RCAH students present at UURAF 2015

On Friday, April 10, RCAH students Izzy Cooper, Jenny Crakes, Maddie Gorman, Taylor Sydow, Dani Dillon, Marie Kaniecki, Becky Barron, Dan Finegan, Erik Krueger and Morgan Torre showcased their work at Michigan State University’s Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF).

During the afternoon session of the arts and humanities division of the forum, RCAH senior Dan Finegan’s presentation won first place. Finegan’s talk focused on his work with RCAH professor Estrella Torrez’s Nuestros Cuentos storytelling project, which partners with Latino youth in the Lansing School District.

Finegan, who has an additional major in Spanish and a specialization in Latino and Chicano studies, has been involved with the Nuestros Cuentos for the last three years.

“It’s exciting to be able to share that story and reinforce the work Dr. Torrez has put into it,” he said.

Finegan said he’s glad to be at Michigan State because of the ample research opportunities available to undergraduate students.  

“What’s so interesting about UURAF is the exchange of ideas and different projects… One thing I took advantage of was staying for the whole duration of presentations in my category and asking questions to each presenter. It was interesting to learn more about what students are doing,” he said.

Finegan said presenting at the Forum gave him a taste of what to expect as he continues his education. He plans to earn a graduate degree in social work, focusing specifically on diverse and bilingual populations.

“I want to use Spanish and my background in the humanities to connect social justice to social work,” he said.

RCAH seniors Izzy Cooper and Erik Krueger also presented at UURAF. They shared their experiences organizing a summit in Costa Rica centered on international engagement and sustaining community partnerships. Their project was tied to their participation in RCAH’s “Ethics in Tourism and Sustainable Development” study abroad program in 2013 and their recent coordination of the RCAH Costa Rica civic engagement summit in fall 2014.

“We’re only there once every two years, and communication is limited at best. So creating a network and connecting community partners is really important,” she said. “We created a list of principles of how the program functions currently and a list of principles for how it could run that was much more holistic and included all the stakeholders,” she said.  

Cooper said her work on in Costa Rica has helped her to find her place in the college.

“This experience, from study abroad to independent study to UURAF has brought out this other side to me that’s very passionate about something that’s very academic,” Cooper said. “Yeah, I like to read and write papers, but this is something that has made me find my identity as a student. It’s also made me feel like I’m a part of the RCAH.” 

Story by RCAH student Kelsey Block. Photos by Katie Wittenauer.