Research Days at Kean University is a celebration of scholarly and creative pursuits. This year, the annual event featured 164 posters, the largest number ever. Kean University's Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Jeffery Toney, introduced keynote speaker Rachel Snyder. In his opening remarks, Dr. Toney observed that "in today's world, students without research capabilities have a much lower chance of success." Dr. Toney went on to affirm Kean University's dedication to applied research.
Kean is committed to fostering an academic culture where ideas are exchanged freely. Snyder commended the Kean community for the unusual level of communication between disciplines. A journalist and radio commentator, Snyder is the author of Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade. An excerpt from the book entitled “Dreams of Distant Factories” – aired on public radio’s This American Life and was awarded the 2006 Lowell Thomas Award from the Overseas Press Club. Snyder’s writing has also been featured in the New Yorker, the New York Times magazine, the New Republic, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune.
Snyder recounted her research endeavors, which have taken her to far flung locales ranging from Cambodia's garment factories to the cotton fields of Azerbaijan and a women's prison in Kabul, Afghanistan. "I had gone to Cambodia knowing almost nothing about the country," said Snyder. Over the next 6 years she would learn much as she immersed herself in the garment industry culture of "the world's first sweatshop free developing country."
While preparing to leave Cambodia, she began researching the work conditions at the Phnom Penh women's prison, where inmates were hired to begin sewing for one of the largest factories in town for $2.50 a month. Snyder found herself in a modern-day ethical quandary. She shared the insights she gained from that experience and some surprising statistics about a crop that's woven into the 'fabric of our lives,' cotton, which occupies 3% of the worlds agricultural land and uses 25% of the world's pesticides.
According to Snyder, "the average pair of jeans carries 3/4 pound of chemicals." While it's easy to demonize industry, Snyder urged an audience of consumers to consider their behavior in an age when clothing is viewed as disposable. She outlined successful examples of factory remediation and concluded by positing some potential solutions including Hermes' slow fashion movement, which strives to counteract perceptions of fashion's disposability.
Over 400 attended a total of total of 38 faculty and student presentations and panelsand Wednesday, April 29 and 30, in Kean’s state-of-art STEM building. The presentations explored a broad range of disciplines and topics ranging from the legacy of Rosa Parks to how Hurricane Sandy impacted the Kean Community. A faculty panel led a discussion on Narratives of Genocide Memory. Research Days reflects the vibrancy and diversity of Kean’s academic community and the University’s ongoing commitment to innovation and research.