Students to showcase research on race and well-being

March 9, 2018

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Four University of Wisconsin-Platteville students will showcase their undergraduate, interdisciplinary research on black women’s experiences in the United States in a panel at the third annual 4W Summit on Women, Gender, and Well-Being and the 41st annual Wisconsin Women’s and Gender Studies Conference to be held April 12-14 at the Pyle Center at UW-Madison.

The summit is organized by the UW System Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium and the UW-Madison 4W Initiative, and co-sponsored by several programs in the UW System and other institutions in Wisconsin or Minnesota. Students, faculty, activists, artists and community members will present their research at 79 panels and three poster sessions at the summit.

The purpose of the conference is to collectively discuss and consider how gender informs culture, society, environment, economy and social justice. The broadly-defined theme of the conference is “Our Bodies, Our Earth: Voice, Violence and Peacemaking,” from across the disciplines, addressing research, scholarship, program development, action research, pedagogy, curriculum, creative work and/or community activism.

UW-Platteville’s panel, “Interdisciplinary Knowledge Building–Black Women’s Experience in the United States,” includes Alysha Andrews, a junior biology major from Green Bay, Wisconsin; Meghan Weber, a junior English education major from Darlington, Wisconsin; Torin McCaw, a junior agriculture business major and women’s and gender studies minor from Orion, Illinois; and Alex Mines, a senior chemistry-criminalistics major from Peoria, Illinois.

Students were enrolled in the fall 2017 course Black Women/Feminism in the United States, taught by Dr. Dong Isbister, assistant professor of women’s and gender studies at UW-Platteville, who will lead the panel and present.

Isbister and the students will discuss black women’s experiences in the United States, including selected topics in relation to the broadly-defined theme of the body, such as the traumatized body in slave narratives, racialized medicine and social service, as well as iconized black female role models in popular culture.

“One goal in effective teaching in upper-level undergraduate courses is to help prepare students for advanced independent research and knowledge production through engaging them in a process of learning while doing,” said Isbister. “In addition to being exposed to fundamental and important learning points in class, students develop deeper insights into relevant topics and required skills that they can use in graduate school or the workplace.”
Collectively, the presented papers will invite members of the audience to have dialogues about integrating race and gender into research and understanding black women’s experience.

• In “Healthcare Resources and Cancer in African American Women,” Andrews addresses the intersection of race, gender and class in medical practices through a comparative lens, exploring discrepancies among African American and Caucasian women in healthcare, specifically in cancer treatment.

“I want to obtain a career in the healthcare field, so being able to do research on the healthcare field was a great way to broaden my understanding and knowledge of this topic, relating specifically to black women,” said Andrews. “The most interesting thing I learned is that statistics show there is a difference between the quality of care that healthcare workers provide black women when compared to the quality of care that they provide white women. Learning this was surprising and a little disheartening, to know that healthcare isn’t as comforting as it should be to someone, no matter who, in a time of need.” Andrews said that she felt honored and excited about presenting a panel at the 4W Summit.

Andrews is one of eight recipients of the 2018 Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium Undergraduate Research Awards for her paper. The UW System Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium sponsored Andrews’ presentation by assisting her with the registration fee.

“Alysha went above and beyond to brainstorm a topic, read existing literature, synthesize and analyze materials and narrow down her focus,” said Isbister. “She drew on personal narratives, statistical evidence, most recent studies of inequality, race and health to discuss black women and their experience when seeking breast cancer treatment. Her reflections were not only thought-provoking but also invited further consideration of initiating change.”

• In “The Struggle against Racial Bias in Medicine: A Battle for Patients and Doctors Alike,” Weber examines black women’s struggles in the medical field, particularly as patients.

“I enjoyed learning about the many diverse perspectives on discrimination in medicine while doing my research, even though it was saddening at times,” said Weber. “The most interesting fact I discovered was that in medical school, it is still taught that the darker the skin of a person, the more resistant they are to pain. I was appalled when I discovered that such old rumors were still being taught as fact in medical schools across the country. I am very honored to have been selected for the presentation panel, and I very much look forward to presenting.”

• In “Black Women and Child Welfare in Wisconsin,” McCaw explores the causes and effects of the over-representation of black women and children in interactions with the Department of Children and Families, including placement in out-of-home care.

“The opportunity to participate in this conference panel is amazing, and I am greatly looking forward to my first undergraduate research public presentation,” said McCaw. “While conducting this research, I learned and was astonished by the vast overrepresentation of black families in the Wisconsin child welfare system.”

• In “The Iconic ‘Queen’: Implications of Black Female Role Models,” Mines examines the media’s representation of black female role models, including their song lyrics, official music video content and implications.

“My favorite part of this research was getting to explore the effect role models from the media have on people and using that to challenge how people think of one woman in particular, Beyoncé,” said Mines. “The best part of being selected for this panel is being able to share with peers how the lack of positive black female role models negatively influences a person and why there is a seemingly low supply of these women in media.”

• In “Decentralized Power and Resistance” in “The Bondwoman’s Narrative,” an essay included in “Critical Insights: The Slave Narrative,” Isbister examines the resistance of black female slaves and mothers. She argues that the slaves’ resistance is “subversive and liminal, but no less effective than other forms of resistance against slavery” (Drake xiii).

Isbister said the conference encourages undergraduate students to share their research and gives them an opportunity to perfect skills that will be essential in their future careers.

“The selection of our panel will provide an opportunity for our students to not only demonstrate the type of undergraduate research on our campus but also craft their presentation and networking skills in addition to learning from the other presenters,” said Isbister. “They will also develop more confidence in doing guided or independent research in the future.”
“I commend Dr. Isbister on her commitment to undergraduate research,” said Dr. Rosalyn Broussard, professor of political science and interim chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at UW-Platteville. “This is an honor and a great opportunity for students to present their research at the 4W Summit. It highlights the quality of work and commitment of the Women’s Studies program to the university and beyond.”

The hands-on, experiential learning experience at the third annual 4W Summit on Women, Gender, and Well-being was made possible with the support of UW-Platteville’s Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and the College of Liberal Arts and Education’s Travel Fund.

For more information about the conference, visit:

Written by: Laurie A. Hamer, University Relations Specialist, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191,


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