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McNair Scholars Program

Summer 1999 Research Projects

Scholar: Vicky Hanning
Mentor: Carol Miller, Ph.D.

A Comparative Look at Volga German Dialects in Kansas

Volga Germans began arriving in Kansas in the 1870's, with a history of migration behind them. The Volgas originally migrated from several regions of present day Germany -- such as Bavaria, Hessen, and the Palatinate -- to the Volga Region of Russia in the 1760's. Remaining in the Volga Region for over one hundred years and becoming the farmers of the Steppe had an influence on their language. Since they remained for the most part quite isolated from their Russian neighbors they did not get assimilated into the Russian culture or language, but there were a number of Russian loan words adopted by the Volga Germans. Most of the information in this study was acquired at the University of Kansas in an attempt to answer a number of questions. Why did the Volga Germans migrate to the Russian Steppes and just over a hundred years later leave? During their second migration why did the Volgas choose to migrate to Kansas? What effect did each of these migrations have on the language of these people? The Volgas kept most of their language intact until they came to the United States. Today it has become difficult to find a group of Volga Germans in Kansas that do not use English as their primary language.


Scholar: Jaimie (Hartter) Hays
Mentor: Christopher Cokinos, M.F.A.

The Subjective Truth: The hazy line between literary Journalism and Creative Nonfiction

Mary Clearman Blew, a creative nonfiction writer, has said that "the boundaries of creative nonfiction have always been fluid as water," and this is indicative of how literary journalism seems to overlap into creative nonfiction. Literary journalism is more often found in newspapers or magazines, something one would call a "feature" story. Creative nonfiction includes, but is not limited to, personal essays and memoirs. The focus of this study is to determine whether the two are entirely separate genres, or if they share similar characteristics. The areas examined are subjectivity, truth, self-exploration, voice, and style/technique.

Personal interviews with a creative nonfiction writer, a freelancer, and a journalist who turned to creative nonfiction, as well as my own experiences and a variety of books written on each subject, support the areas I feel separate the two. Creative nonfiction writer Michael Steinberg said that for the most part the two differ in intent and expectation. Literary journalism is the more informative of the two, while creative nonfiction concentrates on events and how one event affects the other. The issues of self- exploration and self-discovery are also more important factors in creative nonfiction than in literary journalism.

Eric Dieterle, the journalist who turned to creative nonfiction, said there is a definite difference between the two, because literary journalism doesn't include composite scenes, a manipulation of chronology, and invention of quotes, with which creative nonfiction sometimes takes poetic license. He mentions it is important to keep in mind the ideas of truth and how truth is presented in each of these types of writings. In spite of the lyrical language used in literary journalism (compared to normal, everyday journalism), readers still expect accuracy and truth.

John Calderazzo, a freelance writer and creative nonfiction writer, said with creative nonfiction, readers need to give the writer some leeway to give a fair assessment of what happened. With literary journalism, it is the writer's responsibility to not skew any of the facts and paint an accurate depiction of what has been said.

The further I delved into each of the genres the more complicated and confusing it became. The boundaries that I once had thought separated the two were colliding with one another, as if I were trying to draw a line, as Mary Clearman Blew suggested, between two fluid boundaries. However, my purpose of trying to define it might be useful from a writer's standpoint. The very same questions of truth, objectivity, and subjectivity are ones that are constantly involved with creative nonfiction and literary journalism. When it could be asked, does one cease to be the other and simply exist as it's own genre? Most importantly, why must there be a difference?

There must be a difference, because if literary journalism borrows fiction techniques such as recreation of dialogue and manipulation of scenes as creative nonfiction does, then journalism would be subjective rather than objective. Perhaps the two must be separate because the intent is different. Creative nonfiction belongs to the realm of one person's introspection into a deeper subject, while journalism must strive for these deeper subjects while retaining this neutrality. However, once there are limitations placed on both, the issue of creative thinking is challenged. Most writers do not stop to think in which category their literary works will be placed. In spite of these differences which help define the lines, I came to the realization that descriptive writing, no matter what category it falls under, can make for a well-written story regardless of whether the writer had the intention of writing it as a piece of literary journalism or as creative nonfiction.


Scholar: Amy (Pardo) Cepparo
Mentor: Silvia Sauter, Ph.D.

The Process of Self-Discovery in Ricardo Guiraldes's Don Segundo Sombra

Considered the foremost mythical novel of the gaucho, Don Segundo Sombra (1926), by Argentinean writer Ricardo Guiraldes(1886-1927), has received international critical acclaim. A leading critic, Hugo Rodriguez Alcala, argues that most critics do not grasp the integrity of Guiraldes when they question his wealthy, apparently unconcerned mode of life instead of analyzing his work. In this novel Guiraldes reveals - through the journey of the young protagonist Fabio under the guidance of Don Segundo - an authentic love for his land and a way of life that was disappearing from Argentina. This research explores the labyrinthine process of initiation that Fabio goes through, which consists of a series of stages that mark the development of the adolescent into manhood. The traditional process of self- discovery is depicted in art, mythology, folklore, dreams, and other psychic phenomena. This study, based on the analytical psychology of Carl Jung, Erich Neumann, and Edward Edinger, follows Fabio through the ritual steps of development.

