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Eastern hosts COPLAC’s Northeast research conference

Published on November 07, 2022

Eastern hosts COPLAC’s Northeast research conference

Eastern hosted the Northeast Regional Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity Conference of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) on Oct. 28-29. The conference provided a platform to display the work of 49 students from six liberal arts colleges in the Northeast.

COPLAC is a group of 29 public liberal arts colleges across the country, of which Eastern is a member. Presenters spanned a variety of fields and disciplines from the analysis of children’s horror films to the effects of social media on users' behaviors. 

Participating schools included Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania, Eastern, Keene State College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Ramapo College of New Jersey and State University of New York at Geneseo. 

During the opening ceremony, COPLAC Director Cole Woodcox said, “We stress the accessibility, affordability and availability to multidisciplinary education. The work that these students do is very important in helping people understand how to navigate difficult situations in their lives, as well as how to be flexible and resilient.” Woodcox also noted that this conference served as an opportunity for like-minded students to build comradery, formulate bonds and create social networking relationships for the future.  

“We are grateful to be in a position where we can help students network from several states and colleges," said COPLAC Program Manager Claire Baily. “These students are impressive ambassadors for their disciplines and institutions. They are contributing to the knowledge of our world from multiple perspectives. We hope they will take the connections they make here out into the real world to continue spreading the liberal arts message.” 

The conference began with a poster session and visual arts exhibition in the Betty R. Tipton room in the Student Center. Guests interacted with liberal arts students from all five northeastern schools as they presented informational posters and artwork.  

Eastern art major Denisse Diaz-Sanchez `23 displayed her artwork “The Sickness,” which depicted a red, white and blue syringe composed of quotes critiquing the Healthcare system. She said that she borrowed inspiration from Walter Cronkite’s famous quote, which asserts that “America’s Healthcare system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” 

Diaz-Sanchez was also motivated to create this piece due to a disheartening story about a woman whose death was a direct result of the U.S. Healthcare system’s imperfections. “On her 10-year anniversary with Walmart, a woman was wrongfully fired for taking time off to recover from pneumonia,” said Diaz-Sanchez. “Sadly, she died only a few days later because she could no longer cover her own medical expenses.” 

Eastern political science major Tasheika Sangster `23 presented a poster relaying her discoveries on the relationship between an individual’s selection bias in the media and their ideological and political beliefs. 

“Even though my findings supported my hypothesis — that media users would experience increased exposure and interaction to posts that mirror their attitudes and beliefs — we must do something to prevent this problem,” said Sangster. “In today’s society it is very hard to express your own opinions to your peers, but I think we can avoid a lot of these echo chambers, filter bubbles and biases by speaking out against these issues and being open-minded media and tech users.”  

The following day, oral presentation sessions were conducted by a select group of student-speakers from the liberal arts colleges on Saturday Oct. 29, in the Student Center conference rooms.  

Theatre major Rebecca Ristow `23, dramaturge for Eastern’s first production of the fall semester, presented “Dramaturgy for Oedipus the King: A True Crime Podcast.” 

“I was tasked with taking the director’s ideas and applying historically accurate context to them based on my preliminary research on the two different eras and locations as well as their social, cultural and political traditions,” said Ristow about the play, which melded ancient Greek tragedy with modern day politics. “We wanted to depict what it is truly like when citizens feel isolated and hopeless while losing faith in the people that are supposed to protect them.”  

During the closing ceremony, COPLAC organizers encouraged students to continue pursuing their educational pathways outside of the conference, while also urging them to participate in next year's conference.  

“I was deeply impressed by the wide range of work expressed here at this conference, along with the fact that students were willing to go public with their efforts,” said Baily. “That takes a lot of courage and bravery, but it is necessary work. They are making their schools proud. Their faculty will be bragging about them for years to come.”  

Written by Jack Jones