Net Impact Conference – Robert Salmeron Blogs

Blog Post #1

My first day attending the Net Impact conference in San Jose, California was absolutely eye opening. From the beginning we heard from incredible business professionals from all different industries. Over 2,500 people attended the conference from undergraduate/graduate students to current business professionals. The conference had a mission of creating a space to inspire everyone to create change, innovate and explore new concepts. One of the most interest concepts that I encountered was the idea of two winners of the 2013 Hult Prize. The two winners were two Canadian entrepreneurs who started the idea of a farming industry that involved the cultivation of insects for food. The insects would then be used as a way of combatting hunger in many countries that have already adopted the consumption of insects in their diets. An idea like this absolutely astounded me. Something so simple yet filled with potential of creating incredible impact on the lives of millions. My first day in San Jose was outstanding, as the energy of the Silicon Valley seemed to provide me with innovative energy. Another speaker that really stood out to me was the Founder of Kiva, Premal Shah. A young man with a brilliant idea has created so many drastic changes in the world. Currently I have invested a small $50 into a Kiva account. If only 1,000,000 other people in this country could make a small donation the impact would be incredible.

Blog Post #2

My second day at the conference left me with various thoughts of how I could act upon what I have learned at my time in Silicon Valley. After sitting through a speaker session with the CEO and Founder of AirBnB something came to me. This world is filled with so much opportunity how do we make sure every human being is capable of being successful. I have reservations about companies like Kiva who invest their funds into microenterprises, but do not educate in financial management or business principles. Upon deciding this was a fault in the system, I decided to take this idea and run with it. How do we educate others to be financially literate? Energized by Silicon Valley I decided to do something innovative, fresh, and technologically savy. A website dedicated to the education of families in how to manage their money. Having grown up in a lower middle class family and seeing my family struggle because of a lack of financial education inspired me to want to educate others on basis financial principles. At this point in the conference I had been sufficiently inspired by the speeches of great people like Blake Mycoskie of Toms, Caryl Stern of UNICEF and Nancy Lublin of I wanted to turn my education into action. I plan on pursuing my plan of developing a business model for an app or website committed to teaching financial literacy in an interactive way. Although financial literacy is not unique, I hope to find a way to inspire students and families to want to learn about taking care of their money, their families and being financial stable.

Seeds of Hope, Costa Rica – Megan Single Blogs

Saturday dec 14

Dirt and filth, but somehow the most empowering environment to be in. Poverty in every direction you look. The sound of kids yelling, parents talking, dogs barking…all around me. Driving around and all my eyes see is people walking with no shoes on, barely any clothes. All the houses have gates and heavy duty locks, robbery is the commonplace. The stories I heard today were unbelievable.

A girl tied down to a bed by her mother and raped every day by an 80 year old man. A 16 year old boy sold by his mother for sex. An evil 69 year old woman who has dozens of daughters whom she sold all into trafficking. They’re known as prostitutes…here it’s the norm. Penny, the founder of Seeds of Hope was traveling here on vacation a few years ago when two American men from Colorado told her that they come to a town called Jaco because of the girls, a new one from a different country every night. The men were married with children and grandchildren and yet they were still open to telling this random stranger about what services they received from an underage prostitute and how much it cost. It’s just absurd…I don’t understand how it happens. I do understand actually…it’s because of the extreme poverty, that’s the root of a problem that can’t be easily solved. That’s why we teach the girls at the Seeds of Hope clubhouse that they are their own women and they do what they want with their body, not what someone else orders them to do.

We got home today and went out on the hammocks and laid in them and took a few hour nap. It was so relaxing…the simple life. I have to sit back and think here because I’m not used to it. Back home everything is so fast paced and go-go-go but here it’s just a different way of life, a completely different culture. My eyes are open wide now to the world, and I’ve only seen a tiny part of it.

