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Undergraduate work in College of Arts and Sciences in the spotlight at annual Student Symposium


On February 5 and 6, students presented a variety of topics at the College of Arts and Sciences’ Student Symposium in the Houston Cole Library.

The annual symposium is an event that highlights students and the work they have accomplished in the areas of study in the School of Arts and Sciences. The students who participate are asked to do so by faculty members.

“Professors take into consideration the quality of the paper that has been written by a student. If the professor feels that this quality
of work is worthy, the student may be asked if he or she wants to present the paper,” says English professor Susan Sellers.

Professors not only ask students to participate, but they help guide them through the process. English Professor Jennifer Foster compares her role as a mentor to being a tour guide. “Ultimately, I just hold my students and participants in the symposium accountable with due dates and basic guidelines for assignments,” she says. “They do the rest.”

This event can be a great opportunity for any student, and those who participate appear to take great pride in what they present. Nikki Pruitt gave a presentation on Biblical allusions in the video game “Assassin’s Creed.” Pruitt says, “I was really excited about combining both my major and my minor, as well as pointing out that some video games do have deeper meanings.”

Even though this event is a fantastic opportunity, it can present its challenges. Gillian McCary had some of her own that she triumphed over.

“Because I am so passionate about English, I could have given an entire lecture on my chosen subject. I had to keep reminding myself that I had a ten minute time limit,” she says. “I also had to keep the audience and judges in mind and remember that I was not speaking to English enthusiasts only, but also math, psychology, and biology professors as well.”

The struggles are not something that only the students face. Even the professors face a few challenges with the students they mentor through the process.

Foster says, “I haven’t really had any problems as a mentor because my role is so minimal. When past students have discussed why Jesus
was the original zombie or that Yahweh is an archetype for horror movie antagonists, I was afraid they might offend someone. Fortunately, I don’t think this has ever been the case.”

So what would be the best part about participating in an event like this? Each participant has their own “best part.”

Grace Larkin, who won the award for the Undergraduate English Presentation, says, “I think the best part of participating in the symposium is presenting a paper that I was proud of in front of not only my peers but faculty as well.”

McCary says, “One of the things I most enjoyed was getting to hear other students share their own research and hard work. As someone interested in all aspects of learning, it was fascinating to learn what my academic peers in other areas are doing in their own fields.”

“I would advise any student who is asked to present to take advantage of this opportunity,” says Sellers.

Even if participation by presentation is not an option for you, participation by attendance is another fantastic option. There is always something to learn and the symposium provides a great atmosphere for learning something new.

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