Curious Minds

Faculty and students are engaged in groundbreaking scholarly and creative research across our campus. In November, Georgia Southern hosted the third annual Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference (GURC), a venue for student researchers in all disciplines to present their work to a wide audience, to interact with other student scholars and faculty, and gain experience in making presentations at professional meetings. The conference was created to highlight excellence in research and scholarship throughout the Southeast.

Georgia Southern’s own Stuart Barker (’14) won the Outstanding Student Research Award for his presentation titled “Development of Soil Carbon Inventory: Understanding the Climate Change Mitigation Potential of Georgia Southern University Campus.”

Georgia Southern magazine caught up with Barker and a University professor to find out more about their research.

Student’s work enables sustainability on campus

Stuart Barker, Biology Major

SPRING15curious-minds-1What is the focus of your research?
Georgia Southern University aims to be a great advocate of green initiative and sustainable practices. Carbon sequestration (capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) has become a major strategy in mitigating atmospheric carbon dioxide and by promoting carbon accumulation in campus soils, Georgia Southern can become a carbon sink.

How did you accomplish your research?
By compiling a campus-wide soil-carbon inventory, identifying factors responsible for higher carbon storage and making recommendations that lead to climate adaptive strategies on campus.

What was the outcome of your research?
As noted to readers of my work at the GURC, the research that was presented at that time was intended to be a preliminary study for a larger project. I am actively involved in completing the large-scale project, which encompasses more soil sampling points on campus and the use of bulk density sampling techniques to better assess soil carbon concentrations. While the complete analysis of soil samples is still being finalized, I found the level of soil carbon within densely-forested areas on campus to be rather impressive. Campus forested areas have an unwavering potential to sequester significant amounts of atmospheric carbon. As Georgia Southern University continues to preserve the areas on campus most crucial to effective climate mitigation, we can satisfy our goal to be great advocates of green initiatives and sustainable practices, and continue to be an exemplary model for onlookers of our outstanding university.

Professor Examines Banned Books

Caren Town, Ph.D., Professor of English

SPRING15curious-mindsWhat is the focus of your research?
In “Unsuitable” Books: Young Adult Fiction and Censorship, I am looking at the legal history of censorship of young adult fiction, and at a number of adolescent novels and their authors from the 1970s until today.

What were the findings?
The legal history of censorship in the United States is complicated and sometimes contradictory. The courts (at all levels) have at times ruled in favor of school systems/libraries who have wanted to pull books from library shelves, classroom libraries and teachers’ reading lists, and at other times they have supported students’ right to read material deemed offensive by some members of the community. The bottom line may be that communities can remove books from these locations if they can prove that the books are detrimental to students’ well-being or if these books contribute to disorderly or dangerous situations in the schools or libraries. School systems and libraries cannot remove books just because they offend certain community members (especially if their reasons for removing the books are primarily religious in nature).

As for the writers and their works, I re-discovered just how wonderful many of these challenged books are. Judy Blume, for example, who wrote most of her books in the 1970s and 80s, still speaks to young readers today, and newer authors, such as Chris Crutcher and Sherman Alexie are offering fresh approaches to adolescent fiction that resonate with the problems and concerns of teenagers today.

What did you find surprising?
That those wanting to censor young adult fiction often have what they believe to be very good motives and are sincere in their worry about the welfare of adolescents. They are often protesting a given book because their concerns have not been taken seriously by teachers and administrators. I was also interested to discover what staunch champions of students’ right to read librarians are. They are the true front-line heroes of this battle.

What did you learn?
If we are going to make sure that students have access to a wide variety of material in their classrooms and libraries, we need to work together with those parents who want to limit that access and keep these battles out of the court system. Usually a workable compromise can be found outside of the legal system that balances freedom of information with the need to protect children.

I also learned that teachers need to avoid, if possible, the desire to self-censor—to prevent books from appearing on their syllabi or classroom library—because they are afraid of potential conflict. In preventing access to a large variety of images of adolescence, they are denying their students the ability to learn about themselves and about others who are different from them.

How will your research help?
I’m hoping it will offer information and ammunition to those teachers who are deciding whether or not to use potentially controversial works in their classrooms, to librarians who are deciding what to put on their shelves and to administrators and school boards who must balance the needs of all of their constituents.

Most importantly, though, I’m hoping it will benefit young people, who may be more likely to have access to the kinds of young adult novels that tell the truth about their lives, in all its disturbing complexity.

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