The Value of Presenting: A Lifelong Lesson from the Halle Fellowship

by Faith Kim, 21C Art History

Presentations were a significant component of the FCHI/Halle Institute Humanities Honors Fellowship. During almost every monthly meeting of the FCHI/Halle Institute Humanities Honors Fellowship this past semester, the other fellows and I either participated in colloquia to listen to others present on their research or were tasked with presenting different aspects of our research to each other and to scholars across Emory University. Although the virtual presentations made me nervous in the moment, they helped me to feel confident when I had to defend my thesis to my thesis committee this past April.

Listening to other FCHI Fellows present their research encouraged me to think about my research from different perspectives, which ultimately supported the development of my final thesis project. I remember listening to Byrd McDaniel’s project at the beginning of the fellowship during a virtual colloquium for the Fox Center’s Post-Doctoral Fellows. His project analyzes the act of listening on digital platforms like YouTube and TikTok. The ways in which the Fellow made digital platforms an integral aspect of his research project inspired me to embrace researching the two South African monuments I decided to study for my thesis project virtually. This shift was one I had to make after my original research plan to travel to the Constitutional Court of South Africa in Johannesburg was cancelled because of Covid. Seeing other scholars embrace the virtual realm in their research projects encouraged me to embrace it for mine. Throughout the spring semester, I incorporated analyses of the virtual tours of the two monuments I chose to study after travel plans were cancelled–the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park in Pretoria, South Africa–into my final thesis.

Virtually presenting my research to the other Humanities Honors Fellows was fruitful for two reasons: I had the chance to receive constructive criticism, and secondly, I was able to grow more comfortable with speaking publicly about my research. For example, in one of my first presentations to my Humanities Honors Fellow colleagues, I did not provide an art historical definition of a monument–and in a thesis about monuments, that omission felt like a gaping absence! However, criticism was never delivered in a harsh or discouraging way. In fact, the supportive atmosphere of the fellowship allowed me to embrace any constructive criticism I received. Moreover, by mid-April, I had already formally presented about my research at least five times, so I felt very comfortable presenting about my research when the time for my thesis defense came. 

Ultimately, sharing about my research regularly to a community of intelligent and supportive scholars made my final thesis project stronger; it also allowed me to embrace criticism and become more confident with the skills of oration and presentations. These are takeaways I will bring with me to graduate school and beyond. 

Faith Kim is a senior majoring in Art History and minoring in Community Building and Social Change. She is currently writing an honors thesis on two sites located 2.4 kilometers from one another in Pretoria, South Africa: Freedom Park, which responds formally and symbolically to its white supremacist, apartheid-era counterpart, the Voortrekker Monument. Her thesis seeks to investigate how virtual modes of encountering these sites, such as geographic information systems, official online tours, and tourism media, censor, alter, exaggerate, and even skew, the intended interactions between the two sites.

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