Students gather in Watzek during the Festival of Scholars. Photo by Riley Hanna.

Students Present Research at Annual Festival of Scholars

Stamm Dining Room and the classrooms of J.R. Howard Hall filled with students and staff on April 19 for the sixth annual Festival of Scholars and Artists. Students of all class years and disciplines displayed their research in poster sessions, speaker panels and thesis presentations. Additionally, there were various visual art and art history presentations in the Hoffman Gallery, music performances in Evans Auditorium and a dance show in Agnes Flanagan Chapel. Students presented their work in designated morning, afternoon and evening sessions with special event sessions in-between. Classes were canceled all day to encourage students to attend and support their peers.

Natalie Stroud ’19, Althea Billings ’19 and Malavika Arun ’19 presented their research in the second morning session, entitled “Apologies.” Stroud’s thesis, “Why Do States Leave International Organizations? Explaining the 2016 Brexit Vote,” explored the social, political and economic factors that pushed the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Billings presented on public perceptions of the press after the Catholic sex abuse scandals, in a thesis entitled “Don’t Shoot the Messenger: Clergy Sex Abuse Scandals and Catholic Perceptions of the Press.” Arun’s thesis, “Effectiveness of an Apology : Group Entitativity and Apology Strength”, examined the relationship between perceived group cohesiveness and the strength of their apologies. The diversity of these presentations was just one example of how the Festival connects different disciplines.

The seats were filled with attendees before the session even began, leading many to sit on the floor or stand.

“I thought it was amazing, it was a lot more people than I was expecting,” Stroud said. “The Festival of Scholars is a great event and I am really happy that a lot of people turned out.”

Arun presented on her research with Associate Professor of Psychology Diana J Leonard on intergroup apologies.

“Individuals are predictable,” Arun said. “You know what their values are. They are one single unit, as opposed to groups. There is a lot of variability. Groups can change, based on the group members, over time. People would rather trust an individual than a group.”

She elaborated on why studying this is important.

“Understanding what makes apologies effective can help solve intergroup conflict with reconciliation, especially with international conflicts,” Arun said.

Morgan Heithcock ’22 attended the “Apologies” session. She felt that the venue was much too small for the amount of students who attended.

“I loved the presentations, but was a little disappointed in how the venues were handled,” Heithcock said. “There were way too many people in small classrooms. Regardless, the student presenters did such a great job, and you could tell that they were really knowledgeable and passionate about their topics and that the audience was interested.”

Although many of the panels and special event presentations focused on senior theses, seniors were not the only students that presented their research at the Festival.

LC Natural History Club (NHC) member Grace Reilly ’21 presented her project, “A Look Into the Small: A Scientific Exploration,” in an afternoon poster session.

Reilly said she was involved with the NHC independent study practicum, where she was able to work with the specimens in the NHC’s collection over the course of the semester and craft her research. Participation in the Festival was easy, according to Reilly, and only required faculty nomination and approval of her research. Reilly also discussed the attendance at the sessions.

“I’m actually really surprised at how many people turned out, even at the early morning session there was a lot of people there too,” Reilly said. “It’s interesting to talk to people who maybe weren’t looking strictly from an academic perspective, or aren’t just here because one of their classes require them to be.”

Silas Hassrick ’19 presented his thesis on the 2017 legalization of same-sex marriage at the “Justice” panel.

“I presented on something that was not American-focused, and it forced me to make it more understandable to a wider audience,” Hassrick said. “Instead of starting off by explaining my puzzle in terms of international relations, I asked the room, ‘Who in this room knows or can identify with the struggles of the LGBT community?’ and everyone raised their hand.”

Hassrick commented on the difference in presenting at the Festival and presenting his thesis to his thesis class.

“It was nice to be able to not get bogged down on the academic side of things and focus on the cool things,” Hassrick said. “It was great to share something I had been working on the whole year.”

There has been some discussion among students on campus of whether it is worth it for classes to be canceled for the festival and whether students should be required to attend.

“I’m happy they cancel class,” Stroud said. “I think it’s a great way for people to show off the work they’ve done and a way for students, especially underclassmen, to kind of gauge what other majors are doing and if it might be of interest to them.”

Heithcock expressed that the festival was indeed a great opportunity for underclassmen to get a glimpse into what their future holds.

“I only really knew that this was happening a couple days before it happened, but I definitely think it’s helpful for underclassmen to see what’s coming up for them and to see what types of avenues of research can be followed,” Heithcock said. “It’s nice for the presenters themselves, too, to be able to show off all their hard work they’ve been doing for such a long time. I’m really glad they make time (by canceling classes) for everyone to come see.”

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