• Sontosha Orbin discusses what she learned in her First-Year Seminar on “The Science and Art of Play” with Stephen Tipps, who is a member of Southwestern’s Board of Trustees. (Photo by John Kotarski)

Many college students never have the opportunity to publicly present research while they are undergraduates.

At Southwestern this fall, some students had an opportunity present research just eight weeks into their first semester on campus.

The occasion was the First Symposium, a new event started this fall to give students an opportunity to present what they learned in their First-Year or Advanced Entry Seminars, which are required of all incoming students. The symposium was designed to introduce students early on to the importance of presenting and talking about what they have learned from their instructors and one another.

Students from 15 of the First-Year Seminars and one of the Advanced Entry Seminars took advantage of the opportunity to participate in the symposium. On the day of the event, the Bishop’s Lounge was filled with everything from poster presentations to chocolate-themed artwork made by students in Romi Burks FYS on “The Science and Culture of Chocolate” and pop-up books made by students in Desi Roybal’s FYS on “Movable Books: Manipulating Life through Discovery and Ingenuity.”

Students in Alison Marr’s FYS on “Wheels and Deals: A Survey of Television Game Shows” hosted a game that pitted students against faculty members and students in John Pipkin’s FYS on “Creative Writing: The Short-Short Story Form as Social Commentary” read some of the short stories they had written.

More than 200 people attended the symposium, including students, faculty, staff and members of Southwestern’s Board of Trustees, who were on campus that day for their fall meeting.

“This was such a wonderful event for our students in many ways,” said Traci Guiliano, a professor of psychology who teaches an FYS on human sexuality. “They got their first taste of what a professional conference is like and, through the other FYS sections, they also got exposure to a wide variety of different types of scholarly and creative works from many different disciplines.”

Students in Guiliano’s seminar presented their research on controversial issues in human sexuality such as male circumcision and whether the HPV vaccination should be mandatory for 4th graders.

“They really enjoyed getting to show off their work not only to other students and faculty, but especially to members of the Board of Trustees,” Giuliano said. “This was a terrific culmination of their First-Year Seminar experience.”

Students who participated in the event said it helped prepare them for their academic future at Southwestern.

“It was a great baby step for us as first-year students,” said Michelle Hershberger, who was one of the students in Elaine Craddock’s FYS on “Gender Myths: Good, Bad and Ugly.”

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