Taking the Windy City by Storm
Honors College Students Attend Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association
January 7th, 2014 (Jupiter, FL)—Many college students dream of meeting the best and the brightest minds in their fields and exchanging questions and ideas with them, but few have the opportunity to do so before they even graduate. For Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College students Hannah Paperno and Skylar Benedict, however, that dream recently became a reality. In the fall of 2013 Paperno and Benedict accompanied Dr. Rachel Corr to Chicago to attend the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, where their research was showcased alongside this year’s groundbreaking scholarship in the field of anthropology.
Paperno and Benedict are both juniors at the Wilkes Honors College and have dedicated the last few years to studying cultures and societies. Over the course of their studies, both students have begun to develop their own areas of academic research and, with the help of the Honors College’s anthropology faculty, have produced original research projects in their fields. Armed with posters and anxious for the chance to meet other researchers in their field, Benedict, Paperno, and Dr. Corr left for Chicago, arriving in the Windy City on November 20th.
Paperno was first impressed by the relaxed atmosphere of the conference. “You could pop in and out of different lectures as you pleased since there were dozens of things going on all at once, and absolutely everyone was interesting to talk to,” she describes. Her poster, entitled “Analysis of United States Perception of Indonesian Gays and Waria Through Online Discourses,” gained plenty of attention from the conference attendees. While the thought of presenting their work alongside the great minds in the field was daunting at first, the curiosity and friendliness of the other attendees soon put them at ease. “Each person showed a genuine interest in what we were doing and rather than grilling us about our research, they asked simple questions and engaged in open discussions with us about not only our research but current events and where we want to go as anthropologists in the future,” says Paperno. She and Benedict had the opportunity to mingle with students and professors of anthropology from all corners of the country. “While I was presenting my poster, I met a handful of other undergrad students, professors, and grad students, each of which had something new to bring to the table in terms of discussions and interests,” she said. Benedict was awed by the number of people in attendance. “It was fascinating to see such a large number of anthropologists from so many areas of the discipline and of the world in one place,” he states. “There was never a time during the conference that the lobby of the Chicago Hilton wasn't crowded with anthropologists. When you consider the small number of students on our campus in general and the even smaller number who concentrate on anthropology and related disciplines, you can imagine the effect.” He greatly enjoyed the conference sessions, and was thrilled to present his own poster entitled “Reclaiming Nationalism Through Alternative Youth Histories in Indonesia.”
Nevertheless, both Benedict and Paperno were in for more excitement outside of the conference area. “Although it is difficult to believe, I honestly did enjoy my limited experience with Chicago's winter,” says Benedict jokingly. “But for me an even greater experience was briefly exploring the Chicago Field Museum and seeing their collection of artifacts from different cultures as well as the interpretation of those artifacts,” he adds. Paperno and Benedict also had the opportunity to spend time with two Honors College alumni who continued in their studies of anthropology after graduating from Florida Atlantic University. Rachel Pilaski, now studying at Boston University, and Michael Degani, who is currently at Yale University, were happy to meet with Dr. Corr and the students to talk about their own research, discuss the students’ work, and to offer some pointers about graduate studies. For Paperno, the chance to meet these former students, as well as many other members of the anthropological community, has been invaluable. “One of the most important things I gained from this conference was to be open to new experiences. I became surprised at just how many new people I was able to meet just by being open to extending a hand and starting up a conversation with someone new,” Paperno says. “I think it's so important to at least try to broaden your horizons (especially in your field of study) because you never know who you're going to meet.”
Now members of the national anthropological community, Paperno and Benedict look forward to participating in many more meetings of the American Anthropological Association. They hope that in the future they will have the opportunity to see students like themselves make their debuts at the Triple-A’s, and are excited to continue their academic journeys in this growing field.
About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit www.fau.edu