Academic Symposium 2017 under way, impressive as ever

April 28, 2017

Two high-energy campus gatherings Wednesday displayed and celebrated the work and experiences from two popular Saint Michael’s College majors – media studies, journalism and digital arts (MJD), and psychology, setting a tone of serious scholarship, practical mind-expanding experiences and pursuit of passions for the 2017 Academic Symposium at Saint Michael’s College. An “Experiential Showcase” Thursday dramatized how much there is to learn in College beyond the classroom.

The Senior Projects Exhibit for MJD late Wednesday afternoon in the Dion Family Student Center Roy Room traditionally has kicked off Symposium, given the MJD/journalism exhibit’s beginnings reaching back to pre-Symposium years. Also Wednesday afternoon, about 30 psychology seniors in Pomerleau Alumni Center hosted community partners with whom they had had done academically-based internships, and juniors networked to arrange experiences for next year.

Here are some word “snapshots” from the early events that offer a window on the impressive work and experiences Saint Michael’s students are doing and having:

  • Pomerleau Alumni Center, Wednesday afternoon, was a site-supervisor reception for about 30 psychology seniors and their mentors from semesters spent around the Burlington area for internship practicum. Dave Landers, who for years has helped run the practicum with colleague Molly Millwood of the psychology faculty (each has a section), said experiences included “everything from kids in Winooski with developmental disabilities to a program at a hospital called Art from the Heart to another student working with a homeless shelter. They have amazing experiences so this is a chance to thank the supervisors for what they have done.” Landers said technologists from campus IT helped his section display work on computers instead of on trifold poster board this year, which was exciting.
  • Emily Taylor’17 is hopeful her experience with Burlington Housing Authority might become a fulltime position. “I really ran with it since I love the work – social work in a federally run housing authority, where no day is the same – and this semester I worked 434 hours.” The Foxborough, MA, native with a sociology minor said she “really became passionate” about the work this year.
  • Karen Prosciak is director of Winooski Family Center and had two Saint Michael’s students working with her this year she said. She described the experiences students have and the mutual benefits, including students visiting families at their homes with the Center professionals sometimes so students “get a sense of the real world.”
  • Lance Jandreau is an ROTC student and a junior who explored possible placement next year at Hope Works, an alcohol and drug addiction treatment center, since it might relate to his future work with veterans that he hopes to do. He’s also exploring a program addressing domestic violence since it might relate to some PTSD scenarios with veterans.
  • Kristine Hakey, Burlington YMCA supervisor of early childhood education programs, said she has offered a full-time paying job to the student who worked with her, Margaret Phalen’ 17, based on the experience.
  • Corinne Waters ’17 of Fairfield, CT, a music and psychology double-major with interest in a music therapy career, worked with such a practice in Burlington, visiting schools, senior centers and homes for a host of needs and interventions. “I sing and play guitar and piano and sometimes I’d play when allowed’!” said Corinne, who is accepted into a music therapy program at Lesley College in the fall.
  • Karen Talentino, vice president of academic affairs, said she liked starting the symposium experience at the psychology practicum since student work with adults and children “who really value the input and support our students provide, and our students value them and their experiences. It’s wonderful to see what Saint Michael’s in terms of our students and how they can really help the community and the community can help them – this group in particular shows that to me and it feels driven by our mission as a Catholic College of engaged service in the community.Dion Family Student Center, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, MJD Senior Projects Exhibit:
  • Kimberly Sultze of the MJD faculty explained that year-long student capstone projects “blend liberal arts with hands-on media production.” After proposing topics in the fall, students have to explain and defend the social significance and do research from three disciplines, “it’s great because our students are independent media producers doing great quality work and they have projects to show as they go into the world trying to get jobs.” One student did a film a few years back on ageism and challenges for the elderly and now works for the American Geriatrics Society, she said.
  • Rob Litchfield ‘17, Jamaica, VT, created a web documentary about the condition of roads in the U.S. and the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. His interest developed after Hurricane Irene in 2011 devastated his isolated hometown and changed his life with roads and bridges washed out, making it nearly impossible to get to key places. His conclusion is that U.S. roads are antiquated and need revamping, along with leadership and funding to make that happen. He posted audio interviews, a video interview with a local mechanic who fixes cars beaten up by bad roads. “This is all completely fixable with more funding and onnovative approaches and good leadership, raising taxes, getting infrastructure back where it needs to be to maintain a thriving economy,” said Litchfield, who hopes to enter digital marketing for a career along with his side interest in music. The project gave him skills directly relevant to both.
