Student attends national research conference

Sonoma State University student Mercedes Mack and professor of political science Cynthia Boaz attended the National Conference on Undergraduate Research last month at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, Washington. 

Mack, a fourth-year political science major, is  the only Sonoma State student to have attended this conference. At the conference, Mack presented a research paper on media frames and implication for nonviolent struggles in Palestine.

The National Conference of Undergraduate Research is an annual conference that allows students in the United States, from a wide range of universities, the opportunity to showcase their academic research and have work published in a national publication following the conference.

Boaz sees this conference as an opportunity for students to do research and gain academic experience outside of the classroom that prepares students for graduate school and future academic endeavors. 

“There are roughly 500 student papers that are presented in the conference,” said Boaz. “The goal of the conference is to promote undergraduate research and students doing their own research and analysis’ and writing up their findings.”

The conference takes place at a different university each year and is considered one of the most renowned research conferences in the nation.

Mack and Boaz’ trip to the conference in Washington was supported by Sonoma State and Boaz hopes that more opportunities for undergraduate research at SSU and the opportunity to attend this conference will be available for students in the future. 

“The conference is considered very selective. [The conference] has a long history in the U.S. and internationally as being the most prestigous undergraduate forum,” said Boaz.

Mack’s paper on media frames on nonviolent struggles in Palestine was inspired by Boaz, who focuses on related subjects in her career. The paper discusses the role the media has in covering society’s non-violent resistance in Palestine since 2004. Mack is also a research assistant to Boaz and had been working on her project since December, prior to presenting it at the conference last month. 

“I looked at Iran and Palestine,”said Mack. “I’ve been working under Professor Boaz for awhile now and that’s one of her areas of study and that’s something I’m really interested in as well.”

The National Conference on Undergraduate Research is considered one of the most prestigious conferences in the United States where students from all majors and universities can present research. Mack’s paper was chosen out of nearly 4,000 submissions to be presented at the conference. 

In the future, Boaz hopes Sonoma State will continue to support research opportunities for students and the university can continue to have a presence at the conference. 

Boaz commends Mack’s research and her work at the conference. Boaz said seeing her student present research at the conference was very rewarding and she is proud of the work Mack at and before the conference. 

“Mercedes did an outstanding [job] of presenting her work before a diverse group of undergraduates and professors from universities from around the country,” said Boaz.

The conference welcomes students of many academic subjects, not just political science. The conference featured work from the social sciences as well as the arts and sciences. “My hope is that Sonoma State will find the resources to support sending several students each year to this conference,” said Boaz. 

Mack credits her interest in the conference to Boaz, who encouraged her to send in an abstract to the organization. 

“So many people apply to get in [to the conference] and we just decided to [submit it],” said Mack.

Mack sees immense benefit from attending the conference. 

“Part of going to the conference is you  write your paper and you present what you found so far, so the paper isn’t completed [when you attend the conference],” said Mack. “So after the conference, you get feedback from other faculty members and other students. I learned a lot just by presenting the paper.”