CHSS showcase is a scholarly, deeply personal experience

Alejandra Merino Hernandez (center) and Yarely Orozco talk to students about the Sociology/Social Work Review during the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Senior Showcase.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

When she was 12, her parents asked this when lecturing her on the proper role of a young lady: “How will you marry if you do not clean?”

Alejandra Merino Hernandez was “dumbstruck” that there was a correlation between marriage and cleaning, she wrote in the essay “Generational Toxic Masculinity in the Latino Community.”

The Grand Canyon University sophomore was one of eight students to write for the first Sociology/Social Work Review designed to express life experience and bring it into focus through sociology and social work tools.

Merino Hernandez is one of its editors and said her essay allowed her to give voice and nuance to the rigid gender roles that create “toxic masculinity, or what we know as machismo.”

“It’s very different compared to American culture. I have personal experience with it,” she said, sitting at a table handing out the review Wednesday at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Senior Showcase.

Senior Leslly Nieves explains her capstone project at the CHSS Senior Showcase.

The showcase is a culminating experience for seniors who can share what they have been studying for the past three or four years and show CHSS Advisory Board members, employers and peers what they can do with it in their professional lives, said CHSS Dean Dr. Sherman Elliott.

Three floors of the CHSS Building were lined with eager students showing off research, writing and projects in communications and professional writing, the social sciences, government and justice studies, Spanish and more.

Elliott said he notices the body language of the students that show him it means a lot to them. “It’s a rite of passage.”

For many, it was a very personal experience.

“People learn to listen to their own voice,” said sociology major Merino Hernandez of the review.

Scott Twining shared his story of what it was like to be born deaf and find his place in a predominately hearing world.

“Ultimately, I found it with Christianity,” he said.

Others shared passion projects also born of their experiences that turned into their purpose.

Sarah Ward, a Behavioral Health Sciences major, was working at a summer camp in the mountains in California a year ago with her sister when they witnessed a woman fall from atop a waterfall.

They rushed to her aid and provided assistance and calmed her until paramedics arrived. She had badly injured her back and pelvis and had a head injury. They stayed in touch with her in the following months of her recovery, and doctors told Ward that their presence saved her life.

It convinced her to become a paramedic, and after graduation she is going to train for the role in hopes of advancing to use her behavioral health skills with first responders.

Her project looked at the importance of critical incident stress debriefings for first responders to decrease their anxiety and post-traumatic stress, which her research showed is of much higher incidence than the general population.

LOPES Academy participant Jaden Lowery explains his year-end project, entitled “Steps To Employment.”

The projects also tackled social issues, such as psychology major Megan Liu’s research proposal on how masculine traits are perceived as more professional and adept for leadership roles. She wants to get into the legal field “which is seen as a man’s world, so it’s an issue important to me.”

The projects also looked for solutions.

Zachary Runge and Esteban Gonzalez were part of a large effort by government students who are doing a project for an Arizona city to solve the problem of affordable housing for teachers in the community.

Their part of the project looked at lease agreements on school property and the laws surrounding developing school district land, which often requires a public vote.

“A public-private partnership has the opportunity to solve this,” said Gonzalez, by leasing the land to a third-party developer who could construct housing for teachers.

Instructor Evelyn Racette said the project gave students “real world experience,” working on community issues.

Senior Sarah Kidd, a professional writing major, shares her work during the showcase.

In the room filled with communications students, it was not quiet, as one might expect, but had similar personal purpose.

Gavin McKnight studied the communication and education of athletes on head injuries -- because he suffered four concussions as a high school football player.

Skylar Aprati’s project looked at anxiety over talking on the phone — because she had it once. People her age, she said, don’t like to answer the phone and talk on it, preferring to text. The idea came to her during a public relations internship for the Oakland A’s at spring training. “To do it I had to make a bunch of calls,” she said.

The showcase was all talking — putting themselves out there, as Professional Writing major Sarah Kidd showed with her snazzy website of her writing. She aims to find a job as an investigative journalist, but with her own twist.

She wants to show that journalists who interview crime victims and officers that she has a “love of Christ, and I am doing this without hurting you. I know what you are going through.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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