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University hosts Annual Southeast Coastal Conference on Languages & Literatures this March

The Georgia Southern Department of Foreign Languages will host the 14th annual Southeast Coastal Conference on Languages & Literatures (SECCLL) from March 23 to 24 at the Coastal Georgia Center, 305 Fahm Street, Savannah, Georgia.

This conference is oriented toward the participation of scholars from both public and private institutions of higher education from the region and beyond. Faculty, staff and graduate students are encouraged to attend.

Keynote speaker, Sheri Spaine Long, Ph.D., is an accomplished scholar, author, editor, award-winning teacher and educational leader. She specializes in Spanish language, literature and culture as well as emerging trends in language pedagogy and international education. Long is editor of Hispania – A journal devoted to the teaching of Spanish and Portuguese, the scholarly journal of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. She is currently the executive director of the Alabama World Languages Association. Her plenary session presentation is titled “Rebuilding the Language Curriculum from the Back Seat,” and her special presentation at the conference is titled, “Publishing Your Work in Scholarly Journals.”

The conference includes topics on:

  • Arabic and Islamic Studies
  • French and Francophone Studies
  • Spanish Peninsular Studies
  • Spanish American Studies
  • Hispanic Linguistics
  • East Asian/Chinese Studies
  • ESL
  • Minorities and Multicultural Studies
  • Literary Criticism
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Hispanic Caribbean Studies
  • Women and Gender Studies
  • Language and Technology
  • Special topics in language, literature, culture, pedagogy and film

Registration is now open, and information can be found here.

SECCLL has also created The Coastal Review, an online, open access, peer-reviewed and indexed journal that is published annually by the Department of Foreign Languages. Any person that presents a paper at this annual conference may submit a revised version of a presentation for possible inclusion in the journal.

For more information on SECCLL, visit

International Women Shared Their Statesboro Experience at Latest WLS

The Women’s Leadership Series (WLS) kicked off 2017 with its first session “Perceptions and Identities of International Women in the Workplace” on March 9.

Team Leaders Arpita Saha, Shainaz Landge, and May Buser De conceptualized this exciting session. The session was composed as roundtable, with ten international participants from campus and the community, to share the experiences of being international business members, faculty, and students in Statesboro, Ga.

The session was well attended and focused on the enriching experience of coming from outside the United States and contributing to a new community in Statesboro.

The WLS meets next on April 7 from 2-4 p.m. in room 2148 of the College of Education Building. Michele Martin, Assistant Director of Student Affairs, CRI Programs, will lead a panel entitled “Achieving Work-Life Balance.”

The Women’s Leadership Series, sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies Program (WGST), arose out of a WGST collaborative panel on Women and Mentoring, led by WGST Director Lisa A. Costello, Ph.D., at the Diversity, Inclusion, and Fairness (DIF) Conference in 2016.

The Leadership Series is designed to create leadership opportunities for women to plan and lead sessions, as well as to serve the campus and community by promoting cutting edge material on issues affecting women in leadership.

Great Minds Lecture Series Continues March 23: Dan Pioske, Ph.D., to Speak

The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences’ (CLASS) 2017 Great Minds Lecture Series will continue on Thursday, March 23 with Assistant Professor of religious studies Dan Pioske, Ph.D., presenting “Why is the Bible a Text: Memory, Orality, and the Birth of Prose Literature.”

Pioske’s lecture will examine the possible early audiences for the Hebrew Bible, the factors that led to its composition, and how prose writing emerged from an oral storytelling tradition in ancient Israel.

“One of the great mysteries of the Hebrew Bible is how its stories about the past came to be,” said Pioske. “This question is made more difficult at the outset by the fact that the ancient biblical writers who composed these texts took no credit for them, thus leaving these writings with no discernible author in view.”

The “Torah Scroll” and the “Cuneiform Tablet” will both be used throughout the lecture. These documents will be on display through May 5 at the Zach S. Henderson Library’s Remnant Trust Exhibit.

The lecture will take place in the Russell Union, room 2047. It is free and open to the public.

For more information on the 2017 Great Minds Lecture and to view a full schedule of the lectures please visit

Uncovering Irish-American Heritage in Savannah

When Sarah Ryniker (‘15) discovered a stack of handwritten letters, dated 1850, and penned by the late Richard Joseph Nunn, she could barely contain her excitement.

