Religion & Philosophy Department

Lebanon Valley College

Reflections from this year’s Undergraduate Research Award Recipient

The following blog post was written by Hunter Heath.  He is a rising senior in the department who won this year’s Donald Byrne Undergraduate Research Award.

‘This semester I had the opportunity to travel NAUCRGto two undergraduate conferences. With the help of the Religion and Philosophy department at LVC, it was made possible—thank you for your encouragement and assistance.

The first conference was the North American Undergraduate Conference on Religion and Philosophy, and it took place at Westminster College (PA). The conference took place over a whole weekend, but I was only capable of attending the opening ceremony and conference day. My presentation was on non-Western philosophy and the similarities to LVC’s Inclusive Excellence; the presentation was called “Encounter World Philosophies and Reflecting on Inclusive Excellence.” Also attending the conference was twenty other students from array of schools across the Northeastern United States and Canada. Most of the papers had something to do with religion, where my paper was entirely about philosophy. Although I was an outsider to the dialogue, my presentation was well received and sparked a dialogue itself; some professors and students took a real interest to the diversity of liberal education. Most of the dialogue was positive, yet I did receive opposition about equity and open-mindedness; of course, I felt it was possible for people to hold different opinions and still respect others—to which the student responded that he believes “it is problematic” to respect other’s opinions (REVEALING!). After receiving warm comments from Dr. Arvind Mandair, he presented his own presentation that complimented the “encountering” of non-Western philosophy and religion. His presentation was the highlight of the conference [for me], and will be extremely influential in my studies.

The second conference was on the other side of the United States in Portland, Oregon; the conference is called “Pacific University Undergraduate Philosophy Conference.” This conference gathered student presenters representing twenty-six states across the US, several provinces in Canada, and even a student from Mexico. I was one of a hundred presenters, and one of seven presentations on aesthetics. For this conference, my paper “The Authority of Art: Classic, Popular, and the ‘idk.’” was accepted and I presented it to an audience of twenty. The presentation was forty-five minutes long, and twenty of it was for questioning. Although my paper was well received, it did go off topic at a couple of moments; because my project contained models for traditional and non-traditional reception theories, students were more interested in questioning the “intentions of artists.” Of course, I still enjoyed the dialogue, but I have learned that I need to redirect those that stray away from the theories I am presenting. Aside from my presentation, I was able to enjoy a Philosophy Talk episode concerning “free will” that featured Daniel Dennett. I also received a presentation from Daniel Dennett concerning atheism and difference that Darwin made to the question “why?” Although the Dennett talks were amazing, the highlight of this trip was the consistent chatter at lunchtime about art—where I was used as a mediator between conversations. Also, a close second to those lunchtime discussions was a great conversation about Champions League soccer matches with my cab driver—Forza Juve!

Again, thank you Lebanon Valley College and the department of Religion and Philosophy.

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