Posters, departmental presentations impress visitors with student achievement

Academic Symposium 2023 provides a showcase for a broad range of projects in varied disciplines

April 29, 2023

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This year’s Academic Symposium — an annual celebration of the work of Saint Michael’s College students – culminated on a high note this weekend. First came departmental presentations throughout the main academic buildings on Friday, April 28, followed by Saturday’s traditional poster presentations in Dion Family Student Center Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The poster session, all on Dion’s third floor along tables set up in the Roy Room and in the main foyer lounge at the top of the stairs this year, saw more than 80 poster presentations in nine disciplines. Parents, fellow students, faculty, staff and others strolled among the presenters, or enjoyed free pizza and beverages set up in the bright lounge area outside the Roy Room.

Well-dressed students and their posters or videos provided visitors with detailed windows into high-level work, which some said often began many months to a year prior. With earnest and friendly enthusiasm, students engaged questioners expertly about  projects from Chemistry and Biochemistry, Digital Media and Communication; Fine Arts: Art & Design; Fine Arts: Theatre; Mathematics and Statistics and Data; Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts; Physics; and the greatest number from Psychology (27) and Political Science & Criminology (23).

Jeffrey Trumbower, vice president for academic affairs, paused from his review of Saturday’s poster session to describe how much he had enjoyed the religious studies presenters in Jeanmarie he heard Friday afternoon in his own field of expertise.

Of Saturday’s poster event, he said, “It’s been great to see this event back after the COVID hiatus, with everyone explaining what they have accomplished and the research pieces they have done. It is so exciting to see this back in action.”

Added Professor Peter Harrigan from Fine Arts, “It’s great for them to share their work with the public since it is always fascinating and exciting to find out what happens in our classrooms. We have a public dimension to our shows in theater, but this still is a little different since it allows people to ask questions and see what went into it, step by step.”

Here are snapshots from chats with random poster presenters on Saturday across a broad range of topics:


Lesley Rivera ’25, left, Margaret Herrick beside her, and Lauren Best tell visitors at Saturday’s poster session about their MOVE volunteer experiences. (photo Stephen Mease)

Four women —  a sophomore, two juniors and a senior — had on their table reflections and mementoes from their service work through MOVE (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts), the service arm of Edmundite Campus Ministry.

Lesley Rivera ’25, a political science and biology major from Orange County, CA, said her reflection demonstrates her most important connection to St. Mike’s as she traveled with a MOVE group to New Orleans this year, and worked among migrants in Immokalee, FL, a previous year, inspiring her to work with Migrant Justice when back in Vermont. “The whole purpose of MOVE is to give students a chance to learn from their surroundings and use their education to do so,” said Rivera, who hopes to work in government to help people, perhaps advocating for migrant workers or becoming a doctor.

Emma Gooley, a psychology major, said she hopes to work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation and emergency services, inspired by her MOVE trip this year to Hope House on Long Island. Meg Herrick, health science major with sociology minor as a senior, hopes to work in health care or public health, and enjoyed four years mentoring middle school girls.

At a table just at the top of the Dion stairs, Sam Heyliger described and showed clips from his documentary film probing “why people like to destroy things.” For their film he and a student partner Peyton Edwards ’23 visited “rage rooms” that allow people to smash things like printers  with a bat or golf club in a safe environment to vent. “It’s not good for the long-term to go destroy things, but good for instant release,” Heyliger concluded. “It showed me people ultimately need to be mindful of the actual problem at hand and take a second before getting rage-full and releasing in a violent way.”

Next to him, Will Coppola and Cam Wilson, both seniors, had done a documentary film on “A Sound Mind – How Music and ASMR Ease the Mind.” ASMR – standing for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” — has become a big business, using various audio strategies that help people relax. Coppola and Wilson both did advanced video and audio work as work-study students for Marketing/Communications at the College.


Learning more about international students in the U.S. (photo Stephen Mease)

Inside the Roy Room, theater students had visually interesting set-ups at their tables. Sadie Chamberlain, sophomore from Burke, VT, was dressed in a costume from the spring show Women This And Women That about suffrage, and her displays showed steps of creating costumes through a costume lab with Harrigan. Nearby, Ainsley Cook and Matthew Tupaj showed how they designed scenery and direction and lighting design for a production of Dracula. Tupaj, a theater major with business minor and senior from Essex Junction, said he recruited Cook, a theater major and gender studies minor from Randolph, during a shared class to help him, and they learned what a process it takes to complete a task right. “It’s never the first iteration that you do,” Cook said. “We spent many hours figuring out what was feasible – it was a fun process that’s been happening since October of last year.”