In the novel Fabio recounts, as first person narrator, his life from early childhood to adulthood. When he is six years old, he leaves his mother to live with his aunts in a small town near Buenos Aires. Soon he begins to feel like a prisoner amidst his two domineering aunts. Then, when Fabio meets a gaucho, Don Segundo Sombra, he decides to follow him. Under Don Segundo Sombra's teaching and protection, Fabio learns the gaucho culture and life while aspiring to become a gaucho himself. After five years, Fabio receives a letter stating that he has inherited an estancia, which forces him to drastically change his life again, becoming a rancher ("or estanciero") and a cultured man.

The heroic voyage is always initiated with a departure to the unknown in search of a cherished prize. Since the process is psychic or symbolic, the individual becomes a hero by merely starting the voyage. Fabio's venture into the plains (the Argentine pampa) corresponds to the decent into the unknown (underworld) guided in this case by his chosen paternal figure. Along his path, the hero must prevail over a series of obstacles and dangers in order to overcome his old self by becoming a man, assuming his social responsibility, and being integrated into the group if he is to succeed in his inner development. Fabio's daily cohabitation with gauchos installs in him a sense of pride and community, which makes the separation harder when he is forced to leave them. Don Segundo finally departs when Fabio, no longer an adolescent, has triumphed in his process of self-discovery.


Scholar: Theresa (Still) Hogenkamp
Mentor: David Donnelly, Ph.D.

Effectiveness of Credit Counseling Agencies

For twenty years, bankruptcy filings in the Untied States have been increasing at a phenomenal rate. Consumer debt and bankruptcy filings have increased more than 700% since 1978. Congressional committees have been formed to evaluate the causes and possible ways to restructure the laws so bankruptcy filings will decrease.

Many people have sought the assistance of credit counseling services to manage their debt and avoid filing bankruptcy. However, are the counseling agencies really doing a good job at reducing debt and bankruptcy claims for their clients? Studies on the effectiveness of the counseling agencies have generally been done by the agencies themselves and seem to carry many biases.

This study was conducted independently to examine consumer benefits from various credit counseling agencies across the United States and to evaluate their practices. The study includes an email survey of credit counselors and attempted to find a profile that best describes the consumer who benefits the most from the credit counseling.

Many counselor responded that they offer educational programs and budget counseling to their clients. Survey counselors felt that if they were able to reach more people and educate them possibly bankruptcy and excessive debt could be avoided. All survey respondents reported that their average clients were experiencing financial difficulty due to excess credit card debt. The research determined that the credit counseling agencies are effectively assisting in the reduction of debt and bankruptcy filings.


Scholar: Mary VanLeeuwen
Mentor: Michele Janette, Ph.D.

The Rhetorical Lens of Cultural Experience: Post-War Born American and Vietnamese Women Take a Look at Themselves and Each Other

American and Vietnamese women born after 1975 have grown up without experiencing the media coverage of a period of time that has grouped the two countries together--the Viet Nam war. Without this first-hand experience, the lens through which they have come to imagine the Other has been determined by the culture they live in. Likewise, the rhetoric that both cultures use to describe themselves and each other differs.

In this study, 30 college attending postwar born Americans and Vietnamese women (15 in America, 15 in Viet Nam) were asked to describe their own lives and what they perceived to be the lives of the other group. Each woman filled out a questionnaire asking personal/family history and completed a 20 question interview with the researcher and an interpreter (if needed). Findings show the differences in the rhetoric of the two groups, differences in what they choose to talk about, and how they choose to talk about it. My research focused on three main areas of rhetorical difference that the interviews revealed: how the different cultures' definitions of themselves and the other culture differed, how the two cultures approached gender differently, and how culture difference led to differing definitions of words both groups of woman used.

The majority of American women tended to focus more on individual female experience, discussing in depth their personal experience, the gendered roles placed on them and Vietnamese woman, and their concerns with issues that affect woman specifically. The Vietnamese woman tended to focus more on collective experience when talking about their lives and the lives of American woman. They tended to talk about themselves and American women in general terms such as "Vietnamese people" and "Americans," referring to them as members of a larger society rather than as individuals or as women. The issues they were concerned about were also issues that all of society faces, and not women specifically.

