BY MARY BURGER – STAFF WRITER
This year, Centre hosted the 8th annual Research, Internship, and Creative Endeavors (RICE) Symposium, which allowed students the opportunity to present on research or experiences in which they participated. The event began under the direction of former Centre professor of Sociology Dr. Sarah Goodrum with input from Dean Stephanie Fabritius.
Seventy-four students participated by giving an oral presentation and 44 students completed poster presentations this year. A number of students also submitted artwork. RICE highlights students’ academic pursuits and achievements from seminars, independent studies, personal interests, and artistic endeavors.
“Each year the number of students presenting continues to grow. The quality of student work also continues to excel and can only continue to burgeon as faculty mentors encourage and work with students to develop opportunities for new research and learning, as well as engaging and exciting internship experiences,” Co-Chair of the Undergraduate Research Committee and Head of Reference and Instruction in the Grace Doherty Library Carrie Frey said.
The symposium gave members of the Centre and Danville communities alike the chance to witness the achievement of students. “I believe the vision of [Dr. Goodrum] and the faculty-at-large was to provide a venue where students could share their research, gain experience as professional presenters, and other campus constituents could participate and view the presentations of the high caliber work students are producing at Centre,” Frey said.
Students participating in RICE were able to view the research their peers spent time developing. All poster presentations took place in the Norton Center Lobby. Additionally during the oral presentations, there were four different students presenting in each classroom, often in Young Hall. This year, Associate Director for Corporate and Foundation Relations Kathryn Bowles organized the presenters so that a common theme exists in each room. “Interestingly, these themes are often inter-disciplinary, creating cohesive yet distinctly different perspectives. This is a great way to highlight the wonderful connections that are made in a liberal arts setting,” Frey said.
Unlike past years, all three components of RICE occured on the same day. In the past, the art exhibit opened the day after the oral and poster presentations. “We hope that [this change] will increase the impact and visibility of the art exhibit and encourage everyone to visit,” Assistant Professor of Politics Dr. Benjamin Knoll said.
RICE provided a unique experience for undergraduate research, which normally would have stayed inside one specific classroom, lab, or disciple, to be shared with the campus community-at-large. Last semester, a number of students participated in Assistant Professor of History Dr. Sara Egge’s course titled “American Environmental History.” These students utilized Centre archival resources to research unique topics specific to campus. While these students presented their research last semester, many also chose to enter their posters into RICE as well.
Some classes, like the French Senior Seminar, required students to participate in the symposium. Senior Ellie Graham is a senior French major who participated in RICE this year. “My presentation is titled ‘Charlie Hebdo and Hip Hop in France: Revealing the Modern French Identity’ I’ve been really excited about this topic for months, which makes it a lot more interesting to work on. I’m eager to see what people have to say about it,” Graham said.
This CentreTerm, Amanda Vokoun took “Biology in the Extreme Environment.” Specifically, she studied the climbing abilities of salamanders. “Salamanders shouldn’t be able to climb, but they do,” Vokoun said. RICE gave her group the opportunity to practice giving a presentation while also working with a group to best condense their experiment into a poster.
History major Katie Thompson also participated in the poster presentations. Through Dr. Earle’s course “African Film,” Thompson noted stereotypes about Africa that are pervasive in Hollywood productions, and, through her project, she sought to study that further. “The cool thing about RICE is that I get to see what other students do. As a History major, I don’t get to see what science majors do. Presenting in the same room really helps bridge that gap,” Thompson said.
“Centre College values ‘experiential learning’ and there’s no better way to get your feet wet and experience what it’s like to learn to be a creator of knowledge than by engaging in undergraduate research and sharing your results with others. I love seeing how many students have such fascinating and creative ideas in their projects,” Dr. Knoll said.
Frey also enjoyed seeing the work students have prepared. “I love to see students in the role of professional researchers and presenters. The presentations are always interesting and often thought-provoking. I usually know a great number of the presenters very well as, not surprisingly, these students are very active library users.”
The opportunity to celebrate undergraduate research at RICE allows for all of campus to witness the academic successes of Centre students. With ever increasing numbers of participants, the symposium is a fantastic way to discover a merge between academic divisions at a liberal arts school.