Sitting in the National Archives of Ireland in Dublin, she thumbed through the letters, many of which hadn’t been touched since they were originally opened, soaking up every word and learning how this man from the county of Wexford, Ireland, came to Savannah.

In the letters, Ryniker found that Nunn, an Irish immigrant who is credited for major public sanitation reform in and beyond Savannah, wrote to the Wexford-based Graves Shipping Company claiming to have the skills of a doctor; he asserted if granted passage to Savannah, he would be able to provide care for passengers on the ship. In other letters, she found additional exchanges between the shipping company and Nunn, and learned that Nunn was only 18 at the time he came to Savannah.

Ryniker knew how much of an impact Nunn made in Savannah as an Irish-American, but she was always curious as to how he made his way across the Atlantic.

“Getting to read how witty and sarcastic this man was made him feel alive to me, like I was there talking with him,” said Ryniker. “Those letters were a really fantastic discovery because we found out that he asked to go on a specific ship to Savannah called the Glenlyon and wanted to leave from the port of New Ross, Wexford.”

Howard Keeley, Ph.D., director of the Center for Irish Research and Teaching (CIRT) at Georgia Southern, has has helped mentor Ryniker throughout her research, which has been made possible through the Wexford-Savannah Axis Partnership. The partnership, now in its fourth year, is a joint program through CIRT and the University Honors Program in which undergraduate students research archives in Savannah and in Wexford County, Ireland.

“We knew that, having witnessed his fellow Wexford and Irish immigrants die in large numbers in two yellow fever epidemics in Savannah, [Nunn] became a nationally recognized advocate for public sanitation,” said Keeley. “We also knew he was a Mason, but to find out how he got here in the first place, that was excellent.”

These discoveries about Nunn just skim the surface of Ryniker’s research throughout her time as a student at Georgia Southern. The soon-to-be Double Eagle will graduate in May with a master’s degree in social science, and she will leave quite an impact with the research she has completed, which she began as an undergraduate student.

Ryniker was part of the first group of undergraduate students to travel to Wexford County, Ireland, with CIRT and the Honors Program to participate in primary-source research, such as sorting through untouched letters and other documents in archives.

“When we started this project, our focus was absolutely on helping students to conduct primary-source research,” said Keeley. “In the general run of things, I feel we often ask students to research other people’s research. While important, that’s secondary research. In this case, however, much of the story of how Savannah is an Irish city has been lost, or was never fully put together in the first place. That lack of core knowledge requires a different kind of research.”

Participating in primary-source research as an undergraduate was a major draw for Ryniker when considering Georgia Southern. And through her trips to Ireland and research discoveries, she has come to appreciate the impact that she can make.

“This is a super-exciting way for students to get an in-depth level of research, exploring cultures and piecing together so many different aspects of what’s really going on,” she said. “It’s not classwork or an essay…you’re in an archive and seeing these real records and reading handwritten letters. We’ve gotten to untie letters that hadn’t been touched since they were first tied together and put in a box in around 1860.

“So being the first person to open a letter that may have been looked at once, it’s so profound and such a great way for undergrads to appreciate the way research can add to people’s lives,” she added.

Since her first trip to Ireland, Ryniker has worked to create a database of all Irish families who immigrated to Savannah from Wexford County. The database not only provides valuable information to genealogists, but it is also a useful tool for academic inquiries into historical and contemporary issues around both migration and integration, Keeley said.

“Many nations and communities today are grappling with how or whether to absorb immigrants, and so one thing that Sarah’s database and her analysis is helping us to do is examine the effects of a discrete migration-integration phenomenon,” he said. “We can look at challenges the newcomers faced, and how they built communities.

“Sarah’s work is getting down to the granular level—how they constructed community within particular streets or neighborhoods, churches, schools and so forth,” Keely continued. “It also looks at how they integrated into the broader community, and there are lessons to be learned from that. We’re able to help people think about more complex issues that, today, are more relevant than they’ve ever been.”

Ryniker has found that the Irish settled in two main parts of Savannah- Yamacraw and Old Fort- and she has been able to narrow her research down to learn about the types of people who lived in these neighborhoods.

“I’m looking specifically at one street in Savannah, Indian Street in Yamacraw, known as District One in the 1860 census of Savannah. I’m analyzing the types of people who were living on that street, their occupations, and where they came from—the entire population, not just the Irish people,” she said.

