Students and faculty present at first-ever IPID research symposium

On Friday afternoon, students and faculty presented their research projects at a Humphrey School symposium.

by Amie Stager

Presentations covering new research on sustainability, conservation methods and diversity — among other topics — were given Friday afternoon at a first-of-its-kind symposium at the University of Minnesota.

The Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Development and the Humphrey Equity and Inclusion Council, co-hosted the first Research Symposium on International Development and Equity and Inclusion on April 20.

President of the Minnesota-based McKnight Foundation Kate Wolford was the keynote speaker, and multiple research presentations were given by University students and faculty throughout the four-hour event.

Julia Fair, IPID’s president, said they created the event after the organization noticed how much of the research has close ties with international development work and equity and inclusion.

Though IPID has hosted research presentation events before, they were less formal, Fair said. By inviting a high-profile speaker and creating a symposium, she said the event became a formal experience, acting as a stepping stone before researchers present their final products to clients.

“It’s a way to showcase the capstone projects that a lot of Humphrey students are doing,” Fair said.

One student research presentation was about Project Conservation, a nonprofit organization formed by University graduate students Samantha Helle and Emily Erhart. The two master’s students met in 2014 in Nepal during a five-month field-intensive study abroad program, where they worked on independent projects.

The students researched tiger-human conflict in Nepal’s communities and the perceptions of tigers in areas highly impacted by tiger conservation.

“There’s this misconception of tigers living alone in untouched, remote jungles, and that’s not the reality of tiger conservation today,” Helle said.

Erhart and Helle presented about the dynamic of communities in Nepal and the forests they share with due to conservation efforts.

“We spent five months working in the field and were pretty jaded about continuing to do research without any action,” Helle said. “We wanted to try and give back what they gave to us,” Erhart added.

Additionally, the McKnight Foundation recently drafted a new statement on diversity, equity and inclusion, said Isaac Giron, programming chair for IPID, and wanted to present the new vision and how it relates to research.

“We thought, wow, it’d be great to have the president share the logic and motivation and inspiration behind that new statement, and relating that to our work in achieving social equality, both here in the U.S. and abroad,” Giron said.