Asbury SEARCH Event Showcases Student Research
WILMORE, Ky. — “I started to realize that these attitudes towards Appalachian people only made the problem worse, and many of them are still with us today,” said Asbury University student Ashley Dickerson ’17, gesturing towards a poster presentation behind her.
Another listening student nodded thoughtfully. “This reminds me of a book called ‘American Nations,’” he said. “The author says America is made up of cultural nations, and Appalachia is its own cultural group. How does that compare with your research?”
The exchange was one of many that took place throughout Asbury’s Kinlaw Library during the SEARCH Scholarship Symposium April 18. Including a panel discussion, a keynote speech and a scholarship symposium, the event celebrated student research and the importance of Christian scholarship, challenging campus to “See, Explore, Ask, Research, Celebrate and Honor.”
Dickerson’s poster presentation — one of 43 posters spanning the arts, humanities and sciences — illustrated the findings of her 20-page research paper on feuds in Appalachia. Dickerson’s research examined how the reporting of 19th-century feuds in Kentucky “contributed to the dehumanization and marginalization of the people of Appalachia.”
“Having the venue to share research is crucial for students,” Dickerson said. “It really makes you feel like what you’re doing matters. If no one reads it other than your professors, it’s not actually making that much of an impact. Having the chance to let your research make a difference is one thing that makes SEARCH really important for students.”
Students’ research posters covered an impressive range of ideas and disciplines. Among many others, a Math poster tackled metrics for sustainable city growth (Eric Brown ’19, Dakota Owens ’19, Deborah Burgess ’18 and Elijah Morgan ’20), a Biology poster examined the effect of transportation stress on horses (Mary Eastham ’17) and a poetry presentation focused on sex trafficking and sexual violence (Megan Gieske ’17). Thirteen students presented research in Psychology, ranging from “Right-Wing Authoritarianism and Cultural Ideologies” (Rachel Winger ’17) to “Medical Family Therapy: Immersing Family Therapy in a Healthcare Context” (Claire Webb ’17).
“Our students are doing great work both in the traditional classroom and in practicum experiences, but too often that work is not seen, let alone ever celebrated,” said Janet Dean, a Psychology professor who was instrumental in organizing the SEARCH Symposium. “SEARCH is an opportunity for us to consider and celebrate the value of such scholarship in the lives of our students and our community. This kind of scholarship greatly increases our ability to shape and influence the world around us in meaningful ways. Our mission as an institution is to “equip men and women for a lifetime of learning, leadership, and service to the professions, society, family, and Church,” and SEARCH celebrates a very real way in which we do this as an academic institution.”
“The SEARCH Symposium highlights the quality academic work our students are doing under the direction of our faculty,” said Tim Campbell ’99, academic dean at Asbury. “The faculty-student scholar relationship is one of the things we’re well positioned to do and you’re seeing the fruits of that at SEARCH. This quasi-apprenticeship is personalized attention you simply do not get at some other institutions and it will serve students well as they go on to graduate school and professional careers.”
This year’s event featured a keynote speech from Dr. Jeremy Begbie, director of Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts (DITA) and Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology at Duke Divinity School. Begbie challenged Asbury to use the arts to resist reductionism — the idea that people, things and the cosmos itself can be reduced to purely rational statements and scrutiny.
“Reductionism works against everything the Christian faith stands for,” Begbie said. “In a culture that so often breathes the air of reductionism without even knowing it, the arts will help you See more, Explore more, Ask more, Research more, Celebrate more and Honor more. Let the Holy Spirit dazzle you with a biblical vision of the world in which there is always more to discover than we can ever grasp or control — and let that happen at Asbury University.”