The first National Communication Association (NCA) Undergraduate Honors Conference will take place at American University in Washington D.C. on May 16 to 19. UW undergraduates Samra Mengistu and Azeb Madebo are among the 40 students who will be attending, as the conference is designed to “assist rising seniors majoring in communication in preparing for their capstone projects and post graduation plans.”
Both students found out about the opportunity through Professor Ralina Joseph. They took Black Cultural Studies during winter quarter and developed their research ideas from that course.
Mengistu taught black history every Wednesday morning at Thurgood Marshall Elementary in South Seattle for the service learning aspect of the class, where she began to notice how race operated within the school and the differences between the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) classes and general education.
“The neighborhood kids who are predominantly black living in the area are in the general education program,” she said. “The kids in APP are almost 100 percent white and you can tell what kind of class it is just by walking down the hallway and peeking into the classroom. It’s kind of segregation within the school in 2013, so that was really interesting.”
Mengistu attended American University for two and a half years before transferring to the UW and said it will be nice to go back to visit.
“I want to make more contacts with the communication field and get more direction about what I want to do after I graduate,” she said, “whether that be graduate school or getting a job. I would like to work a couple years before grad school, so it just seemed like a really cool opportunity to meet people.”
Madebo’s research paper is titled, “Subversive Black Cultural Production Concealed within Blackface Minstrelsy,” and covers Richards and Pringle’s Famous Georgia Minstrels and the minstrel show from the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM). She will be adding to the research before the conference by looking into audience readings of texts by scholars like Stuart Hall.
“The conference offers a great opportunity to showcase my work, learn from fellow communication undergrads, and network nationwide for graduate programs and mentorship,” Madebo said. “I think it’s cool that as an undergraduate, I can travel to research conferences with the support of the UW Communication Department.”
Madebo added that she is hoping to feel inspired, motivated, and capable of pursuing her academic endeavors after the conference. Both students will be studying abroad in Barbados this summer, where they will continue to study the role of race in a community.