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Students impress professors at ethics conference

September 01, 2010

Three undergraduate students from Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences were mistaken for grad students when they delivered a panel presentation at the recent 11th National Communication Ethics Conference at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. The students, all of whom are enrolled in Barrett, the Honors College on ASU’s West campus as well as New College, spent several weeks during the spring semester preparing their presentation titled “Struggling for ethics between philosophy and communication: Education, cinema, poetry.”

“It was exciting to present as an undergraduate in an academic setting,” said Kimberly Singleton, who is in her junior year majoring in English through New College's Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies. She also is pursuing a minor in public relations and strategic communications. “I was able to experience firsthand what a career with the university might include.”

Singleton was joined by communication studies majors John Pierandozzi and Jaime Mesa-Lema in conducting the panel presentation. The students were invited to participate in the conference by Ramsey Eric Ramsey, associate dean of Barrett on the West campus, who is a philosopher and a communication studies faculty member in New College’s Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS).

Ramsey was a special invited guest at the conference. “Rather than give a presentation, I instead asked if I could bring a student panel,” he said. “All three students have taken a number courses with me, so I was familiar with the caliber of work they are capable of producing. The work each of them did in writing a paper for the conference was above and beyond their course work during the spring semester.”

“Preparing for the panel presentation was one of the most rewarding parts of the process because I was able to witness the formation of my paper into an academic conference essay,” Singleton said. “All of our papers began as separate seminar papers. With direction from Dr. Ramsey, Dr. Gruber [Diane Gruber, senior lecturer in SBS] and Jessica Sturgess, a recent master’s graduate from The University of Pittsburgh and an ASU Barrett alumna, we were able to unite our papers with a common thread.

“I’m confident enough in our work to say that we were a success at the conference. We demonstrated how young scholars can produce quality, academic essays when given the fitting encouragement and support from professors who are dedicated to the education of their students.”

Ramsey said those in attendance at the panel presentation believed Singleton, Pierandozzi and Mesa-Lema were graduate students.

“This is a telling example of the type of education students on the West campus can receive through the combination of New College and Barrett,” said Ramsey, who received an outpouring of positive feedback regarding the students’ presentation.

“Thanks for modeling such a gracious yet bracing teacher/student relation with Kimberly and John and Jaime,” one of Ramsey’s colleagues wrote in an e-mail. “You’re a fortunate professor to have them as students, but I sensed in each of them a close gratitude for your work as well.”

Added Sturgess, “Seeing the honors students perform so beautifully was an absolute joy. It was great fun to watch them with beaming smiles after their panel. I hope one day I have students as bright and committed as they.”

“Presenting at a conference gives me a definite edge as I apply to graduate schools,” said Singleton, who aspires to gain entry into a doctoral program in which she can combine her studies in English, philosophy and communication. “Preparing the conference paper also gave me the opportunity to explore many ideas that will be beneficial when writing my honors thesis.”

Singleton said being a student in Barrett as well as New College has given her a “best of both worlds” experience at ASU.

“I attend classes like any other college student, but I also have a smaller network of professors in Barrett with whom I am able to work closely,” she said. “The academic challenges not only prepare me for graduate school and a future career, but also daily occurrences that require critical thinking and analysis.”

The theme of this year’s National Communication Ethics Conference was “Communication Ethics as Loving Struggle: Love, Family and Social Responsibility in the Technology Age.” Ramsey described the gathering as bringing together scholars who think philosophically about the relationship between communication and ethics. The keynote address was presented by Ramsey’s mentor, Calvin O. Schrag, The George Ade Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Purdue University.