Sunday dec 15

It’s early in the morning and I’m waking up to the sounds of the fan in my room and kids playing soccer across the street with people cheering like crazy. It’s a sound I’m not exactly used to, but somehow the sounds bring me a sense of comfort, a sense of relaxation and happiness. I suddenly realize that this country amidst the harsh world they live in is full of happy, appreciative people. It seems hard to understand at first…a community of prostituted and sexually abused children, unstable families, alcoholic and drug-addicted fathers…how can they be happy? It’s all about the culture. They assume that it is the norm since they have been raised this way. And this makes me think about the people in American who live an unhappy life when it doesn’t even begin to compare to this. It just goes to show me that life is subjective and cultures are so very different around the world. It’s shocking…

This morning I went to church. It was in half English and half Spanish. The pastor would speak in both languages, translating everything he said. His message today was about Christmas and simplicity. He told a brief overview of the story of Joseph and Mary and told us that it is most important to think about the gift of Jesus instead of material gifts. Even if we don’t receive anything for Christmas we received the gift of Christ, which is more than we should ever wish for. Jesus was born in the worst conditions, with absolutely nothing. The manger wasn’t as beautiful as it seems, it was a trough that animals ate out of. Disgusting! But yet that is how the King and Savior of the Christian world was brought into being. It’s a reminder of simplicity and humility. I was inspired to see how faithful these people were, from the Americans to the Costa Ricans, they had so much love and passion for God, it was absolutely incredible. It’s so difficult to imagine living such a simple life down here, but when I look at the people who are doing it I realize how happy they really are. They no longer care about the material things but rather the company of each other. The people here are so thankful for each other and for their relationships with God.

After church we drove to Parrita to pick up the girls and we drove through the projects. It was so sad to see how some of the people live, in the poorest of poorest conditions. When we drove up to the girls I just couldn’t believe my eyes. They were absolutely beautiful. And so young and innocent. Josué, one of the girl’s 2 year old son, was adorable! They got in the car and we drove to get milkshakes at a place in what I think was downtown Parrita. There was a crazy man that slapped his cane up against a telephone pole, grabbed his private parts and started saying crazy stuff. It was so sad to witness. Apparently he’s the crazy old man around and you see him everywhere…scary. It was the typical example of one of the men in the poor community that rapes young girls on a daily basis. I couldn’t stand even looking at him, let along could I imagine being raped by him! It sounds so disturbing, but it’s the reality there, which is just so devastating. Anyways, we got two girls, Jasmina and Maliana and Jasmina’s son Josué (names changed for privacy reasons). Jasmina is an amazing young woman who has been through hell and back. She is forced by her mother to prostitute herself to get money and she got pregnant by her “boyfriend” a few years back. A boyfriend in Costa Rica is someone who pays for sexual activities over an extended period of time, not the typical boyfriend we think of. Her boyfriend told her to get an abortion and she refused, he left her. What an inspiration! And ever since then she has done absolutely everything for him and she has raised him by herself. Her mother has 7 kids and the dirtiest house ever, which is totally unlike Costa Rican culture. It is common in Costa Rican culture to clean multiple times a day and keep the house absolutely spotless. But Jasmina lives in the worst conditions and she also has a stepfather that comes in and out all the time, on drugs. Jasmina has had to prostitute herself just to get enough money to buy diapers for her son, not even for necessities for herself, but for the love of her life that she had as a result of being prostituted. She wakes up early in the morning and does all of the cultural stuff, cleans the house, etc. Then she makes bracelets for Seeds of Hope to sell and then cooks her own food for school. At 5:30 she goes to school for the night until about 11:30 and Josué goes to a babysitter in the meantime. She then goes home and studies. She does it all…and she only just turned 18. She was never even taught to be a mother, but she’s doing it and doing an astounding job.

Then there’s Maliana, whose mom ties her down to a bed and forces her to have sex with an 80 year old mentally retarded man. It’s disgusting. The mom does this because the man supplies them with food, etc. Then she also forces her to go out and prostitute herself for money for electronics and material goods, not even for food. She’s an evil, greedy woman who sells her own daughter.

And yet if you were to look at either one of these girls you would just never imagine what they have been through. It is incredible, they are blessings on this Earth and I just know they will do amazing things one day. They know that they are better than this and that they can make their own lives. As a matter of fact Jasmina starts an internship at a salon in a week.

