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La Sierra’s grad conference draws 24 presenters from Calif., China schools

  • February 9, 2011

They hail from two Golden State university systems, two private schools and one university in China, and they are coming to La Sierra University.
In total, 24 graduate students from these institutions and La Sierra will gather here on Feb. 18 to present papers on numerous humanities subjects, discuss academics, learn new concepts and network with each other during La Sierra’s third annual Natures Conference. The humanities event is titled “Textual Politics: Inspiration, Influence, Participation.”

Throughout the day the students will present papers in concurrent sessions on a variety of topics including art, film, history, and religion. Their presentations will take place under various sections including “Philosophical Inspiration in Textual Productions,” “Interpreting Politics as/in Literature,” and “The Influence of Religious Politics on Reading Texts.” The sessions begin at 8 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. At 11 a.m., J. Scott Bryson, professor of English at Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles will give a plenary address in LSU’s Cossentine Hall 100 on “Place, Space and Los Angeles: Defining “Nature” in the City of Freeways and Concrete.” At 12:50 p.m., Bryson will lead a discussion in the Cactus Room, Dining Commons for conference participants on academic life. The talk is titled “From Nature Poetry to Urban Landscape: An Academic Career Move.” 

The presenting graduate students represent eight universities: La Sierra University; National Chung Cheng University, China; University of California, Riverside; University of California, San Diego; California State University, Dominguez Hills; California State University, East Bay; Claremont Graduate University; and California Baptist University in Riverside.La Sierra’s English and Communication Department and the College of Arts and Sciences hosts the annual Natures conferences. Dr. Lora Geriguis, assistant English professor and director of the Master of Arts in English program is faculty sponsor for the event. She announced the conference through the University of Pennsylvania’s call-for-papers Web site and personally contacted previous conference participants.
Professor Scott Bryson, Mount St. Mary's College, will give a plenary address.Christopher Blood, a graduate student in literature at California State University, East Bay and a conference presenter, said he keeps a close eye on the University of Pennsylvania’s call-for-papers site and was fortunate to find La Sierra’s Natures conference announcement. “I decided to contact Dr. Geriguis to see if one of my on-going research projects might work for this year’s conference. She liked my thesis,” said Blood. “I am drawn to conferences that look at environmental writing/arts, the identity we can find within ourselves, complimented by our natural world, and scholarly interpretations of the individual’s “place” amidst the natural world. I am really excited to hear other California graduate students’ views upon these topics.”

Blood’s presentation is titled “Urban Environments and the Nature of the City: Perceived Estrangement of the Individual from the Natural World in the Poetry of Whitman, Berry, and McGrath.” He uses poetry from the works of Walt Whitman, Wendell Berry, and Thomas McGrath “as a lens to explore the relationship that exists between the metropolitan individual and his city-side sylvan setting. I explore the alienation that exists between the urbanite and urban nature,” Blood said. His presentation will include commentary from his years of experience working for the National Park Service and continual migration between the wilderness and the metropolis of the San Francisco Bay Area.

La Sierra English graduate student Jennifer DoNascimento will present a paper on one of her favorite works, “The Awakening,” a novel by Kate Chopin first published in 1899. DoNascimento’s presentation will take place under the title, “The Awakening: Emersonian Transcendentalism and Chopin’s Heroine.” 
Chopin’s novel, which appeared during the constrictive Victorian era, received sharp criticism from those who considered her work vulgar at the time. DoNascimento’s paper analyzes the book’s main character, Edna Pontellier, “as an adherent of Emersonian transcendentalism. A consideration of Edna as a character who embraces Emerson’s transcendentalism makes it easier to understand, if not accept, the course of action she takes in the last chapter of the novel. Edna’s self-gratification is connected with Emersonian philosophy in that it exemplifies the premise of desires over institutionalized principles,” in Edna’s case, the desire to connect with nature, specifically the ocean, DoNascimento explained.

DoNascimento is interested in conference participation for a variety of reasons. “Besides being a great way to network and see what other scholars are interested in, I also love the section dealing with the “influence of texts" on individuals,” she said. After completing La Sierra’s graduate program she plans to pursue a doctorate in literature, “probably focusing on modernism and postmodernism,” said DoNascimento. 
Including DoNascimento, eight current and past La Sierra graduate English students are presenting at this year’s Natures Conference as well as School of Religion graduate student Matthew Burdette. Following is a full list of participating students by institution:
National Chung Cheng University (China): Peter Chien-Yu
University of California, Riverside: Angela Chung, Richard Hunt, Thomas Yanni, Marilyn Kim
University of California, San Diego: Jade T. Hildle, Clare Rolens
California State University, Dominguez Hills: Rebecca Hill
California State University, East Bay: Christopher Blood
Claremont Graduate University: Brian McCabe, Victor Vargas, Rebecca Spence, Gerarda Costello
California Baptist University: Manya Desire Wren, Maggie Fanning, Bryan Ewing
La Sierra University: Juan Sepulveda, Patrick York, Jennifer Donascimento, Kassy Skoretz, Rebecca Renee Hess, Matthew Burdette. Two La Sierra English masters graduates are presenting: Damaris Saenz and Megan McDonough.

Participation in the Natures Conference helps prepare students for professional presentation, says Geriguis. “By participating in and helping to organize Natures, our graduate English students are being trained to perform well at professional conferences across the country,” she said. “Recent years has seen a marked increase in the number of our graduate students participating in such conferences, such that conference participation has come to be an expected part of the experience of graduate students in our M.A. in English program.”

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