Student Research & Special Projects

“African American Mentorship in Western NC: My Black is Beautiful and It’s Intellectual”

Student Presenter: Jeremy James
2018 Fall Symposium

African Americans who attend predominantly white institutions may struggle with finding mentorship on campus. This often leads to many Blacks losing interest in classes, completing requirements and obtaining their degree. PWI’s have done a minimal job of assisting students of color adjust to college after getting accepted. Often, they leave black students to find their own peer groups and create their own safe havens on campus. They have done a worse job at ensuring that students of color are able to succeed in their academic career, while obtaining a degree or after.

In this research I want to explore if black students on college campuses across Western North Carolina are experiencing the lack of mentorship. Mentorship in any form, from African American’s or towards African Americans throughout college, can help lead to better job opportunities, a better appreciation for their major, a greater chance in continuing higher education, and a since of belonging on campus. Mentorship provides students with the opportunity to establish lasting connections in the academic world, as well as define what their careers and further education might be like. These academic opportunities help provide a sense of assurance when working towards one’s career. These are just a few of the issues African American’s at PWI’s are facing every semester when they do not receive proper mentorship.

Looking at the numbers for Western North Carolina, the U.S. department of Commerce reported in 2010 that Western North Carolina’s people of color combined for nearly 12 percent of the region. While their counterparts (white’s) account makes up 35 percent of the region. Examining closer, The State of Black Asheville reported that its city is 79 percent white and 13 percent black. While the city’s local college, UNC Asheville reports only 3 percent of the students identified as black, while 87 percent identified as white. I will look to interview African American students across five PWI’s in Western North Carolina to gather their thoughts on, if they view lack of mentorship as an issue on their campus, and if they had proper mentorship throughout or during their college experience do they believe they would be in a better position than they are now. The main topic I look to explore is that African American students need mentorship but are not getting it.

“The Medical Cis-tem is Broken: A Social Media Analysis of the #TransHealthFail Hashtag”

2018 Fall Symposium

Discrimination against transgender individuals is more than a social issue; it is a health issue, and a global epidemic at that. The fear, hatred, and general ignorance with which the current cisnormative society approaches transgender individuals creates significant barriers to accessing quality healthcare. While interacting with healthcare providers transgender individuals face a myriad of discriminations ranging from microaggressions to outright assault. These interactions, which at best deter transgender individuals from seeking medical attention and at best put their lives in danger, have been termed by the transgender community online as “Trans Health Fails.” In 2015, the organization MyTransHealth posted on Twitter asking for transgender individuals to share their #TransHealthFails. The ensuing 3,000+ tweets in this hashtag provide a valuable look into the health inequity transgender individuals face. This research takes the form of a retrospective longitudinal analysis, examining tweets in the hashtag from July 30th 2015 to July 30th 2018. Grounded coding was chosen as the analytical approach so as to allow the experiences of the individuals to speak for themselves, rather than imposing the researcher’s own ideas.

“There’s a Haint Up in Here Somewhere–Paranormal Belief Construction, Experience, and Meaning-Making in the American South”

2018 Fall Symposium

Belief in some form of paranormal–ranging from traditional Christian ideas of resurrection and Virgin Birth to aliens and clairvoyance–is the norm, with 90% of Southern Focus Poll (SPF) respondents believing in one or more forms (Rice, 2003). The notion of ghosts and the paranormal “violate a number of binaries” that dominate Western culture: life or death, past or present, body or soul. (Baker and Bader, 2014). Rather than “or,” the paranormal exists within the and, where life and death are deeply intertwined. The paranormal subsist somewhere between conventional time and space, and belief in such leads to a “culturally powerful position” wherein participants can “shatter” the binary constraints of reality (Baker and Bader, 2014). Believers in the paranormal, ranging from use of astrology to communicating with the spirits of the deceased, create meaning from these encounters. This is an exploration of how believers in the paranormal from the south construct, experience, and make meaning from paranormal belief across varying social locations.