After picking up the girls, we took them to the beach for a little while and then we went to the shelter for a “slumber party”. The girls had been talking for weeks about how they wanted to have a slumber party like they saw in movies…with pillow fights. We made dinner for the girls and then came time for their surprise. When they walked in the room with all of the surprise, they seemed very skeptical, not really sure what to do with everything. I showed them that I had bought boas, tiaras, makeup, jewelry and fun hair accessories for them so that we could lay dress up. In their lives, this was such a significant moment because they never had the chance to be little girls with the freedom to feel beautiful. They started dressing up and putting on makeup and you could tell just by the glow on their faces that they loved it. And when they looked at themselves in the mirror, you could really see in their eyes that they truly felt beautiful. They are such innocent beautiful young girls who have experienced a broken life rather than a privileged childhood. I think one of my favorite parts of the night was when they saw the camera come out…and immediately they were posing left and right for pictures. They made “kissy” faces to the camera just like Americans do…it cracked me up! And even in this environment where they had the opportunity to feel and play like a girl, their “exploited” side secretly shined through. I would see them out of the corner of my eye taking a picture with their phone with a seductive pose and a “sexy” face…something that is just sad when you know why they are taking those pictures. They’re trying to promote themselves on Facebook and other websites in order to prostitute themselves and make more money. They are brainwashed into this cycle where they think this is the normal way of life for a girl their age. One other crazy thing I’ve noticed is that they all have cell phones and Facebook, they’re being prostituted in this culture for money for food, but yet their families have the money for material goods like cell phones or TV and cable. It’s a concept that to me just seems outrageous…but when I step back and look at the culture I realize that is the normal world for them and they don’t know any different. It seems so messed up from a logical perspective, but they obviously aren’t thinking logically in the brainwashed culture they live in. It’s a devastating reality, one that won’t be easy to change since it is a cultural difference rather than just a problem with a simple solution.

Gifts for the Girls

Gifts for the Girls

Monday Dec. 16

Wow, the only word I can use to describe those girls. Jasmina and Maliana are such incredible young girls with so much grace and love. They were such a blessing to be around. And Josué was beyond excited with the toys I bought for him, he played with them constantly and couldn’t get enough! At one point he saw a punching bag outside and he punched it…how does a 2 year old boy know instinctually to punch a punching bag?! So cute and so interesting to see the common human mal instinct even without the cultural differences. I took him outside at one point and started making noises as I punched the bag and he would copy me exactly the same…adorable! And so smart for such a little boy. We had a Costa Rican dish called gaillopinto for breakfast, which is rice and beans. It shocked me that when Rebekah asked the girls if they wanted pancakes or rice and beans, they immediately yelled gaillopinto! It’s so interesting that they really do love their food, even though it’s all they eat, they still choose that over anything else. And they are so thankful and genuinely excited for the simple things.

We took them to the beach for a few hours this morning and they looked like they were having such a blast, just enjoying themselves and nature, letting go of their lives at home for a day to just relax and be kids. It was incredible to witness their free spirits coming out for one of the first times ever. I saw wild horses running on the beach and they saw “una tortuga” (a turtle) in the ocean.

After the beach we took them back home and dropped them off in the projects, which was just devastating to be dropping them back off to horrible conditions. They said they were going to come to Bible class later but they didn’t end up going unfortunately. Anyways, I went to the clubhouse for Bible and there were 6 girls there. One of the girls in particular was absolutely beautiful, I couldn’t believe my eyes. And another little girl was just adorable and so full of life, laughing and joking constantly. By seeing this side of them, you would never guess what they’ve been through. Since it’s so normal for them, it’s easy to disguise. They talked about making 8 decisions to change something in their lives for the better. I understood a lot of what they were saying in Spanish, even the discussions about the Bible and making changes in their lives. Also the girls made jewelry and had some to sell. The jewelry was beautiful!

Then we went to Jaco for the evening with a few women from the surrounding community. Immediately when we walked into this restaurant, we saw two American men who were definitely here just for sex, they looked like pigs…such a disgrace. They asked us to join them…little did they know who they were messing with. The director of Seeds of Hope told me that these American men that come to Jaco for sex will go to restaurants and try to pick up American women who are touristing. They attempt to “wine and dine” them and then take them back to their room for sex that they don’t have to spend money on. If they get denied and can’t find the free sex, that’s when they’ll roam the streets to find a local prostitute or go to a local brothel to hire a prostitute. About halfway through dinner I noticed this little Asian girl sit down with an American man for dinner. Definitely a prostitute, I had my radar on full blast. The director looked over at me a few minutes later and gave me the nod, yes she was a typical prostitute. So so so devastating. The man was treating her to a nice dinner, but she was stuck in a world of prostitution and she didn’t know any better. We didn’t really see any others but apparently Jaco is the place to be for prostitutes for American tourists.