  • Seth Boudreau ’17 produced a 30-minhte film on automation and what it means for our world, concluding there’s not much to do to slow it down, so it’s a matter of finding balance. With partner Alyson Campbell ’17 he explored automated dairy milking in his hometown St. Albans, VT, community, talked to a Carnegie Mellon expert on self-driving cars which was his initial interest before expanding, and visited MIT to learn about their robotics work.
  • Nearby, Parker Thomas and Haley Clark (both ’17) describe their film “Dogonomics: The Politicization of Dogs across Cultures.” They heard about and were outraged by the results and harsh “solutions” from stray-dog overpopulation in Puerto Rico that they’d read about, but further study lead them to a more anthropological view of dogs now — even though one of them is the daughter of a veterinarian and the other recently lost her beloved dog pet. The film showed how politics and economics play a role in defining a dog, and how New Englanders typically view dogs very differently than do Puerto Ricans or even U.S. southerners.
  • Maggie May Whittemore ’17 of South Paris, Maine, produced a book about the costs, financially and environmentally, of funerals, after seeing a TV show on the topic and wondering if it was really presented on the show. “In our society death is so taboo and I wanted to open up that conversation,” she said, adding that now her own family is talking more on the topic, which she sees as a good thing.
  • Karianne Shetter ’17 of York, PA, who is an MJD major with minors in both computer science and philosophy, wrote a book on the topic of “clickbait” – stories of often questionable serious content designed to attract readers online through calculated or manipulative prurient or provocative headlines and placements and other tricks. She sees it as a competitor to journalism, which she wants to do, and her main observations concerned the generational divide on who recognizes clickbait and who doesn’t.Experiential Showcase, Dion Archway Lounge, Thursday afternoon, 4:30 p.m.
  • Joan Wagner, director of the Center for Community-Engaged Leaning, introduced this sixth annual showcase by saying her favorite part is meeting impressive students she otherwise would not have known. She quoted John Stuart Mill: “There are many truths of which full meaning cannot be realized until personal experiences has brought it home” – which is what the showcase is about, she said: truths revealed to students through experiences. She noted common themes running through projects, such as doing something for the first time, or what it’s like to be “the expert” passing knowledge on to others, or to be leader; others were about building relationship in some way, testing assumptions and changing a person in some way. The display in the Dion third floor McGrath Room consisted of “artifacts” that represented each student’s experience, with a one-page reflection on what it meant, and what they learned.Three students read for the reception gathering:
  • Casey Lendway ’17 wrote about interacting with a client suffering schizophrenia at Burlington’s Howard Center Lakeview Community Care home for adults with severe mental illness.experiential showcase student. One lady seemed to connect early with her but then one day was agitated, yelling at her voices. Casey’ perspective changed. “It was in this moment, in the chaos of her suffering that every psychological theory and framework I had leaned … at Saint Michael’s began to melt way…I wasn’t dealing with a patient, I was dealing with a person in pain,” she reflected, adding that it forever changed how she deals with people, “including myself.”
  • Megan Murray ’17 shared about being a coach in the Writing Center since she was a first-year. She told of a particular young man struggling with dyslexia and ADHS and low confidence who had no command of even basics on writing a paper, but they worked diligently each week and in the end he produced a comprehensive research paper with all those elements. “I learned the importance of adaptability and patience” she reflected. “For every lesson I give, I learn as much as I teach.” Her artifact consisted of the session report sheets from all her Center meetings, tied together with a rose on top since her grandmother Rose had her interest and skill in writing, she said.
  • Sophia Adams ’18, Student Association president, said her biggest lesson from her experience was learning to accept constructive criticism – first when she bungled parliamentary procedures early on (her artifact was the honorary gavel with her name that she uses at meetings), and later when she took heat on issues from lack of diversity in the SA to lack of publicity on student government, or having fuller accountability on the SA; “All of these pressures and impossible expectations pushed me to my limit and then some. I have become so much stronger and confident in this last year because of the challenges” she reflected, continuing “And, I feel successful … but most of all I feel really excited to have the opportunity to continue all this work because I’m only a junior and I’ve been re-elected.”

“Museum of Math” is something new this year in Symposium and was open for viewing too among the starting Friday for a Symposium that runs through Saturday, with hundreds of student presentations in nearly every academic discipline. Starting Friday and through Saturday, students will be filling classrooms in Jeanmarie/St. Edmunds Hall mostly, making oral presentations on capstone projects and other class initiatives. More than 30 separate presentation events with multiple students were on the agenda, with faculty overseeing and moderating.

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