Student/Faculty Research Team Applauded at Academic Conference

Kayla Richardson '24

When she learned that as a rising sophomore she was one of just 12 students selected for Hollins’ Summer Fellowship program this year, Kayla Richardson ’24 was both excited and grateful. “The fellowship would represent my first big research project,” she explained. “I was really flattered that I was chosen, especially since I felt like I didn’t have as much experience as other students.”

Working with Professor of Political Science Edward Lynch, Richardson spent the summer immersed in researching Catholic social thought and free market theory. Their study resulted in a paper that the two presented this fall at the annual conference of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists (SCSS), which this year was held at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.

Richardson is a sociology major who anticipates declaring political science as her second major soon. She said the paper topic “was Dr. Lynch’s idea. He approached me about it, and I thought, ‘Oh wow, this is pretty cool.’”

Ed Lynch and Kayla Richardson
Prof. of Political Science Edward Lynch and Kayla Richardson ’24 present to the Society of Catholic Social Scientists.

Throughout the summer, Lynch searched for relevant materials, which Richardson then read and summarized. The notes they compiled became the basis for the paper they co-authored starting in August.

About midway through their research, Richardson was invited to deliver a virtual presentation at a conference at Virginia Tech on their findings. The experience was valuable preparation for the SCSS conference.

“This was the first conference I’d done in person,” she said. “I was very nervous, but it went pretty well.”

“The praise was universal,” said Lynch. “One participant, who runs a theology program at Franciscan University, said it was the best presentation she had ever heard. She asked Kayla and me if we’d be willing to reprise our presentation for her students.”

Lynch added that other conference attendees complimented Hollins for providing collaborative opportunities for faculty and undergraduate students.

“One participant was convinced, from the quality of her presentation and her knowledge, that Kayla was a grad student and was shocked to learn she’s a sophomore undergrad. The experience confirms something I’ve said many times: when Hollins students bring their ‘A Game,’ they stun the world. We have a high degree of faith in our students’ abilities, and based on what I’ve heard from my counterparts, the intellectual bonds formed between faculty and students at Hollins are almost unique in higher education.”

Richardson is now exploring various internship opportunities. “I’m trying to figure out if I’m interested in pre-law so I’ll be venturing into that area a little more. I’m just open to any opportunity that presents itself to me,” including further research. Whether she ultimately winds up at law school or grad school, she believes her summer fellowship will help her both short-term and long-term.

“I’m really happy I did it. Not only did I get to have a good experience academically, but I got to meet some really incredible people as well. Others should take part in the program if they ever get the chance.”