Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

April 27, 2012

Undergrad research

TAHLEQUAH — Northeastern State University senior Ruth Curley has spent several years trying to connect the dots among three Creole languages, and she had an opportunity this week to share her findings with professors and classmates.

Creoles are native languages of a particular community developed through a combination of other languages.

“It’s usually very, very complex,” said Curley.

She and other undergraduate students at NSU presented years’ worth of research this week as part of the university’s annual Undergraduate Research Day.

“I was analyzing the languages [Papiamentu, Palanquero, and Chavacano] and I happened upon a similarity they all share,” said Curley, a Spanish major who was also named Outstanding Scholar by the College of Liberal Arts’ screening committee for URD. “They developed in totally different parts of the world, at different times, in different situations or circumstances, so I was thinking to myself, this is incredible that they use the same word. I mean, English and Spanish don’t even share very many words.

“So what I was looking into was that perhaps the Spanish language ... was the origin of this similarity that we’re seeing. If they all took it from the same language, maybe this is something that is also going on in a lot of other Creole languages.”

Curley’s entire project was originally produced in Spanish, but she translated it into English for this week’s URD. She enjoyed her work so much, and came across so many new questions, she is now considering linguistics studies.

“For the first time, I’ve actually kind of developed an interest in linguistics,” said Curley.

“In picking my master’s college, I’m trying to pick somewhere I can do my master’s studies, but also take linguistics classes because this could be a possible career for me.”

For now, Curley is sad to see her recent research come to a conclusion, even if it is a temporary one.

“In a way, it’s a big weight off my shoulders, but it’s just, you know, I kind of grew attached to it,” she said. “Then when it ends, you’re kind of like, what now? For the first time in two years, I have no research to do.”

Ten years ago, university officials decided there should be an on-campus event where students could present their work to classmates, professors and the public, according to Mark Paulissen, co-chair of the Undergraduate Research Day steering committee.

“There is  a selection process,” said Paulissen. “Each of the colleges has a screening committee that picks the outstanding scholar; for example, the College of Liberal Arts picked Ruth.”

Students submit applications to participate in URD, and steering committees decide whether projects are worthy of being on display. Around 30 undergraduates transferred their research onto posters and displayed them at the University Center this week for judging by a panel of staff and visiting students.

Junior Molly Turner, a double major in corporate communication and theater, presented “The Hegemonic Pageant Girl: A Feminist Analysis of ‘Toddlers & Tiaras.’”

“I was in a class with Dr. Amy Aldridge Sanford last semester, called Rhetoric of the U.S. Women’s Movements, and we were required to write a rhetorical criticism, which is basically a qualitative analysis of an artifact,” said Turner.

“The artifact I chose was ‘Toddlers & Tiaras,’ basically because it was really upsetting.”

Turner said she used two methodologies in her research: feminist criticism, and cluster criticism.

“With feminist criticism, you’re basically analyzing things like gender roles, how men and women are portrayed, patriarchy, things like that,” said Turner. “With cluster criticism, you identify repetitive key terms within the artifact, then clusters of key terms around those key terms. Then you interpret meanings based on those clusters.”

Turner concluded that beauty pageants are a form of oppressive patriarchy.

“They teach a mindset that you have to learn in order to succeed. So parents have to learn this patriarchal paradigm in order to succeed in the pageant world, and so do their children,” she said. “They teach it to their children, which is what I call the ‘hegemonic pageant girl’; it’s what these little girls become. They all look and act the same and behave the same way. It’s an impossible ideal to obtain.”

Turner said there’s not been a great deal of qualitative research over child beauty pageants or reality TV shows involving those pageants, so she had to use outside texts to draw most of her conclusions.

“It’s a lot more speculative at this point because it’s so new,” said Turner.

“I’m hoping to use [the project] as my honors research I have to have when I graduate, by possibly working on it and submitting it to the Pop Culture Association Journal.”

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