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CTL Faculty E-Newsletter

Celebrating 5 Years of the Senior Symposium

by Caitlin Caron,
Coordinator of Writing Initiatives

April 19th marks the 5th annual Senior Symposium.  To celebrate, we asked HWS seniors, faculty, and alumni to reflect on the benefits of the experience, and the importance of having the HWS community attend student presentations.

In 2010, Morgan Hopkins (’10), currently Coordinator of Leadership Programs in the Centennial Center for Leadership, presented her Honors research in a presentation titled “The Relationship Between Benevolent Sexist Attitudes and Recognition of Male Privilege.”  Hopkins says:

My Honors advisor encouraged me to participate to practice presenting my research to mixed audiences. The Senior Symposium was the week or so before my oral examination, so it was the perfect opportunity to have an audience ask me questions about my project.

This experience taught me how to condense complex research into a concise 10-minute presentation, an invaluable skill! It also helped me practice public speaking and better prepared me for the conference presentations I did in graduate school.

It was a really reaffirming moment to have a room full of HWS community members there to support me and my fellow panelists. All of those people took time out of their busy schedules to support student academic work and provide thoughtful feedback.

In 2012, Caroline Dosky (’12, MAT ’13) presented the beginning stages of her MAT research in her presentation titled “Lead, Grow, Inspire: Linking Leadership to the Elementary School Curriculum” as an undergraduate.  This year, as a Master of Arts in Teaching student, Dosky will present “Rubrics, Checklists, and Analyses: Addressing the Role of Descriptive Observational Assessment in Teacher Preparation and Growth.”  Dosky says:    

Last spring, I was enrolled in Research in Education with Professor Helen McCabe. At this time, my cohort was immersed in the first stages of our Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) research projects.  Professor McCabe mentioned the possibility of presenting our research at the Senior Symposium.  Almost immediately, I brainstormed and calculated all of the reasons why I should NOT take up this opportunity to present:   I had more questions than answers about my research topic, I would not have nearly enough material ready in time to present in April, and I was going to give a similar presentation in class one week later.  But I presented.

Looking back, presenting at the Senior Symposium was one of the best decisions I ever made.  First and foremost, this opportunity challenged me to narrow my focus, identify commonalities, trends, and themes within the research, as well as define and lay out the direction of my project for the upcoming year.  Even though I had only skimmed the surface of my research by this point, presenting at the Senior Symposium gave me an outlet to ask questions and decide where I wanted to take my project.  During my presentation, I greatly appreciated the chance to practice the art of public speaking in front of peers, faculty, and staff members while articulating what I had found so far in my research.  I am a firm believer that you can never get enough practice with public speaking, especially in a supported environment. 

Presenting at the Senior Symposium was empowering.  The faculty, staff, and students that came to my presentation seemed genuinely interested and invested in my topic.  They asked questions that altered the course of my project in meaningful and insightful ways.  Two faculty members also approached me after my presentation and gave me resources that I had not previously come across in my research.  Both of these resources proved to be foundational in the future direction of my project.  At a small, liberal arts institution like Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Senior Symposium is an engaging and valuable opportunity for the entire community to celebrate the research and work of seniors and MAT students as the final semester commences.  I am glad that I took this plunge last year to present my work, and I am grateful that I have the chance to present again this year!   

Kazia Berkley-Kramer (’13) will present “Not Just Rosa Parks? Civil Rights Narratives for Kids” at this year’s Senior Symposium.  Berkley-Kramer says:

One of my classes this semester, Civil Rights Education, had the option to present in the Senior Symposium as part of our final projects. I love talking about academic work that I am passionate about, so presenting in the Senior Symposium was something that I had been thinking about generally, but without an Honor's project or independent study I was not sure if it would work out. Luckily, my final project coincides with my broader academic experience and interests and I am able to combine the two.

The Senior Symposium will give me the opportunity to present my academic work in a way that is both detailed and accessible to the general public. This is wonderful practice for both graduate school and the professional world.  I am excited to share something I am passionate about with my community, and it is really meaningful to have others take time out of their day to learn from and with me.

Kevin Pollard (’13) will present “Cabbage Resistance to Onion Thrips” at this year’s Senior Symposium.  Pollard says:

I decided to present at the Senior Symposium because I have not yet shared my research for Cornell here on the HWS campus and I wish to gain experience in presenting in front of people.  The presence of HWS faculty, staff, and peers shows that my work is interesting to others.

For the past two years, students in Assistant Professor of Education Khuram Hussain’s EDUC 820 Graduate Seminar in Educational Research and EDUC 307 Civil Rights Education have presented their research and course work in the Senior Symposium. Hussain has worked closely with the CTL to make sure that his students get the most out of their Senior Symposium experience: for EDUC 820, he asked that presentations be longer for the MAT students who were presenting and, this year, his EDUC 307 students will be presenting on panels together.  In addition, Hussain has facilitated presentation practice sessions, moderated panels, sponsored several students, and participated in the pre-Senior Symposium Rally Night.  Hussain says:

The Senior Symposium gives students an opportunity to communicate to the HWS and Geneva community the wider significance of course-related themes that intellectually engaged them. It gives them a chance to demonstrate that what they’re learning and thinking about is relevant to a community of thinkers beyond the classroom.

I want students to be able to communicate the context, significance and character of their ideas to an audience that is not already familiar with their class projects. I also want students to participate in thoughtful dialogue with members of the HWS and Geneva community about their intellectual passions and why others should care about them.  I hope my students gain a greater sense of responsibility over their ideas and new insight into how to participate in thoughtful public discourse.

Like Hussain, Professor of Dance Donna Davenport is a long time active participant in the Senior Symposium.  She has facilitated presentation practice sessions, sponsored students, and moderated panels.  This year, she has embedded the Senior Symposium into her DAN 432 Dance Education Seminar by making oral presentation, abstract writing, panel preparation, and the final presentation a part of student learning assessment for her course.  Students will present on their own panel on a variety of topics based on their service learning experiences at North Street School and their independent research project.  Davenport says:

The Senior Symposium is one of the best events of the year and one of the most academically rewarding events we have on campus, because rather than awards or prizes, actual content is delivered, and students' education comes alive.  Instead of simply hearing about our students' academic achievements, we witness it first-hand. It's one of those feel-good moments in an academic year, and yet it is also an intellectual experience delivered by students and supported by faculty, celebrating and defining interdisciplinary education at HWS.

My seminar’s participation in the Symposium will provide the students with an opportunity to synthesize and articulate the value of their individual research projects, as well as the collective purpose of the panel.  This is high-level academic thinking and nuanced communication that upper-class students and graduate students need to demonstrate.

In addition to reinforcing the learning goals of the seminar, I hope my students gain a sense of accomplishment, a deeper understanding of the research process, a clearer understanding of conventions of scholarly presentation, and a desire to continue to share their intellectual interests with an audience in the future.