Recently, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University held its first undergraduate conference, providing a platform for students to present and publish their research findings.
Dr Emily Williams from theDepartment of China Studies co-organised the event with Dr Michael High of the Department of Media and Communication. More than 50 students from different programmes at HSS attended the conference, and department representatives were invited to evaluate the papers and provide feedback.
Aim of the conference
Dr Williams says the conference enabled students to share their research outcomes with peers, receive feedback from faculty across the School, and publish their work in a conference journal. “Students had the opportunity to not only share their expertise, but also be exposed to the environment of an academic conference,” she says.
Dr High says the conference improved students’ ability to conduct research independently, and the paper proposals were evaluated from several dimensions. “For example, the faculty evaluated whether the abstract summarises the paper, the argument engages with related theories, and the paper provides an original or a complex view of the discipline.”
He adds that all the papers were originally course assignments, “but students used the feedback they received from their instructors while preparing their papers for the conference.”
Student’s great experience
This year’s winner is Stefanny Nathaliana, a Year 3 student in BA International Relations. She presented a case study of the South China Sea, and explored whether the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will mitigate the great power competition between China and the US.
Nathaliana says that at the beginning, she wasn’t confident about her research and her understanding of the South China Sea, a region of geostrategic importance and also territorial disputes.
“Thankfully, Dr Michael Connors at the Department of International Studies gave me helpful advice and constructive feedback. He encouraged me and said it is a good thing if I find the topic difficult, because it’s always good to be sceptical about something worth pursuing.
“I also learned one important lesson from him – it is okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from them, and making mistakes is part of learning.”
With support from HSS, Nathaliana made great progress in her research. “I found that it is difficult for ASEAN to mitigate the rivalry between China and the US. ASEAN is tangled in its own complexities and multi-faceted diversity, thus impeding it from achieving the keys to mitigating great power competition – a consensus and strong centrality.”
Nathaliana says the conference was a great experience for her as a young researcher.
“It helped me to research more in depth, think more critically, and argue more systematically. I had the opportunity to practise my presentation skills, and I learned how to deliver my research findings in a coherent and digestible manner.
“I hope my research will fill in some gaps in the field of international relations, and help people understand Southeast Asia a little better.”
The undergraduate research conference will become an important part of the student events at HSS in future years. “It is a brilliant opportunity for our undergraduate students to present their best work, get to know other students, and gives them the chance to win fantastic prizes. We encourage all students to apply next year,” says Dr Williams.
By Ying Jiang
Edited by Xinmin Han