Research Symposium Back at Saint Mary’s

College-wide event showcases academic and creative projects

On Thursday, May 4, the campus-wide Saint Mary’s Symposium reignited. Dormant since 2019, the creative and academic works from students and faculty were once again on full display at locations across the campus.

Beginning Wednesday night, several events helped launch the endeavor. A kickoff reception at the Center for Academic Innovation located on the third floor of the Cushwa-Leighton Library showcased several research posters from faculty. Students presenting their final dance performances followed in O’Laughlin Auditorium. Thursday contained a full day of panel discussions and poster presentations, along with an open house in the Spark Lab, a new makerspace in Haggar College Center. 

Professor Bettina Spencer from the department of psychology, helped coordinate the event. She said the return to a full symposium program is important to the College because it provides a space for the full campus community to come together and celebrate our shared accomplishments. Because many of the College’s larger events and traditions have been modified over the past few years, this year's program is one of the first times in several years that students, faculty, and staff can congregate together and share their work.

Graduate and undergraduate students engage in a wide range of research at Saint Mary's, but many people often don't understand what research is occurring in various departments and divisions, Spencer said. By showcasing student research across the college, “Everyone becomes better informed of the scholarship being carried out on campus. Showing this range of research helps all of us better understand and appreciate what this looks like in different disciplines.”

Because students have the opportunity to present their research to attendees, they gain valuable experience explaining their work to people who come from different academic backgrounds. “It takes practice to translate your own expertise into a language that anyone can understand, and the Symposium is the perfect space for students to gain that experience,” Spencer said. 

Angela Martinez Camacho ’23, graduating this month with a degree in psychology and sociology, presented her research at an afternoon session in Spes Unica Hall. Studying the stressors found by those who are Latina and queer in higher education, Camacho created a study that would measure the kinds of stressors and to gauge if their institution was providing adequate support.

Upon hearing her presentation, Camacho hopes administrators understand students need their active support. “I think the addition of the LGBTQ+ Center at Saint Mary’s is amazing and offers a sense of acknowledgment to our LGBTQ+ students. But what matters the most is when faculty and staff are interacting with these students to show they are in support.” 

A hallmark of research at Saint Mary’s is that undergraduates are allowed to conduct studies on topics of their choosing, a fact Camacho found exciting. More common at the undergraduate level, students assist faculty with their research. “This is my own original research that I began in my late junior year,” Camacho said. “I did have an advisor, Dr. Leslie Wang, who helped with the composure of my senior comprehensive written portion, while other faculty in the sociology department also helped me when needed.”

SparkLabAccording to Spencer, the Symposium expanded to include several new components, including student awards for best graduate work and best undergraduate work. Collaborating with offices across the College, organizers created a program that is more reflective of the full campus. Partnerships with Career Crossings, the Spark Lab, and the Center for Women's Intercultural Leadership each provided programming. There were also speakers from the Office of Student Equity, Information Technology, The Writing Center, and The Center for Spirituality.

“I hope that everyone will have an appreciation of the breadth of scholarship being carried out across Saint Mary's,” Spencer said. “We don't always know what is happening in other parts of the College, and the Symposium helps us see and celebrate all of that great work.”

May 4, 2023

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