Gifts for the Young Boy

Gifts for the Young Boy

Tuesday, Dec. 17

Today we woke up and went to the shelter to clean up our mess from the party. We got a lot of cleaning done and the shelter looked beautiful. Here’s the background story of the shelter:

There were three girls staying at the shelter a few weeks ago, one named Estijana and two other girls and a woman named Claudia was staying there as the house mom. She lived a life of prostitution for years but finally got out of it and had such a great success story escaping a life of drugs and prostitution. Therefore, Seeds of Hope hired her thinking she would be a great role model for the girls. But, it turned out not to go as smoothly as they expected. One of the main rules of the shelter was no cell phones and no Facebook, absolutely 0, none! And it makes sense because in order to have full-on rehab you cannot have contact with the old ways that would continue to tempt you back into that way of life. Well, apparently Claudia allowed the girls to get on Facebook and send text messages on her phone. Two of the girls ran away one night, we think with the help of Claudia. Then they fired Claudia because she was putting the girls’ safety at risk. After that, the third girl ran away and the shelter was history for that time. That’s why my trip’s plan changed course. I was supposed to stay at the shelter with the girls, but since there were no girls at the shelter, I couldn’t do that. It’s just so sad to think that these girls were finally in a safe environment away from their cultural temptations with the addition of a great family and fun atmosphere.

While at the shelter, I also picked out tank tops for Jasmina and Maliana, one that would be appropriate for Jasmina to work in…she starts an internship next week at a salon. I gave Maliana the shirt and she said “que bonita” (how pretty) and seemed very happy. It’s so hard to connect with these girls that speak another language, but I feel so connected and close with her and I hope I can keep a strong relationship with her. Jasmina wasn’t there, but I’m praying that she comes to the Christmas party Thursday so that I can see her again before I leave, give her gifts and the ball for Josué and then give her a huge hug goodbye.

Then we went home and showered and got ready to go to the clubhouse, Casa Club. We drove out to the clubhouse and when we arrived, the “clubhouse mom” was the only one there sweeping in preparation for the girls’ arrival. Soon after, girls just came pouring in with smiles on their faces. A mission group from Texas came and they did some worship with the girls and then prophetic art. They played music and told the girls to draw whatever came to their mind, whatever God was trying to show them. It was very interesting to see that most of the girls drew hearts and crosses and talked about love and peace. One girl drew a tree with leaves blowing off of it, which was so powerful and could have had so many different meanings. Another girl drew a bright heart in the middle of darkness. The girl that was next to me drew a cross and wrote “libertad, paz, amor, dios” inside of it but then she ended up drawing over the words, which was striking. I wonder why and I wonder if that signified some part of her being. I met a girl today named Calita who was Jasmina’s best best friend in the entire world and they do absolutely everything together, even prostitute. When Calita was 7 years old, her mom dressed her up and sent her down the street to get some eggs from a man. When she arrived, the man attacked her and she resisted. She kicked and fought and did everything she could to get him off of her and then went home. But when she got home, rather than being comforted by her mother, she was severely scolded and punished for not letting the man rape her for the eggs. From then on, Andrea was forced to go to this man’s house each week to be raped to provide eggs and milk to her family. She has tons of siblings running around in the small shack they live in and her mom put the food responsibility all on her. So she was forced into prostitution and eventually her and Jasmina would walk the streets together as partner prostitutes. It’s just so hard to believe that young beautiful girls like that, that appear so innocent, have been through a life that we couldn’t even imagine going through. The director also told me that 99% of the girls in the projects have been sexually abused by either family members, a neighbor, or a random person. So even if a girl hasn’t been forced into prostitution, she had at least been raped and brutally exploited multiple times. It’s awful and no girl deserves it…it’s just purely ridiculous. There were a few girls wearing lace shirts with nothing underneath other than a bright colorful bra…so inappropriate for any age, ESPECIALLY a girl that is 10 or 12 years old! Just so sad to see them expose themselves like that, with no self-respect because they just never learned that and don’t know otherwise. They aren’t constantly told by their parents how to properly present themselves and respect their bodies.

