Every time I turn around, it seems, I learn about another exciting project taking place here on campus. With such a dynamic faculty and resourceful student body, it should not surprise me. One good example is the Presidential Scholars Research Fair which took place in early March. The reason I found it so exciting, and worth blogging about, was that it exemplifies so many of our strategic goals and ambitions: it’s all about undergraduate participation in research, interdisciplinary exploration and innovation; it promotes the campus-wide culture of research that we seek, and it certainly encourages greater academic and co-curricular intellectual engagement for our students.
The Fair was inspired by Professor Yasmin Celik Levine, the director of the Presidential Scholars Program. She wanted to set the bar higher for her honors students—and for FIT—by challenging them to explore topics of their own choosing and to learn to use a range of research methods that would create new knowledge about or perspectives on these topics. A tall order. Together with Brian Fallon, our Writing Center director, she developed the Presidential Scholars Senior Seminar, a new course, that required students to produce a capstone project—a 25 page thesis or creative project—on a topic of personal, social, cultural, political, or scholarly interest, along with a presentation of their findings. In addition to Dr. Fallon, the course was taught by Professors Rebecca Bauman and Richard Turnbull.
Initially not every student was thrilled with this new mandatory course. Not only were they being asked to do original research (often from primary sources), but for those not developing a creative project, they also were required to write a 25 page paper, significantly longer than the kind of writing they typically are assigned at FIT, and a prospect that some found to be “scary.”
The Fair was the culmination of the course. It was arranged like a scholarly conference with oral presentations as well as a showcase for all of the students work. An evening event that included dinner, it took place in the Great Hall and made use of the adjacent seminar rooms for concurrent presentations. About 180 people attended.
The students more than rose to the challenge. They tackled a wide array of diverse topics. Here are some of the tempting titles:
- Elite Class Portrayals of Rural, White America
- The Inauthenticity of the Personal Brand
- Not Sorry: Analyzing the Rise of Anger, Power, and Black Womanhood through Beyonce’s “Lemonade” Lens
- Psycho: The Evolution of Stigma around Mental Illness
- Media Representation of Feminism with a Focus on TV Commercials
- How to Find the Most Cost-Effective Place to Live in the Big Apple
- The Wounds May Heal, but the Scars Remain Forever: The Comfort Women
- Taming the Wild, Wild Web: Ethics and the World of Hacktivism
Among the fascinating creative projects on display were photos on for a topic called “Inside Anxiety” and a coffee table and coffee table book created by an interior design student, all inspired by an engraving by the 16th century artist Albrecht Durer on the theme of melancholia.
Among the attendees were Presidential Scholars in their junior year getting a taste of what awaits them next year. I hope they are excited by it. I certainly am!