Students to showcase academic research in this week’s First-Year Symposium

by Marissa Hochstetler – Horizon News and Features Editor

Amber Davis, Rachelle Haarer and JD Hershberger brainstorm during the early stages of symposium prep in First Year Seminar. Photo by James Kang

It’s the mother of all projects. The talk of all the first-year students. The topic of discussion at almost any meal: First-Year Symposium.

Symposium, a collection of student presentations, will be held throughout Smith Center and Charles Hall this Tuesday and Thursday from 3 p.m. to 3:50 p.m. For sophomores, the event may bring back memories of last year’s symposium projects, both good and bad. For professors, it may mean careful evaluation and grading. But for first-year students, First-Year Symposium has a whole different meaning. Symposium is a term that inspires  anticipation, curiosity, and possibly even some anxiety for students as they think about the project at hand.

“The purpose of [symposium] from my perspective,” says First-Year Experience Instructor, Kevin Wilder, “is to introduce students to an academic community and have them excited about doing academic excellence.”

Since each section of First Year Experience is “linked” to a different general education course, symposium will serve as an event that integrates FYE themes of diversity and inclusion with Gen. Ed. skills and concepts. In Rebecca Barrett-Fox’s FYE section, students will be expected to relate their project to Sociology. Barrett-Fox’s students will present highly visual slideshows using a method called pecha-kucha. Japanese for “chatter,” pecha-kucha rules dictate that students use 20 presentation slides total, each slide projected for 20 seconds.

“The presentations will focus on issues about immigration, ranging from the way that undocumented labor maintains cheap agriculture here in the US to the psychological effects of immigration on immigrant children,” said Barrett-Fox.

Part of the draw of symposium is the multidisciplinary interest.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what the other groups come up with,” said first-year student Crystal Leinbach.

A fellow first-year, Jessica Donnelly said she is especially looking forward to a bilingual presentation created by William Wyatt, Mateo Alfonzo Sanchez , Ayaka Senoo, and Abbi Hochstetler.

As students continue to research, compile, and polish their projects, professors offer this advice:

“Students should remember that this is a high-stakes situation that will largely determine their grade for the course,” says Barrett-Fox.

Students need to come prepared and ready to be professional. Symposium will be open to the community as well as faculty, meaning that even more is at stake than each student’s grade.

“The symposium is an opportunity for [students] to shine,” said Barrett-Fox, “and show us what they can do if given the responsibility of completing a creative, complex, integrative research project.”

“I would encourage students to take [symposium] seriously,” adds Wilder, “since people from all over the college will be seeing their work.”

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