We went to Jaco for tinner and about halfway through dinner, this young blonde guy came up and SAT DOWN at our table! He just sat down, without even asking! He said “Hola chicas” and started asking how we were. And the director just told him we’re having a girls night right now and you’re not welcome. And he left. But really?! How does anyone have the nerve to just sit down at a table of girls without even asking, pure disrespect. When we left, there was a man standing by the director’s car doing something with his genitals…gross. We walked up and he told her that he took great care of her car. They told me that that is so Costa Rican, men will just stand by your car until you get back and then they demand money because they feel they deserve it for watching your car…even though you didn’t even ask them to. Apparently they won’t let you leave until you give them money, so she gave him a few coins. Then as we were driving out of the city, we saw 3 prostitutes, walking along the street, dressed in really short shorts and tights revealing tops with high heels. So exposed and used, and yet so beautiful. The director told me that they were most likely from Nicaragua or some other country, which is really sad because they were probably sent down here to find good work and money and they were forced into prostitution instead.

Tank tops from tank top drive at Rollins

Two of the young girls (Jasmina w/Josue & Maliana)

Thurs, Dec. 19

This morning we woke up and went to the clubhouse. The mission group from Texas threw a Christmas party with more prophetic art and lots of worship, games, and fun. After the party, I gave four of the girls letters that I wrote to them. Maliana was the only one to read hers right then and there in front of me. She stood over in a corner and read it and when she finished, she walked over to me and hugged me really tight for a long time, nuzzled her chin in my neck and said “Thank you” in ENGLISH. It meant so much. She means so much to me. It was incredible to feel like I touched someone’s life and helped her to be an independent woman.

After the girls left, I took a long walk through the projects to take photographs for the video I’m going to make for Seeds of Hope. There families outside everywhere, sitting outside their houses, or sitting inside watching TV with the door open. There were kids running through the streets by themselves. There were girls walking alone down the street. One little girl saw me and followed me skipping right in front and looking behind to smile at me every few seconds. So cute! A few people waved and said hi. Some workers talked to me about taking pictures. Believe it or not it was a very safe area, despite the sexual exploitation that is going on. I passed by a house where a man was sitting in the doorframe drunk and on drugs, with alcohol in his hand. He looked horrible and disgusting…I thought in my head he must be one of the typical abusive fathers in the area. It was just heart-wrenching to see that right in front of my eyes. Every time I saw a father with his children, I couldn’t get it out of my head that he probably will rape them later that evening or already did that morning. There’s trash everywhere in that neighborhood, huge stacks all over the place. There are little children’s toys in the trash, right in the middle of the street. It’s such a different environment here and it’s the environment that creates this culture that creates monsters. These monsters are taking over the lives of princesses and ruining their lives one step at a time.

Two of the young girls (Jasmina w/Josue & Maliana)

Two of the young girls (Jasmina w/Josue & Maliana)

photo 3 photo 2 photo 1

Phi Alpha Theta Conference in New Mexico – Hongjin Du Blog 2

In the morning of the second day of the conference, I attended the Delegate’s meeting. In this meeting, I heard from officers of Phi Alpha Theta and learned more about their work that had made the organization a great organization. We also elected new officers and heard about some future plans. I was very grateful for Phi Alpha Theta as it not only provided me a national setting to present my research, but also to hear from other students and scholars, more importantly, it also connected some history majors at Rollins College together, a group of smart girls whom I feel lucky to have as friends.

Speaking of these friends, I unfortunately missed Cami’s presentation the day before due to flight delay, but I was able to attend Wendy’s and Sydney’s presentations on the second day. Wendy’s presentation was on the alternative lifestyles of the utopian communities, while Sydney presented on the sexual revolution of the 1920s. Both of the girls did an amazing job with their presentation and I am so proud of them.

