Nazarbayev University welcomed Undergraduate Student Conference by Sociology and Anthropology Department

On Saturday, April 7th, 2018, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS), held its first annual undergraduate capstone conference.  The conference was a culmination of a year-long capstone course that has allowed ten graduating fourth-year SHSS students majoring in either Anthropology or Sociology to conduct original research and present their findings to members of the department, the SHSS community and the larger community of Astana, Kazakhstan. 

Faculty, both undergraduate and graduate SHSS students, as well as Professor Daniel Pugh, Dean of SHSS, and Doctor Loretta O’Donnell, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, attended the conference. 

The goal of the capstone course on which the conference was based consists of three parts.  First, it allows undergraduate students to consolidate what they have learned in their Anthropology and Sociology courses throughout their undergraduate careers and apply that learning through designing, conceptualizing and carrying out their own research projects as well as communicating their findings in a professional manner.  Second, it further helps them to learn to think deeply about how to apply their learning to contexts outside the university.  This is particularly evident in the work of the students pursuing the capstone track called “Community Engagement Project” which requires exploring questions that are relevant to community organizations in Kazakhstan.  By conducting research and data analysis that provide solutions to those organizations so they can serve their constituents in an evidence-based manner, the students can increase their future employment opportunities and utilize their training in the Sociology and Anthropology Department in a creative and practical manner. 

The third allows students to learn to engage in the research enterprise in a consistent and sustainable manner and see what it is really like to be part of a research community.  By going through the process of formulating research questions, collecting and analyzing the data, and presenting their findings to colleagues and community members, they learn that research is a collaborative practice which requires the ability to learn from others, recognize the limitations of one’s work, and show deep and abiding curiosity about the social world around them.  This is especially valuable for the students who are pursuing the thesis track in the capstone program and will serve as a launching point for those pursuing graduate studies.  Our undergraduate students are already presenting their capstone research at other undergraduate conferences in places such as South Korea and the United States.  Some of them have plans to pursue publications in journals and other research presentation venues.

In the future, School of Humanities and Social Sciences plans to attract greater participation from community organizations in Kazakhstan and students and faculty from other universities in Astana.