The V. W. Starr History Across the Humanities Conference is an annual event held at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor. The conference is dedicated in memory of Valerie Waksmunski-Starr, a Youngstown State University (MA) and Ohio University (BA) Alum who passed away in 2015. This year’s event attracted scholars from a variety of topics in the Humanities, such as history, anthropology, linguistics, gerontology, etc. This conference is open to undergraduate and graduate students who are conducting research in the Humanities, and it is organized by the Alpha Gamma Beta chapter of the Phi Alpha Theta National History Honor Society at Youngstown State University. This year, students from Ohio University, the University of Akron, Bowling Green University, Ohio State University, and many others attended the event. The event included a variety of research presentation, workshops for students, a keynote address by Sister Melanie Di Pietro, and presentations and remarks from University President Jim Tressel, Dr. Kristine Blair (Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences) and State Senator Joe Schiavoni.
Three Ohio University students participated at the V. W. Starr History Across the Humanities Conference this year and presented a project based on “What makes a word easy or hard to learn?” Talal Alharbi, Paula Schaefer, and Olga Sormaz, all Master’s students in the Department of Linguistics, traveled to Youngstown, Ohio to present their Second Language Acquisition research project that was advised by Dr. Scott Jarvis, Professor of Linguistics.
For this research, the students were awarded the Creative Research in the Humanities Award at the conference. Alharbi, Schaefer and Sormaz were the only linguists that presented, and many others were interested in the topic. Many expressed that they never thought about the elements of language acquisition and what specifically makes word learning difficult.
Talal Alharbi graduated from Northern Border University in Saudi Arabia in 2015 with a BA in English Literature and Translation. He taught English as a Second Language and translation courses at Prince Sattam University in Saudi Arabia, and he is currently teaching Arabic at OU. He is interested in Sociolinguistics.
Paula Schaefer graduated from Youngstown State University in 2014 with a BA in American Studies and Italian. During her undergraduate studies, she wrote and designed a museum exhibit, “Italian Americans of the Mahoning Valley: 1890-1924,” that is on display at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor. She is interested in English for Specific Purposes, Computer Assisted Language Learning, and Sociolinguistics.
Olga Sormaz graduated from Ohio University in 2015 with a BA in Linguistics and French. She currently teaches an introductory linguistics course for the Linguistics Department, and her interests include Sociolinguistics, Historical Linguistics, and Linguistic preservation.