Between Wendy’s and Sydney’s sessions, I attended a session on the Vietnam War. After my presentation the day before, Aaron Fountain from Winthrop University approached me and asked about where I looked for my primary sources. It turned out that he was also interested in San Francisco. He was working on high school student activism during the Vietnam War in the Bay Area. His topic excited me as I also worked on a research paper on student activism during the Vietnam War, but my focus was student activism at Rollins College. It was so interesting to see how Aaron’s research overlapped with my two distinct research projects, so I decided to go to his presentation to learn more. In my opinion, his presentation was the best one I attended. Through some external funding, he was able to go to some of the high schools in the Bay Area, talk to the administrators, and look at their records. His paper was so well-organized and in-depth, and even included further research topics, which made the panel chair comment that he had his dissertation laid out right there.

Besides going to conference sessions, I was also able to enjoy my time at the resort.

Since I was going to run a full marathon a week after the conference, I took full advantage of the natural trails at our resort and did some training after my presentation and the day after. The view was absolutely gorgeous: the grasslands, the forest, the red mountains at sundown, and the Rio Grande in a creek form. There was also a stable on the resort, which, in addition to the view, distracted me from my runs. Besides the natural trails, the resort also offered other recreational activities that I wished I had more time for. At least I hope that this meant that I will come back to Albuquerque in the future.

Phi Alpha Theta Conference in New Mexico – Hongjin Du Blog 1

After being forced to stay in Dallas overnight because of the horrible weather in New York City, I finally arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico on the morning of January 3rd. Soon I found myself at the registration desk of the Phi Alpha Theta Biennial Convention, picking up everything I needed for the weekend.

Phi Alpha Theta (ΦΑΘ) is an American honor society for undergraduate and graduate students and professors of history. It was established on March 17, 1921 at the University of Arkansas by Professor Nels Cleven. Today, the society has over 350,000 members, with about 9,500 new members joining each year through 860 local chapters.  The 2014 Biennial Convention was open to faculty and students at all levels undergraduates, Master’s candidates, Ph.D. students, as well as students who have graduated. Besides me, three other history majors from Rollins were also going to present their research to the history scholars around the United States.

Although I arrived in Albuquerque a day later, I still had time to spare before my own presentation at 3:30 that afternoon. So I met up with my friends Wendy and Sydney and attended a session on LGBT history. In that session, Daniel Manuel’s presentation, “Lafayette is No Exception’: Sexual Revolutions and the Development of a Gay Community in Lafayette, Louisiana, 1968-1975” amazed me because of how much oral history work he had done to support his arguments. The presenters and the audience also engaged in discussions after their presentations. I was impressed how the presenters could answer some of the tough questions, which showed how prepared they were and how much extra work they had invested in their projects.

When the session was over, we headed over to lunch. Having been a poor college student traveling in New England over winter break, I consider the lunch buffet to be the best meal I had in weeks. What is even more awesome about the lunch is the engaging speaker on the first world war, and the diverse students at our table. I made friends with a Chinese student, Mengyuan Zhu, from Pepperdine University at my table. She and I clicked immediately as we discovered that we were the only Chinese students at this conference, which speaks to how rare and difficult it was for foreign students to study history in the United States.

For support, I went to Mengyuan’s session next, in which she presented on the rivalry between Manchester and Liverpool beyond soccer. Her paper was interesting in that it dealt largely with the impact of industrialization in the two cities. It brought back a lot of my memories when I visited Manchester and Liverpool in the fall semester of my junior year to collect primary sources on the conditions of child labor during the industrial revolution. In the same session, Victoria Conlin from Georgetown University presented on “Peddlers, Prostitutes and the Plague: Debunking the ‘Golden Era for Women’ Myth of Late-Medieval English Economic History.” I was intrigued by the contrast between her paper and mine, since both dealt with prostitutes but in a different country during a different time period.

