After taking a course with Dr. Denise Shaw, professor of English at USC Union, four students wanted to continue the conversation outside of the classroom and further develop their research projects.
With Shaw’s encouragement and support, Matthew Wilkie, Elisa Gonzales, Geordie Geddings, and Michael Sumner founded the Association of Carolina Emerging Scholars (ACES), an interdisciplinary liberal arts association that holds a yearly convention and showcases the research of Palmetto College students. The late Dr. Shaw has left a legacy of student researchers like Sumner, who recently became the Palmetto College Coordinator at USC Union. The original inspiration for ACES, Sumner explained, was to offer Palmetto College students, as well as other emerging scholars from around the country, an opportunity to have others consider their thoughts and ideas in a professional venue.
USC Columbia hosted the Fourth Annual Association of Carolina Emerging Scholars Conference on Dec. 4, 2015. Dr. Mary Hjelm, associate professor of English at USC Extended University, served as the convention organizer and spearheaded the effort to expand ACES even further.
Under the theme of “Consuming and Consumption,” professors and students convened to share ideas, solicit feedback on scholarly projects, and connect with scholars from various liberal arts disciplines.
“Consumption sustains and undermines modern life, from popular culture to our most privileged art,” the call for papers noted, as it sought abstracts that addressed “consumption in any of its many forms, including but not limited to: eating, buying, obsession, the reception of media, and the status-seeking public use of resources first called ‘conspicuous consumption’ by Thorstein Veblen in 1899.”
Responding to and building upon Veblen’s insights were 14 scholars from the USC Palmetto College campuses, as well as four-year institutions as varied as USC Upstate, Limestone College, Kent State University, Shorter University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and even as far away as California State University, Northridge.
USC Palmetto College Chancellor Susan Elkins delivered the opening remarks and the luncheon keynote address was delivered by Dr. Stephen Criswell, associate professor of English and Native American studies at USC Lancaster. Criswell’s engaging talk focused on “food and foodways” in South Carolina.
For Lauren Kirby, a freshman studying horticulture at USC Lancaster, it was the support of a professor that inspired her to submit her paper, “Gardening to Fight Consumption,” to this year’s conference.
“Dr. Nick Lawrence mentioned the conference in our English 102 class and he was excited about the possibility of me presenting,” Kirby said. “He encouraged me the whole way.”
Lawrence, an assistant professor of English at Lancaster, attended the conference to support Kirby and other students from his class who presented papers.
“It’s great that we had scholars from all around the country, even Research I institutions, and the work of our students was equally provocative and interesting,” Lawrence said. “They really did Palmetto College proud.”
Though originally conceived as a platform for undergraduate research, the conference has since expanded to attract graduate students and faculty researchers.
In her presentation, “Consumption of Accounting Services by Start-Up Businesses,” Angela Williams, an instructor of accounting at Limestone College, underscored the importance of bringing together researchers from across disciplines, from different institutions, and at different levels in their career.
Williams noted that she is in the early stages of completing the requirements for a doctoral degree, and that ACES offered her an opportunity to not only explore a proposed topic for her dissertation, but also to gain valuable public speaking experience through presenting her research.
At the end of the conference, co-founder Matthew Wilkie presented the inaugural Denise Roy Shaw Foundation Award, named for the late professor to honor her commitment to fostering student research, to top paper winner Tania Dominguez from California State University, Northridge. Dominguez’s paper, “A Consuming Beauty,” sparked lively conversation during the discussion period after her panel.
In addition to Hjelm, Sumner and Wilkie, several other faculty and staff from across the USC Palmetto College campus system helped organize this year’s convention, including Maureen Anderson, Jean Carrano, Kaetrena Kendrick, Melody Lehn, Bryan Love, Steve Lowe, Chris Nesmith and Suzanne Penuel.
The 2016 ACES Conference will be held in December at USC Salkehatchie.