Arab Spring, "Tricky Dick," and transportation: Summer research at Hampden-Sydney

Nineteen students worked with faculty this summer on research projects ranging from quantum ethics in philosophy to creative writing. Summer research gives Honors students the opportunity to get started on a yearlong project that will lead to graduating with departmental honors. Access to this kind of research—working alongside a Ph.D.-holding faculty member—at the undergraduate level is rare and gives Hampden-Sydney students a distinct advantage in graduate school.

"Rail in Virginia will provide a reliable, environmentally friendly alternative to the use of vehicles and roads, will take trucks off the highways, and will expand the functionality of the Port of Virginia.”

-Barron Frazier ’12

Andrew McCullagh ’12 worked with Dr. Gerald Carney of the Religion Department to examine the role of Islam in the recent political uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Andrew says, “My final conclusion was that the Arab Youth has been—and will be—the most important part to the revolutions and democratic uprisings. The Muslim faith itself has not played an important role in the revolutions but will most likely become a factor when democratic elections begin occurring across North Africa. The “Arab Spring” was started by people my age and will be carried on by that very same generation. In the end I am skeptical as to the likelihood that we will see a true democratic state rise out of many of these nations, but this movement was just the beginning of something much larger than we could have anticipated.”

In Morton Hall, Christian “Cap” Pritchett ’12 and Dr. Caroline Emmons of the History Department examined how Richard Nixon’s spoken and written rhetoric helped persuade the South to start voting with the Republican Party during his term as President. Cap says, “The paper focused on desegregation and contrasted Nixon’s public statements on race and desegregation with those of George Wallace, as Nixon co-opted the issue of race in a greater appeal to law and order. This paper will provide the groundwork for my Senior Fellowship, which will move from desegregation to look at Nixon’s speeches about Vietnam and Russia, the economy and wage and price controls, and the environment. The final project will include two semesters and eighteen credit hours of work in addition to this summer paper.”

Barron Frazier ’12, a biology major, worked with Dr. Celia Carroll on the benefits of passenger rail, commuter rail, and freight rail in Virginia. “Many of the leaders in Virginia whom I interviewed were surprised that a biology major from H-SC was researching transportation,” says Barron. “But coming from the traffic-burdened Hampton Roads area, I have always wanted to understand the science behind infrastructure. Many have said that the journey is more important than the destination; it is what we gain from the travels that make the trip worth taking. Although this saying suggests a pleasant perspective on life, the revelation has failed to warm the hearts of the millions of commuters who sit in traffic on a consistent basis. Road building may never cease, but in order to maximize space and resources, alternatives to automotive transport need to be thoroughly investigated and highly utilized to decrease congestion, increase the life expectancy of current roads, and improve transit times. Rail in Virginia will provide a reliable, environmentally friendly alternative to the use of vehicles and roads, will take trucks off the highways, and will expand the functionality of the Port of Virginia.”

Summer research is a valuable resource for Hampden-Sydney students when the academic year is too full with classes and extracurricular activities to undertake a comprehensive and exhaustive research project. It also reflects the commitment our faculty has to our students.

Barron adds that summer research contributes to the College’s academic mission. He says, “H-SC has prepared me to enter the real world and analyze problems outside of my major. This unique opportunity gave me both a chance to study a field that interests me and to see the benefits of receiving a broad, yet thorough, liberal arts education.”

Other students who took part in summer research where Henry Loehr ’12, Christopher Griggs ’12, Matt Vail ’12, Devon Baker ’12, Joseph Wilkinson ’12, David Williams ’12, Matt Buchanan ’12, Jack Gibson ’12, Erik Schafer ’12, Ke Shang ’12, J.J. Strosnider ’12, Kyle Gilbert ’12, Andrew Nance ’12, Rayne Delong ’12, Stew Neifert ’12, and Yonathan Ararso ’12.