After keeping myself busy by going to other people’s sessions, it was finally time for me to present my paper: “Sold, Sexed, and Discriminated: The Chinese Prostitutes in San Francisco Before the Exclusion.” This was a paper I wrote for the History of American Sexuality class in the spring semester of my junior year. As an upper level history class, I was to pick a topic for a research paper. While our professor provided us with a list of themes, none of them stood out to me. I read Major Problems in the History of American Sexuality, a collection of documents and essays, to frame a research question. In the book, the letter from Wong Ah So to her mother caught my eye. Wong Ah So was a Chinese prostitute in San Francisco. When she was nineteen and still in China, a Chinese man persuaded her that he was a rich man in San Francisco looking for a wife. She followed him to America, only to find out that the man had tricked her and sold her into prostitution. Luckily, a missionary worker rescued her from her misery. The story of Wong Ah So intrigued me. I knew that many Chinese men came to the United States with the discovery of gold in 1848, but I had assumed that their wives came too, until Wong Ah So’s story suggested otherwise. Her story spurred me to think about the experiences of Chinese female immigrants. Further research showed that there were many women like Wong Ah So in San Francisco, women who had been kidnapped and sold into prostitution. I decided to set my research paper topic on exploring the experiences of these women.

My presentation attracted a lot of interest and a lot of questions. Fortunately, I was able to answer most of them as my interest over the Chinese prostitutes had prompted me to write my senior thesis on the perceptions of Chinese female immigrants in San Francisco. Nevertheless, the panel chair gave me some suggestions as to how to further my research, and some audience’s questions also provided me with some areas to look at that I never thought about before. I was glad that the audience enjoyed my presentation. An editor of a history journal approached me and suggested me to submit my paper to his journal, which made me very happy.

Now that my own presentation is over, I could finally enjoy everything that the resort and the conference has to offer…

Phi Alpha Theta Conference in New Mexico – Wendy Diaz Blogs

January 2 Thursday

This Thursday our group just spent the day traveling. Although it was the first day of the conference, we did not arrive in Albuquerque until sometime after midnight. Overall, I spent the evening and most of the day traveling and getting my paper ready for the conference.

January 3 Friday

Today was the first day of the conference. We decided to see a couple of presentations, especially on topics that we were interested in. On this Friday, two people in our group presented their papers. We had breakfast and networked with some really nice historians. After breakfast we went to one of the sessions where one person of our group was about to present her paper. Her paper was on sexuality from our History of American Sexuality class. We heard one paper on women and their portrayal in advertisements, which was really interesting to hear. We were proud for Cami, who was the first person in our group to present. Each person in this panel got asked one question about their papers.

After one session, the group decided to split up and visit sessions that we found interesting. Since I love social and gender history, I went to a panel on gay rights and homosexuals in a small town in Texas. I really enjoyed this panel because it was on a topic that I am interested in and have taken classes on. I also enjoyed how numerous people came to panel and asked all these questions. One paper was about a small town in Texas and how the gay community was developing, but also restrained by religion. Sessions, such as this one, got me interested in attending more conferences like this in the future.

The last session we attended that day was one on early American history in which another person in our group presented their paper. This was also an interesting panel because both papers were very different. One paper was an overview of early American history, which was nice, but I prefer papers that focus on a more narrow topic. Most people that attended this session were interested in the paper that our friend presented, which was on Chinese prostitutes. Almost everyone was interested in her topic and asked her around five questions, which was a lot for a single session.

After lunch, we decided to explore the resort, which is on a beautiful Indian reserve. We decided to walk the trails around the mountains and visit the Rio Grande. The history in that area fascinated us as did the scenery. We walked throughout the trails and then went to dinner. After hearing a speaker talk about the 100th anniversary of World War I, we stayed in the resort for the night and hung out with people around the lounge.

January 4 Saturday

This was the day that I was scheduled to present my paper on the alternative lifestyles of utopian communities. Since this was the first time at a history conference like this, I was very nervous and excited at the same time. I spent my morning after breakfast preparing for my panel. My session was at 10:45 so I spent the morning in the lobby doing work. I was second to present my paper. The first person to present wrote a paper on medieval religion, specially Zoroastrianism. I read my paper with ease, but then I got numerous questions because so many people were drawn into my topic on sexuality in pertaining to the Mormons and Shakers. I learned how to answer questions the best that I could. Some of the questions did not deal with my topic precisely and went beyond what I researched. Overall this conference taught me how to professionally present a paper and answer questions properly. After my presentation, I stayed and talked with people who were interested in my topic, and made numerous connections. Another major part of this conference that I did not realize before is the importance of networking.

