Students present research at the John C. Young Symposium


Did you miss RICE but are still interested in learning about undergraduate research? Are you interested in possibly undertaking a yearlong research project? Still need a few convocation credits? Saturday, April 26, is the John C. Young Symposium. During two sessions (9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:oo-2:30 p.m.), this year’s seven John C. Young scholars will be presenting their work.

The John C. Young program is a collaboration in the form of a grant from the Knight Foundation for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. Centre College was one of the first liberal arts institutions to host this program. It serves as a chance to work more closely with a faculty mentor and delve further into a subject area of interest.

The ideal candidate for the John C. Young Program would begin to look into an area of interest toward the end of his/her sophomore year. Over the summer and fall semester, the researcher is beginning to compile their information. Applications are due during the spring semester of junior year. This includes a tentative budget and the project overview, which informs the committee of what the prospective scholar wants to uncover or research over the course of the year.

“Part of the John C. Young program is to help our students accomplish what they want to do, which is why they create a budget. Some of them use it to travel, interview people, or go to libraries or places to get information they can’t get here. It gives them the chance to attend conferences and bring speakers here. Sometimes, mostly with the sciences, they can get some of the materials that Centre does not own and is specific to their project, so they are able to buy them,” Dr. Eva Cadavid, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and head of the John C. Young Committee said.

The committee for selection for the next year’s projects is made up of the faculty advisors for the year’s current projects. Each prospective scholar receives a fifteen-minute interview, unless the pool of applicants is particularly large, in which case a few preliminary cuts are made.

Senior Stephen Metcalf is one of the current John C. Young Scholars and working on a project titled “On the Search for Meaning: An Analysis of Major Themes in Spiritual Memoirs and Autobiographies.”

Although a Behavioral Neuroscience major and Math minor, Metcalf found that this program allowed him to delve into an area of interest in a way that taking an independent study would not allow. The John C. Young project, however, is not an easy one to attack.

“I read thirteen works, taking detailed notes on each along the way. I then read through each set of notes and categorized each note by theme. I analyzed each set of notes for the most common themes, and if a theme appeared in the majority (seven) of the works, I counted it as a theme for my project,” Metcalf said.

He also travelled to the Abbey of Gethsemani, where one of the authors he studied, Thomas Merton, spent his adult life as a monk. In this visit, Metcalf was able to interview another monk who had lived with Merton and observe some monastic services.

Another project is “Presentation of the Person and the Persona: Theatrical Analysis of Identity Performance in an Online World,” researched by senior Olivia Palmer. The project is a dramaturgical analysis of the online identity that Internet users project.

“Theatre is an important framework that I think can be used for a more academic sense for understanding what the human condition is, particularly looking at how we function in a more immediate sense,” Palmer said.

As both a History and a Drama major, Palmer was frustrated by the fact that, in history, one looks at events long after they happen. Theatre can be used to see where people are at in that particular moment in time.

For her research, she looked at the work of Erving Goffman, who came up with a dramaturgical model for identity in the 1950s. Goffman said then that identity is something performed by the individual in the same way that a performer portrays a character. Palmer sought to reevaluate this research by looking at the use of identity through the social media lens, such as on Facebook.

It can be daunting to think about working on one project for long periods of time. The John C. Young Program challenges scholars to truly learn about time management while also granting the ability to delve into a research topic. The Symposium allows scholars to share their work with the community at large so that the community can celebrate these accomplishments.


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