Mount Union Faculty, Students Collaborate on Research

March 27, 2015

ALLIANCE, Ohio – Outlaw motorcycle gangs. The Nazification of Christianity.

What may seem like two very diverse topics actually possess one common thread – research on both will be presented by members of the Mount Union faculty and student body at the upcoming Ashland Center for Nonviolence (ACN) Conference this Saturday.

Held at Ashland University, the conference aims to respond seriously to challenges, questions and objections to nonviolence. Representatives from Mount Union’s Departments of Sociology and Criminal Justice and Philosophy and Religious Studies will attend and present research.

Senior Brandon German, a criminal justice and computer science major of Cumberland, Ohio, will present "Is it violence? Understanding the crimes of the outlaw motorcycle gangs.” Throughout his research process, German has received support and guidance from Dr. Andy Bain, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice. Bain asked German if he would be interested in helping him conduct research based on a literature review German wrote for one of his courses last year. Based on this research, German wrote an article, which was published in November in the Student Journal of Crime Investigation and Society. The ACN conference will give him an opportunity to present on his article.

“Public speaking is one of my weak points that I really want to improve on, along with my professional writing skills,” German said. “It’s a whole new experience going from writing a literature review to writing a professional article for a journal. The research was interesting and I’m really looking forward to hearing what everyone at the conference has to say.”

Senior Megan Clevenger, a religious studies and history major of Uniontown, Ohio, has been researching the “Nazification” of Protestant Christianity as part of her Senior Culminating Experience. As she looked into how Nazi Protestant church leaders reinterpreted and rewrote sections of the New Testament, Clevenger worked closely with Dr. John Recchiuti, professor and Chair of the Department of History. Recently, she took the course REL 400 Seminar, “Theologies of Nonviolence” with Dr. Nicole Johnson, associate professor of philosophy and religious studies, and Johnson approached her with the idea to present her research at the conference. Clevenger, who plans to attend graduate school for a masters degree in museum studies and collections management, jumped at the opportunity.

“Having this kind of experience will make me a unique choice for graduate programs,” Clevenger said.

In addition to gaining experience presenting research, German and Clevenger will have an opportunity to listen to keynote speaker Robert Brimlow, who will present, “What about Hitler? Does Nonviolence Answer the Problem of Evil in the World?” Brimlow is a faculty member at St. John Fisher College and author of “What About Hitler?”

“I’m really excited about meeting the keynote speaker,” Clevenger said. “I thought his book was really interesting.”

Also during the conference, Johnson will discuss her current research as she presents, "What Do College Students Know about Nonviolence, Anyway?: Undergraduate Research on Nonviolence as Peace Studies Pedagogy.” Johnson will present findings from a student project in Religion 400 (senior seminar). During the course, students did a group research project funded by the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, located at Wabash College in Indiana.

“I’ll be talking about doing that as a way to teach Peace Studies and how that project led to conversations about nonviolence that probably wouldn’t have happened in the classroom otherwise,” Johnson said.

Johnson noted that working with students on research is beneficial to both students and faculty members.

“We are at a teaching institution where we don’t have the time to do the kind of research you might do at a research institution,” she said. “By drawing undergraduates into your research, you get to do more because they can help you and their research becomes part of your research. It allows you to feel more engaged and involved in your own field.”

Bain agrees that the benefits of student research are numerous.

“Undergraduate research looks great on graduate school applications,” he said.

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