education double major, discovered this regional sophistication firsthand at the CSA conference. Flaherty, who is minoring in Latin American and Caribbean studies, immersed herself in a Spanish-speaking country, despite knowing little of the language. She learned networking and communication skills that will prove valuable as she aspires to teach inner-city children.
Presenting at an international professional conference “pulls you out of your comfort zone,” said Jenna, who is from Norwell and shared her research on the implications of conforming to only part of one’s cultural identity instead of embracing all of it. “It creates a space for Bridgewater students to experience culture and community in a way they can’t on campus.”
Students Eustace Walker, Meghan Domagala, Ryan O'Connor, Maria Victoria Ponte, Miranda Campbell, Amaryllis Lopez and Carter Remy also attended the 2019 conference.
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