Video: Academic Conference Celebrates Students’ Wide-Reaching Research, Creativity

Over four days, 415 students of all class years showcased their work in a variety of disciplines through poster presentations, lectures and performances
April 30th, 2019 by 

“How many black women therapists do you think there are in the state of Massachusetts?” Olivia Fenty ’21, a psychology major with a concentration in Africana studies, asked a room full of students and faculty members at Academic Conference. The staggering answer — 17 — served as the entry point into Fenty’s presentation on The Chocolate Project, an organization she started to support self-care for black women.

Fenty was one of 415 students presenting at Academic Conference, a four-day celebration of students’ academic achievements at Holy Cross. And while poster presentations and lectures are staples of the conference, students also showcase their creative projects — including, this year, a dance performance led by famed choreographer Ronald K. Brown, Arts Transcending Borders‘ spring 2019 artist-in-residence; and a parade of wearable trash costumes and larger-than-life dragons put on as an “anti-celebration” of plastic waste by the Montserrat global society cluster. The College even canceled classes for a day to allow students to sit in on different presentations and learn from their peers.

Michael Lyons ’19, an economics major, presented his research about referee bias during the NCAA’s March Madness tournament. As a basketball fan, Lyons was able to combine his interests with his studies. But more importantly, he developed a full economic analysis as his senior economics honors thesis — which he started over a year ago — and saw it to fruition.

“I wrote a prospectus, including a literature review and the methods for the study, and built the data set after work and on weekends during the summer. This past fall, I met with Professor Rob Baumann every week to focus on data analysis and refine the regression models, and I spent the remainder of the semester writing the thesis.”

Students of all class years participate in Academic Conference. Although Claire Goldsborough ’22, who is undeclared, has only been on campus eight months, she gave a lecture on the imperialism of Paul Gaugin’s painting “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” Her presentation was inspired by a paper she wrote in her Montserrat class with Virginia Raguin, Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the visual arts department.

“As a first-year student presenting at the Academic Conference, I was equally flattered, excited and nervous. In the weeks before the Conference, my impending presentation loomed over me, causing me a little anxiety, but on the day of the Conference I felt eager and enthusiastic to be a part of such an important event. It was a wonderful experience that I don’t think I would have had at any other college, especially as a first year.”

For Dante Che ’20, a chemistry major, one of the most interesting parts about his presentation — on probing bacterial cell surface interactions — came during the planning process.

“Preparing my presentation required me to find ways of simplifying many of the complex methods we use in lab every day. For example, rather than talking about the procedural/methodical portions of lab in great detail, I found it would be most useful to simply talk about the overarching method we were performing in lab: site directed mutagenesis.”

Together, students were able to share in the vibrant intellectual life on campus, across disciplines and genres.

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