For the first time, two students from the University of Indianapolis will be presenting in Chicago at the Humanities Education and Research Association (HERA) Conference in March. Freshman exploratory major Rachael Walter and senior sports management major David Kurz will be presenting on the connection between multilingualism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Their project is part of the university’s interdisciplinary studies program, which bridges different disciplines to give students a broader perspective on a field of study, according to the UIndy website.
The conference will be held in Chicago from March 7-10. Both Walter and Kurz have been meeting to work on putting together and practicing their presentation, according to Kurz. They meet once a week, usually on Thursdays, to talk about their ideas for the presentation. The two have split up the topic into two parts so that each of them has the same workload.
“I’m focusing on multilingualism and Rachael is focusing more on ADHD and then for the conclusion we come together with our findings,” Kurz said. “We also somehow have to connect it with the humanities since it’s a conference about the humanities.”
Walter said that being a part of the team of students from UIndy that presents for the first time at the conference makes it an intimidating but unique experience. Kurz said he believes that having students present at a conference brings a fresh perspective because younger people have a different mindset and different ideas. He said it is important for educators there to see students because the topics brought up could possibly be something that they would never had heard of before.
“I think with conferences like that you get so many different ideas and [there are] other presentations that you can bring back to the university and take advantage of that information,” Kurz said. “It’s also a great network opportunity to see how other schools prepare for conferences.”
The subject of ADHD and multilingualism was brought about in a class by Professor, Assistant Dean of Global Languages and Cross Cultural Studies and Dean of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program Gerburg Garmann. The opportunity to present at the conference was given to the students which led them to come together to research in preparation for the conference.
“Multilingualism has a lot of cognitive benefits. If you can speak more than one language you use different parts of your brain,” Kurz said. “With that being said, your focus and your attention are better because you can focus on different subjects in better ways. We just connected that with ADHD because it’s a disorder where you can sit still and you can’t really focus on one subject. We thought if there could be more multilingual people who learn from childhood how to pay attention to different subjects, we can probably decrease the amount of people with ADHD.”
The connection between multilingualism and ADHD was created through research of the way that a person’s brain works when they know multiple languages.
“I can speak German, French and English so the multilingual topic is generally pretty interesting for me. I was also shocked that there’s such an over description of ADHD in general,” Kurz said.
Kurz said that Garmann gave her students assignments that involved research on the benefits of multilingualism. From here, the students connected the dots and created a proposal explaining that with the increase of monolingual people there is also an increase in people with ADHD.
“I think it’s really interesting. Multilingualism is really important for our country, so the mix of ADHD and multilingualism is a very interesting concept,” Walter said. “Also if we can think of how to help people with ADHD through being bilingual or multilingual that would be really cool. We don’t know, but it could be a reward for people with ADHD. The reward centers in their brain need more excitement to keep them focused, so multilingualism might help them stay more focused.”