Skip to main content

The Undergraduate Research Conference flips the power dynamic because it’s a day where students become teachers, says Academic Vice President Walker

Mason Allred sitting on a black chair wearing a blue and red plaid button-up shirt.
Dr. Mason Allred was the keynote speaker for the Undergraduate Research Conference.
Photo by Mark Daeson Tabbilos

More than 100 BYU–Hawaii students with conference name tags presented more than 80 undergraduate research projects in various McKay and Science Building locations at the Undergraduate Research Conference on March 31. In the Science Building, third-floor hallways and classrooms walls were covered with research posters and presenters stood by them to present to individuals and groups.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Mason Allred, assistant professor in the Faculty of Arts & Letters, set the tone for BYUH's annual Undergraduate Research Conference by presenting "The Piety of Perspective: Bodies, Media, and Experience in Latter-day Saint Film, 1970-2020," at the McKay Auditorium.

After the presentation, he received questions from the audience about his research regarding films produced and directed by members of the Church. This pattern of presenting and receiving questions from students and faculty members was repeated throughout the conference.

"It is really a day where we flipped the power dynamic of classroom instruction," said Academic Vice President Isaiah Walker. He explained the school intentionally closed down all the classes for a day to support the students, essentially taking over the classroom instruction, so that presenters became teachers to their peers and professors.

Alex Song, a junior majoring in psychology from California, presented in classroom and poster sessions, his research on how food as one cultural element helps form individuals' identities. He shared he started forming his question from his internship experience last summer at the taro patches in the Hawaii Village of the Polynesian Cultural Center working with his mentor, Dr. Zachary Beckstead of the Faculty of Sciences.

Song said exploring the history and cultural aspect of kalo (taro) helped him trace back to his roots, which led him to understand why protecting Mauna Kea and water rights is important for the Hawaiians. "Different cultural aspects we have for our culture form who we are as a person," Song explained.

Jacqueline Forrest, a junior from Oregon studying cultural anthropology and linguistics, presented with three of her peers the analysis of various perspectives and attitudes of BYUH students regarding world English varieties during the 9 to 10:20 a.m. session.

She explained students needed to be Institutional Review Board certified before conducting their research, where community members and staff assess the project's proposal. She said about 10 students in that class helped collect data using laptops, headphones and voice samples, asking students on campus to participate in a 20-minute survey.

Forrest said the biggest thing she is looking forward to is coming up with new research questions, conducting new research on campus and gathering bigger samples to see how she and her peers could help people with this research. "I want to know what we can do more to help students both domestically and internationally be more open-minded when it comes to world Englishes and language varieties in general."

Academic Vice President Walker said this conference was empowering for students and those who attended. He explained the university could not have this conference for a while due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He expressed excitement and hopes the school will open this conference again even more profoundly in the upcoming years. "We are hoping even to grow this for next year [and] future years to really get everybody actively involved.”