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Sociology students address race, gender and culture at major symposium

April 9, 2001

Austin Peay joined an elite group of 19 universities nationwide whose student papers were accepted for presentation at the Southeastern Undergraduate Sociology Symposium held at Atlanta's Emory University.

Students Amanda Whittenberg, Sheila McKnight and Karla Marman, along with Dr. E. Kelly Sanford, chair of the department of sociology, attended the symposium, titled "Speaking of Diversity: Reconciling Differences, Resolving Conflict."

"We were able to show how the department of sociology is on the cutting edge of diversity in higher education and multicultural education," Sanford said.

Whittenberg presented her paper, "Understanding Diversity: Reconciling Differences," during the session on "Race, Gender and Culture." She came up with her topic through a test Sanford gave in a research methodology class dealing with prejudice.

"It changed me," she said. "Growing up, I believed that if you became educated, you wouldn't discriminate. But you must learn about multicultural education to become non-prejudiced, non-discriminatory. Every ethnic group experiences some social distance from the others."

McKnight presented a paper titled "A Closer Look at Multicultural Education and Its Positive Effects on a Culturally Diverse Society" in the session on "Issues in Education."

"It was definitely an experience to go through the process of putting a paper together, doing research and having it accepted for presentation," said McKnight. "It was thrilling and easier than I expected."

As a result of the experience, she is looking at graduate programs.

McKnight also found a trip to the church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached to be educational.

"It was exciting," she said. "It was a nice feeling to be able to sit in a pew where he had sat. We heard a tape recording of him speaking, and it made me think about history. I was able to imagine myself being there."

Marman presented "Bridging the Knowledge Gap: Using Multicultural Education to Enhance Relationships within a Diverse Society" in the "Issues in Education" session.

Sanford said it was a source of pride for him to see APSU students presenting their research at the event.

"I was talking to a Vanderbilt professor who said he had one student going, and I was able to say I had three."

The trip was made possible by support from APSU's Student Government Association and Dr. Jennifer Meningall, vice president for student affairs, and her office.