English department holds conference


Gannon University students and faculty are invited to witness research and presentations from Gannon and surrounding universities’ humanities students and faculty at Saturday’s second annual CHESS conference. The conference, titled “Towards the Authentic Self: Authenticity and Human Performance,” and hosted by the English department, will be held from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on the third floor of Palumbo Academic Center

Nine other schools besides Gannon will participate: Edinboro, Mercyhurst, Penn State Behrend, Slippery Rock, Allegheny College, Thiel College, Westminster, Grove City College, Clarion and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Laura Rutland, Ph.D., an associate professor and chair of the English department, said the conference is a great opportunity to build intellectual community in CHESS and contribute to intellectual vitality in the college and university.

“We also hope to encourage our students to take themselves seriously as scholars and researchers,” Rutland said. Ideally, Rutland said some of the students presenting will also present in Celebrate Gannon.

Hannah Lovell, a graduate student and teaching assistant in the English department, said the conference was originally started as an opportunity to showcase Gannon humanities students, but she expanded the vision this year to include all other local talent and the professors who back them.

Besides giving students and faculty a platform to display their work, the conference offers a keynote speaker and a complimentary lunch. Jean Snyder, the speaker and a former assistant professor of music at Edinboro University, will be talking about the recent publication of her book “Harry T. Burleigh: From the Spiritual to the Harlem Renaissance.”

An Erie native, Snyder spent years extensively researching Burleigh to produce a critical biography on the famous African-American opera singer who worked his way up from singing in Erie to singing in New York City.

Lovell said she has seen a good variety of proposals from students and faculty. Some of the faculty topics include authenticity in historical archives and the technological revolution.

“We’ve gotten a really broad smatter of things, and I’m excited to hear what people have to say,” Lovell said.

Carol Hayes, an instructor in the English department, will be presenting on the development of robots that are replacing people in the workplace.

“We’re getting to the point where we’re creating robots to perform tasks or work jobs, so what does that leave us to do?” Hayes said.

Hayes said she was planning on looking at “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” but changed her mind after rediscovering materials from a class she taught over the summer that centered around technology development and writing.

“We’ve all thought about those things with science fiction,” Hayes said. “All the development with robotics is kind of coming about us with dread.”

While the average person might find the introduction of advanced robotics disconcerting, Hayes said people involved with technology are able to put it in a positive light. She said she plans to talk about what it means to be human when robots are believed to be just as effective.

The theme of authenticity was chosen because it has various facets and the department wanted something broad enough that a variety of proposals would be applicable, Lovell said.

By inviting other schools to participate, Lovell said she hopes to create a bit of buzz in the humanities because schools are pushing STEM education and careers.

“I hope that brings more interest and revitalizes the CHESS community and gets some things going,” Lovell said.

The biggest challenge in planning the conference was the timing, Lovell said. Jennie Vaughn, Ph.D., recently joined the English department and was also highly involved in organizing the conference.

“Aside from that, I think things have gone really smoothly,” Lovell said. “We have people that are interested and want to lend a hand.”

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