“So, the Irish on this street were living next to African-Americans, living next to Germans; they were living next to a whole variety of different people and cultures, and they were doing jobs in, but also outside of, the railroad and shipping industries,” she continued. “A lot were bakers or shop owners, living above their jobs, having children, attending places of worship. You can see a ton of factors going on in how they gradually became Irish-American.”

And uncovering those stories of how the immigrants became Irish-Americans, and eventually Americans, is something Keeley said could be the next level of Ryniker’s research.

“What has not been told is this idea of integration—how, in the wake of the arriving generation of Irish, their children and children’s children started to expand their sense of identity,” Keeley said. “The initial migrants come not just with a strong Irish identity, but also a strong Wexford identity.

“Not everybody from Ireland is the same. Wexford has a unique history, blending agricultural progressivism, land activism, and revolutionary activity. Their Wexford legacies moved with the migrants to Savannah, equipping them in a certain way as they became Irish-American and then American.”

Uncovering these themes of immigration, integration and the identities of people who made Savannah an Irish community has inspired Ryniker to continue her studies in globalization and immigration, focusing on these themes in a contemporary sense as she pursues her Ph.D.

“I always thought I was interested in different cultures and exploring international studies, but really what I’m interested in is giving back to people and telling and sharing with them my findings,” she said, adding she hopes to become a professor one day.

“And I think this research project, more than anything I’ve ever done, has shown me you can make a difference as an individual. It’s definitely helping me do that, and will continue to do that in different ways after this project.”

Georgia Southern Art Students Explore Statesboro in Multimedia Exhibition on View in Downtown Statesboro

The public is invited to view “Gown to Town: Visual Art Mapping in the ‘Boro,” an exhibition of senior capstone projects created by the Bachelor of Arts, Studio Art class of 2017 at the Averitt Center for the Arts, and the Roxy Remley Center for Fine Arts from April 7-30. An opening reception will be held during April’s First Friday Downtown event (April 7) at 5:30 p.m.

“When we started this project in 2016, we discovered the enormous emphasis put on steering students into the downtown area with projects like Blue Mile and City Campus. This made me curious about which elements of the city draw students naturally,” said assistant professor Elsie Hill. “This is year two of what I am calling a socially engaged legacy project that examines Statesboro from the visual art students’ perspective.”

Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art capstone students were asked to design visual art projects that reflect their viewpoint of Statesboro, based on local traits such as history, geography, personal experience, emotional growth, play, etc. The students employed their studio skills in combination with personal experience, visual and historical research, and geographic information system mapping to represent aspects of the city they have encountered during their time at the university. Through their research, students recognized and identified habitual paths and psychogeographic boundaries established by their college routines. Some students chose to work within those boundaries and others expanded upon them. All of the 2017 projects (as well as the 2016 projects) are mapped and will be available to view online in the form of an ARCGis Storymap website hosted by ESRI.

“Once the students were asked to pull from their personal perspectives and broad studio skills, there was an abundance of ideas that covered many parts of the city,” said Hill. “Story Mapping is the perfect tool to bring together multiple experiences, multiple locations, and multiple mediums because it integrates mapping with visual elements and text.”

The exhibition will showcase capstone projects from 10 graduating seniors, and will include animation/video, ceramics, digital art, drawing, mixed media, painting, and printmaking. Zackery McVey (St. Augustine, GA) and DeMyron Kendall (Augusta, GA) each are creating animations from local video footage. Robin Lane (Duluth, GA) continues her ceramic book project with topics from Statesboro history. Jenny Callahan (Blackshear, GA) and Denson McLain (St. Augustine, GA) each will be presenting a series of landscapes. Stefani Waters (Ringgold, GA) and Jasmyne “Joala” Johnson (Atlanta,GA) are creating mixed media works depicting architectural and natural elements that often go unnoticed. Rian Mobley-Luke (Atlanta, GA) has painted portraits of strong women who have influenced her success while attending Georgia Southern. Peyton Snell (Loganville, GA) and TJ Thomas (Statesboro,GA) have each developed a visual vocabulary based on their travels around town.

This exhibition will be on view at the Legends Gallery on the second floor of the Averitt Center for the Arts on 33 East Main Street, and the second floor of the Roxy Remley Center for Fine Arts on 31 East Vine Street.

To see the 2016 Capstone Project storymap, go to