Owens receives undergraduate research award

February 28, 2017
Ashley Owens

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Ashley Owens, a senior biology major, ethnic studies minor, and president of the Black Student Union at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, is one of five recipients of an Undergraduate Research Presentation Award for the Second Annual 4W Summit on Women, Gender and Well-Being and 40th Wisconsin Women and Gender Studies Conference to be held April 27-29 at the Pyle Center at UW-Madison. Owens is from Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from Chicago Military Academy-Bronzeville in 2013.

The award is from the UW Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium, and is presented to UW System students whose work is exemplary of undergraduate research in women’s and gender studies and relevant fields. Other recipients of the award are from UW-Oshkosh, UW-La Crosse, UW-River Falls and UW-Colleges.

Dr. Dong Isbister, assistant professor of women’s and gender studies at UW-Platteville, nominated Owens for the award. Owens was a student in Isbister’s upper level course Black Women and Feminism in the U.S. in fall 2015.

Owens will present “The Psychological Identity Crisis Within Black Women: Effects of Colorism,” a research paper she wrote for Isbister’s course, at the conference.

In her research, Owens examined the history of black women and how the relationship between social interactions and skin complexion play a major role in the problem with regard to identity. She also examined issues of difference and privilege in the comparison of lighter skinned blacks and darker skinned blacks in the media and how this still affects the identity of black women today. Her sources focused on the analytical perspectives of being a black woman and considered how skin color can provide benefits to an adjustable lifestyle.

“I am an Afro-American female who grew up in a household with individuals who were lighter skinned than me and this research educated me on the systematic oppressions that women of color face just to fit in, and on what I faced as an individual just to fit in,” said Owens. “I hope that my research helps individuals gain knowledge on how being treated differently can internally cause potential identity crises and enlightens them on the micro-aggressions that can lead to these negative ideologies of colorism.”

Isbister usually requires her students to write research papers with a conference in mind, hoping that they will have opportunities to share their research with a larger audience.

“Ashley was very engaged in original research and critical analysis in my class,” said Isbister. “Her paper demonstrated her efforts and showcased the type of undergraduate research in women’s and gender studies and ethnic studies. In addition, Ashley’s research project demonstrated what it means to have a hands-on learning experience in courses in interdisciplinary studies. Hands-on learning in these courses is multiple-folded, including in-depth research that entails critical thinking, formulation of research questions, synthesis and analytical skills, idea development and organization, high-level of writing, and creation and dissemination of knowledge.”

Owens was appreciative of Isbister nominating her for the award, saying, “She is one of the many professors at UW-Platteville who saw my research as something that was worth sharing with individuals to enlighten them on the impact of colorism’s psychological identity crisis that individuals can go through. I am grateful and humble to have this opportunity to share my work at the conference.”

According to the Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium website, in 2016, the UW-Madison 4W Initiative and the UW Women and Gender Studies Consortium presented the first 4W Summit on Women, Gender, and Well-being with a focus on the research, scholarship, teaching and learning, activism and women’s well-being in a global context, across all schools and disciplines.

The 4W Summit organizers support, respect and value all people’s identities, and see the summit as part of work toward a transformed, multicultural and inclusive environment that promotes increased understandings of feminism and its interconnections with issues of race, ethnicity, age, class, ability status, sexual orientation and gender identity; and encourage participation representative of their campuses and communities.

For more information about the conference, go to: https://womenstudies.wisc.edu/WSC/annualconf.htm.

Written by: Laurie A. Hamer, Communications Specialist, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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