Imhotep inspires and continues to grow

Florida A&M University presents the Imhotep Interdisciplinary Student Research Conference.
Photo courtesy of FAMU Department of Psychology website.

Throughout the last week of March, Florida A&M University presented the traditional opportunity for students to engage in academic dialogue, present original research, and celebrate black thought as the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities and the Department of Psychology presented “Building for Eternity,” the 27th Annual Imhotep Interdisciplinary Student Research Conference.

The conference gathered students in a professional academic setting and aimed to provide experience for professional development and interdisciplinary thought that otherwise may be difficult to come by.

“Imhotep is an ancient African genius, generally credited for being the world’s first multi-scholar,” said Brian Sims, organizer of Imhotep and associate professor in the FAMU Department of Psychology. “The interdisciplinary sort of nature is to give students perspectives and skills that go beyond psychology and think about how to pull in other disciplines into what they’re interested in studying. I think the primary (point) is developing the student.”

Founded in 1993 by retired FAMU professor of psychology John Chambers, the conference has served as the culmination of Black Psychology Theme Week and featured presentations on academic research from students on the undergraduate, and graduate levels.

“The real goal is for the presenter (student) to get feedback on their work from people in the audience, that’s the broad goal and I think it’s kind of stayed true to its mission,” continued Sims.

“[Imhotep] makes the idea of presenting research, conducting research, talking, and networking in a professional setting a little more tangible for people, “said SynClaire Arthur, a graduate student in FAMU’s community psychology program and who acted as a key organizer of the conference alongside Sims.

“It can seem very abstract and intimidating if you haven’t been in that sphere before, the conference leaves students with this idea of ‘Oh this wasn’t so bad after all,’ and contributes to their overall development as both a student and researcher and future scholar.”

Outside of academic research, interactive seminars with faculty speakers, appearances from local vendors, traditional African performances, and a banquet and scholarship fundraiser to honor student success were featured events throughout the conference as well.

“It’s important for a conference like Imhotep to exist because it creates a space for African scholars to present their research, an opportunity to network with likeminded people from around the country, and start important conversations,” said Shannon Vazquez, public relations chair for FAMU’S Psychology club.

The conference included speakers from students from different universities, with visitors from Bethune-Cookman University and Southern University in attendance. Past appearances from Texas A&M University and North Carolina A&T State University have only contributed to the growth of Imhotep’s impact.

“You really see the need for conferences like Imhotep as evidenced by how they’ve sprung up at other places,” said Sims.

Since Imhotep’s founding, similar student conferences have appeared at North Carolina A&T University and Virginia State University.

“Just getting students from different disciplines to interact with each other and discuss and share ideas behind research and give each other feedback – I can appreciate and learn something and gain something new from someone who’s outside of what I may not be able to gain if I’m only ever talking to people who are learning the same things as me,” said Arthur.

“Imhotep (from its founders) has had the foresight to bring that experience home and use our tools and expertise and energies to create that so once students leave, (they) have had a legitimate conference experience,” added Sims. “I think it’s needed because with education, clearly any degree is not going to be measured purely by what happens in the classroom. I think Imhotep provides a very necessary space,” added Sims.