Research Sends Students to Spain; Project Is One of 225 to be Shared at Wednesday Student Symposium

Kyle Rohrich and Alex Cowsky spent the first two weeks of the spring semester in five Spanish cities where they researched public opinion on the Basque conflict.

“I can read plenty of academic journals about what people went through, but it’s so different when you can actually go and hear people talk about it themselves,” said Rohrich.

Nearly three million people live in Basque Country, located on the shores of the Bay of Biscay and on the two sides of the western Pyrenees that spans the border between France and Spain.

Basque people have preserved their own identity — their own language and culture — and have long shared the desire to be self-governed. Tensions about the type of relationship the Basque territories should maintain with the Spanish authorities have existed for years resulting in armed conflict that spanned 52 years. It has resulted in a thousand deaths and thousands of injuries.

The Nebraska Wesleyan University seniors received a Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Grant that sent them to Madrid, Pamplona, Vitoria, Bilbao and San Sebastiàn where they talked to people in coffee shops, taxis, stores, on buses and those strolling the streets. Their goal was to gauge the Basque people’s opinion of government and find out if they still want independence.

Rohrich and Cowsky were joined in Spain by political science professor Kelly Eaton and Spanish professor Cathy Nelson. The professors were instrumental in providing the students with background information on the Basque conflict as well as helping them navigate Spain.

Their research, titled “Is It Over Yes? Analyzing and Understanding the Basque Conflict in Spain,” is one of more than 225 presentations, gallery talks and performances that will be shared at the NWU Student Symposium: Celebrating Research and Creative Endeavor scheduled for Wednesday, May 2.

See NWU Student Symposium Schedule of Events

Classes are canceled to allow students, faculty and staff the opportunity to attend the sessions that represent all of the University’s disciplines.

“The symposium is unique to Nebraska Wesleyan and especially undergraduates,” said Provost Judy Muyskens. “The research and creative endeavors you will see on May 2 are similar to what you might find in graduate schools.”

Sessions will cover hundreds of topics from measuring effective magazine advertisements to costume and scenery design to chronic traumatic encephalopathy in professional athletes to writing best sellers to bacteria in rainwater — a lecture that was awarded “best undergraduate oral presentation” at the 2012 Student Water Research Conference.

Rohrich and Cowsky are excited to share their research and analysis on May 2. In fact, they’ve had a little practice already. At the end of their time in Spain, the students and their professors had the opportunity to share their findings with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Spain.

“We were asked lots of questions,” said Rohrich. “But that was a great experience for us.”

“I have never had so much fun traveling,” added Cowsky. “When I came to Wesleyan, I never thought I’d be traveling and researching with my professors. It’s great to get immersed in your research because it makes it real.”

You can catch their presentation — which will include the results of their research — at 9:30 a.m. in Smith-Curtis room 242.

The NWU Student Symposium begins at 9 a.m. A reception including food, music and remarks by the provost will be held at 4:30 p.m. in Great Hall. Presentations by University College students will begin at 6:30 p.m.

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Kyle and Alex met with NWU faculty prior to their trip to collect background information.
Kelly Eaton, Alex Cowsky, Kyle Rohrich and Cathy Weber at the town hall of San Sebastian.
Alex visits with a train passenger in Spain to collect information for her research project.
The group had the opportunity to share their research with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Spain.