The two groups experienced gender consciousness differently as well, American women speaking of gender often discussing how gender affected them in the areas of education , family, relationships, employment, politics, sports, social settings and through the larger society. Additionally, they discussed these gendered issues with active language- emphasizing their distaste for sexism (as they define it), their desire to change the situation, and with explanations of how they take action. In the Vietnamese interviews, three trends were evident: either the woman didn't speak much of their lives as women, often claimed equality (as they define it) of the sexes, or acknowledged inequality and discussed it in terms of acceptance.

The interviews also showed how the women were influenced by the rhetoric of their culture in their creation of definitions, which they applied to themselves and the other group. While American women disapproved of stereotypes of the woman as emotional and weak, Vietnamese woman embraced them as inherent qualities to all women. Likewise, several Vietnamese also defined female equality and power as being demonstrated through male chivalry.

The study does not address the truth or falsity of the women's perceptions of each other, but rather compares the words which the female participants of America and Viet Nam use to discuss the same question posed, trying to figure out how they create definitions of each other and themselves.

These findings create room for further study in many areas. Additional study needs to be completed on how cultural stereotypes are created, how the rhetoric used in these interviews fits with rhetoric used by Vietnamese and American writers, and how literary authors create characters of a culture group they have never experienced.


Scholar: Mellissa (Vopat) Rundus
Mentor: Laurie Bagby, Ph.D.


An Introduction to the Political Thought Discipline

The author attempts to define political thought in three ways: distinguishing political thought from other disciplines, providing the historical background of the state of the discipline, and by describing four major approaches to political thought.

In the effort to distinguish political thought as a discipline, the author first defines political thought as the attempt to know the nature of political things. The author describes the two forms of political thought: first order theorizing and second order theorizing. First order theorizing is the thinking that everybody does naturally about everyday matters. Second order theorizing is the academic form of political thought. In attempt to further explain the purpose of political thought, the author discusses the types of questions which each form of thought answers. First order theorizing answers questions such as who should mow the church lawn. Second order theorizing attempts to answer "timeless" questions about justice and moral principles. The author further distinguishes the discipline of political thought by contrasting and comparing it with other disciplines with which it is often confused. These disciplines includes philosophy, political science, history, and theology.

The author further defines political thought by describing the state of the discipline through history, including its "death" during the behavioral revolution and its resurgence in the 1970s and 1980s. Political thought, or at least second order theorizing was considered dead during the behavioral revolution, in which the methods of social science were made identical with those of the natural sciences, with their basis in what could be counted and tested against empirical data. Political thought was considered to be unscientific, because values could not be counted and measured. Then, when behaviorism was discredited, political thought was revived. There was a boom in political thought publications, classes and graduate students entering the discipline. Political thought was defined as it exists today in it's application to societal problems, for example public policies such as welfare.

Finally, the author discusses four of the major schools of political thought: the Strussian, Historical, Relativist, and Economic approaches to interpretation. The Straussian approach is based on the ideas of the late Leo Strauss. Straussians favor the classics as timeless works and a method of interpretation that focuses on close reading and the internal logic of a work. The Historical approach suggests that to correctly interpret the meaning of the work and to understand the author's message, the reader must understand the historical context in which the text was written. This approach involves looking at all influences on the author in an attempt to derive the author's intent. Relativists, on the other hand, believe that the author's original intent is obscure to modern readers because of differing times and cultures, and that texts are inevitably read through the various perspectives of their modern readers to solve contemporary problems. One branch of relativists, the deconstructionists, state that the reader rewrites the text each time it is read. The Economic approach is based on the idea that political thought is largely determined by economic conditions, especially the interests of the rich and powerful elite. This approach is greatly influenced by the ideas of Karl Marx, who based his theory on the idea that society, at any given time, is a class conflict between the "haves" and the "have nots." The author explains each approach by describing their methods of interpretation and giving example of how each school would view a well-known work by somebody such as Machiavelli or the framers of the United States Constitution.


Scholar: Tammy Wilson
Mentor: Robert Zabel, Ph.D.

The Importance of Timely and Appropriate Primary and Secondary Intervention of Antisocial Behavior in At-risk Children

At-risk children under the context of antisocial behavior are best served by timely intervention. The concept of timely intervention is best described by action taken during the primary and secondary stages. The reasons for this intervention include the stopping of unacceptable behavior and/or the introduction of a new preferred behavior. This helps to eliminate family and classroom stress as well as removing distractions that hinder the student's learning environment. This is best done by early identification by both parents and educators who are trained to identify inconsistencies in the child's interactions. These people along with social workers, counselors, and other professionals can then come together to develop strategies, and methods to facilitate child problem-solving, with the end result being a tailored intervention. One of the commonly used strategies is positive reward/positive re-enforcement. This method takes time and is most successfully implemented in a cooperative school-home team. Based on the in-depth literature review of previous research conducted on children at risk for antisocial behavior, a proposal for a single subject research was developed to corroborate the importance of early identification and the need for primary and secondary intervention.