Scientists with esoteric topics helped visitors less well versed in science to understand their impressive work. Colin Radican, a biochemistry major from New York state, had the poster titled “Protein Engineering for Feedback Resistance in 3-deoxy-D-arabino-heptulosonate 7-phosphate synthase.” He said that basically, through genetic engineering in a biological pathway, scientists hope to make end products that can be produced more efficiently en masse, since today, a variety of important medicines and agricultural products are limited in production by the biochemical issue his work is trying to reduce or eliminate.


Andrew Champagne ’23, blue shirt at right, explains his proposed research to visitors and why he hopes to become a dentist. (photo Stephen Mease)

Andrew Champagne, another biochemistry major with a statistics minor from Concord, NH, wants to be a dentist. He spoke fluidly without notes, yet with deep knowledge, about a study he proposed for a seminar with Professor Shane Lamos that might link gene mutations to a greater likelihood of cavities in dental patients, showing that genetics as much as oral hygiene practices lead to cavities.

A whole row of posters showed work from the criminology majors (see some topics from departmental presentations list below). Two full rows of table beyond that had work from Saint Michael’s psychology majors and their traditional extended off-campus internships in the field.

Veda LeClerc and Emma Nadeau, psychology seniors from Maine and Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom respectively, described working in Winooski schools this past year with emotionally troubled children, one in middle school and the other in high school. LeClerc linked behaviors to food choices, while Nadeau looked at effects of emotional trauma on students and their schoolwork and behavior. Nadeau wants to be a classroom behavior interventionist, while LaClerc hopes to own a business focusing on food and functional medicines, offering quality foods that can positively affect individuals and their lives.

Caroline Curley from Duxbury, MA, worked at a memory care facility in Williston that uses an approach called “Best Friends,” which she regards as the “gold standard” for memory care after seeing it in action. She is starting the direct-entry psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner program in Boston at Mass General after graduation.

Ashley DeLeon, senior Digital Media and Communications major from Bronx, NY, was showing visitors on a computer her web documentary describing how streaming is changing the paradigm of being a parent and media consumer in the digital age. She wants to go into production of children’s television, and interviewed Francois Clemmons of Mister Rogers show fame, who lives in Vermont, for her work. She said she already has related work lined up in greater New York after graduation that excites her that will use her skills within her main interests.

Friday Departmental Presentations

The bulk of departmental presentations were on Friday, April 28, although on Monday, April 24 presentations by Criminology students in Jeanmarie Hall 366 took place under the direction of Professor Krista Billingsley of the Criminology faculty. Presentations from 10 seniors in that major covered a broad range of topics relating to policing, the criminal justice system, crime policies in Burlington, sexual violence among Vermont College students, policing and mental illness and more.


Religious Studies major Rada Ruggles ’23 presents during departmental gatherings Friday in an image shared by President Lorraine Sterritt on social media.

Education students Friday joined an interactive Student Teaching discussion panel titled “Teaching as a Creative, Analytic, and Reflective Endeavor.”

Following is a random sampler of widely varied presentation topics by discipline: Chemistry: “The Dietary Effects of Various Cattle Fees on the Protein Concentrations in Milk”; Computer Science: “Constructing a Weak Memory Model”; Creative Writing: Participants will read from their original poetry or creative prose writing, both fiction and non-fiction; Economics: “Does Unemployment Affect Crime Rates?”; Education: “Teaching as a Creative, Analytic, and Reflective Endeavor” (panel presentation); Environmental Studies/Science: “The Spread of Deer Ticks and Lyme Disease in the Northeast”; French and Spanish: “Les lecons psychosociales presentees par La pester et le coronavirus”; Global Studies, Equity Studies and Peace & Justice: “Promoting Peace and Love: Exploring Strategies for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation between Russia and Ukraine.”

History: “20th Century Freedom in America”; Mathematics/Statistics/Data Science: “Blackjack and counting cards: How can you beat the dealer?”; Philosophy and Ethics: “Knowledge of Other Minds and Its Application in a Clinical Setting”; Physics: “Detecting the elusive muon and Validating Einstein’s Special Relativity”; Political Science/International Relations: “Friends with Benefits: The ‘Special” Relationship between the United States and Israel”; Public Health/Graduate Health Equity: “Food Security on Saint Michael’s College Campus”; Religious Studies: “The Development of Pastoral Counseling in the Catholic Tradition”Sociology/Anthropology: “Marital Status and Cancer Survival.”; Study Abroad: “The Role of Ranger on Misali Island.”


A discussion circle among student teachers led by Education Professor Amy Saks Paves Friday afternoon in the Pomerleau Conference Room (photo by Mark Tarnacki)

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