After my session and lunch, I walked the trails around the resort more and even visited the stables. It was a lovely and cold afternoon. The last session we attended was one on America in the twentieth century where another person from our group presented her paper. This was another interesting session because the papers were so different and covered different topics. The person from our group wrote her paper on young adult college students and their sexuality in the 1920s. She did well and answered the questions in a nice manner.

Tonight’s dinner was an important banquet. Our group made a choice to sit at tables where we did not know people so we could network and get to know more people. It was a nice way to end our stay there. The speaker also talked about a great story that made the evening good.

January 5 Sunday

This day we spent the day traveling, but it was the longest day of the entire trip. Once we got to Texas, we found out that our flight to Orlando got cancelled. The airport was a mess with numerous cancelled flights and people not being helpful. Our group of four split up with everyone at the end finally making it to Orlando after a long day of finding different flights.

This conference was a great and beneficial experience for my goals of getting my masters and pursuing my love of history even further.

National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing – Annamarie Carlson Blog 2

Another session that spoke to me both as a current writing consultant who deals with a lot of first year writing as well as a potential high school teacher was “I Thought I was a Good Writer: Investigating Perceptions of Preparedness for College Writing.” Two students from Ohio State University – Newark observed and interviewed students from a local high school English class that was purposefully trying to prepare their students for a college writing environment.

The high school classroom was different from most typical high school English classes. The students sat in a lecture hall format, with 72 students assigned to two teachers. The class only met Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with the teachers available for office hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The class’s entire grades were based on a few papers and exams.  This environment mimicked many local college writing classes. All of the students agreed on one thing: they hated it.

Even though the class was set up like a college classroom, the students felt like the workload was not rigorous enough. Almost 60 percent expected more writing to be assigned, and all of them expected the writing assigned to be more difficult than the common 200-word blog response post on their version of Blackboard. Teachers were searching for critical thought in these blogs and papers, but students just quickly learned how to parrot one another’s ideas so they could do as little work as possible.

While the session was eye-opening, the discussion afterwards amongst the high school teachers and writing-center coordinators was even more educational. Both sides agreed that large-scale standardized testing was causing many writing problems, but, since that is not something that can be easily changed, they concluded that professional development between both sides—local high school English teachers and local first year college writing professors—would be an ideal way to start to bridge the gap.

National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing – Annamarie Carlson Blog 1

One of the most fascinating sessions I attended was “Author v. Audience: Whose Needs are we Addressing?”. Based on research by two undergraduates from Grand Valley State University, the session applied Linda Flower’s theory on reader-based and writer-based prose to writing consultant questioning strategies.

According to Flower, all writers start out writing for themselves—writer-based prose—and have to rewrite and mentally shift their audience in order to write well with their audience in mind, creating reader-based prose. This is a process that all writers must go through. I was familiar with Flower’s work because I read her article in Language Studies and Intro to Professional Writing, and I researched the educational theories behind her ideas in Educational Psychology.

Fisher and Worm, the two students running the session, renamed “writer-based prose” to “author-based prose” and “reader-based prose” to “audience-based prose.” They then divided these two ideas into four overall questioning categories typically used by writing consultants: author-based content, audience-based content, author-based form, and audience-based form.

Author-Based Content

Audience-Based Content

Author-Based Form


Audience-Based Form

After noting where every question at every session at their writing center fell on this spectrum, they found a few patterns. First, most consultants seemed to start out asking author-based content questions (What do you want to write about?) and then shifted into audience-based form questions or comments (You need a comma here.). Along with this general shift, consultants often started out with facilitative discussion questions before shifting into directive statements.

During the discussion that followed their presentation, we realized that, ideally, most consultations will go through all four-stages, starting with author-based content, then audience-based content, then author-based form, and finally audience-based form (forming a “Z” on the above chart). Shorter sessions often jump from start to finish due to limited time or resources.

By forcing consultants to think about their questioning processes, we are forcing ourselves to step back and analyze what our clients may lose by us only focusing on certain types of questioning strategies. The session allowed me to start asking my clients different types of questions and created a great discussion at our next Writing Consulting team meeting as well.