ALEXANDRU ROTARU ’22 |
STAFF WRITER • Last Friday, January 26, classes were cancelled in the after- noon so that all students could attend the 19th edition of the Celebration of Student Research in the Detchon Center. 87 Wabash men came together to present 39 talks in the classrooms of Detchon, and 28 posters in the International Hall. For many, choosing which lectures to attend, as well as which posters to check out, was a difficult choice – mainly due to the incredible variety of subjects and project types Wallies embarked on during their summers.
This celebration showcased more than just research. “It’s scholarship and creative work,” Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Celebration of Student Research Organization Committee Lon Porter said. “And so, I think one of the things that’s most important to remember about the event is it’s reflective of the broad view of the liberal arts across campus.” While students showcase their work at national conferences
and symposia, they seldom do so on campus, and this is an opportunity for fellow students to see how much their peers have accomplished. In turn, this inspires many to achieve the same results themselves. “An outcome that I’m looking for is that underclassmen see a model for ways that they could enhance their Wabash education by participating in intense academic projects like this,” Howell Professor of Chemistry and Dean of the College Scott Feller said.
During his second year teaching at Wabash, Feller was one of the professors on the committee to create the Celebration of Student Research 19 years ago. “I think in the early years the natural sciences were overrepresented,” Feller said. “and that’s because I think especially the poster format is something that scientists are very familiar with. I think that, over the years, the breadth has really increased and now we really see presentations from every academic unit of the college.”
Cancelling classes is something Wabash doesn’t normally do. When it does, “[the college] only [does] it for very, very critical events,” Porter said. “and even the weather often doesn’t warrant canceling classes. And so, to cancel classes on Friday afternoon, so that everybody can take part I think is really showing that the college not only values this in words, but values it in our actions as well.” This reflects how the Wabash Always Fights spirit is applied to academic and scholarly achievement: not settling for any sort of compromise, including for attendance in class. This, in turn, creates demanding schedules for students. Therefore, “finding a time when we can all come together and learn from each other and see the good work that’s been done is always tricky,” Feller said. “That’s why we have made the pretty bold step for Wabash to cancel classes on Friday afternoon. And so, I think our commitment to the value of scholarly and artistic work is reflected in our choice to cancel classes for the afternoon.”
Even so, there are many similarities between classes and the presentations at the Celebration of Student Research. One might say that students are taking a break from learning from our faculty and instead learning from the efforts of our brethren. “And, of course, the act of presenting your research or your artistic products is a learning experience as well, so I think that those student presenters are learning a great deal about communication and how to tell a story to an audience in different ways.” Feller said.
Communicating and presenting are not the only skills a Wabash man learns when presenting at the Celebration of Student Research. “I think the celebration is exciting, and it really helps students be fearless, and explore something that is challenging or beautiful, or that really grabs the in a way that makes them want to take a more in depth look at a topic of their choice,” Porter said.
Clearly, celebrating the hard work and dedication to scholarly initiative
and achievement is widely regarded around campus. For alumni, trustees, visitors, parents, and prospective students, this event is like an allegory of what Wallies do on a regular basis, only “[taken] to the next level,” Porter said. “So, not just writing a short paper for a class assignment. It’s much more about engaging with a topic in depth, or engaging with developing a performance or a piece of art or a scientific procedure, or something like that.”
The presentations themselves showcased a variety of topics, from piracy and life in Ancient Rome, to world music and rhetorical analysis, to Global Health and Literature. The posters covered projects from Physics and medicine, to Economics and masculinity, to a liberal arts approach to agriculture and its effects, to Art and Literature.
In the future, the college hopes for “greater participation,” Feller said. “I would love for us to get to the day when we can’t fit it all in Detchon Hall. I would love to see more students taking advantage of the opportunities that Wabash faculty provide to do these kinds of work.” As for the student presenters, this is a starting point for future, larger- scale research projects. Also, “there will be presentations at the Celebration that will become publications in peer reviewed journals, for example, or presentations that will be made at national meetings of scholars,” Feller said. “So, clearly, a student from Wabash College can contribute at a very high level.”