Field of research

Students share diverse body of work at Undergraduate Symposium

Northern Arizona University’s students work hard each academic year to perform in-depth research, create pieces of art, and study new business models and methods. On April 25, 2014, this work will culminate in the 7th annual Undergraduate Symposium, where hundreds of students from every college and department will share and present on the results of their research and creative activities with the university and local community.

Academics on display

Held primarily on the field of the Walkup Skydome, the Symposium features posters and exhibits that span the length of the field, with five different stages dedicated to presentations and performances.

The diversity of these projects ranges from research outcomes found in the College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences, to elaborate works of art from students in the College of Arts and Letters—however, the one thing each exhibit has in common is the level of hard work and academic devotion demonstrated by the students presenting them.

This year will be no exception. Kimberly Speer, a senior theater design and technology major from the College of Arts and Letters, is featuring an exhibit where she has constructed a ball gown out of recycled VHS tapes. Her project is designed to explore how media affects the environment, and how, by using innovation and some ingenuity, we can discover uses for otherwise obsolete media.

“A lot of people are under the impression that electronic or online media is more eco-friendly than physical media, but that’s not always the case,” Speer says. “You have to consider the energy it takes to power servers and everything that goes into online media, plus the fact that traditional media, like books, are composed of paper almost completely made from recycled materials. The goal of this project is to encourage people to think differently about media and the effects our consumption of digital media can have.”

On the other side of the spectrum, Gabriel Vega, a first year mechanical engineering major in the University Honors Program, is sharing his exploration of Henry David Thoreau’s concept of civil disobedience, and how Americans have neglected their duty to act against injustice.

“It’s a personal belief that it’s people’s responsibility to act on what they think, and not just speak out,” Vega says. “Thoreau’s concept that people should step up and support what they believe in is still relevant today, and that’s what I’m hoping to convey.”

Senior elementary education major Jisella Williams, another student in the University Honors Program, will present studies on how a five-week teaching practicum in social studies affected teacher candidates’ concepts of teaching.

“Presenting this subject at the Symposium is important to me on a personal level because I believe all children should have a quality education,” Williams says. “The first step to accomplishing that is ensuring that the teachers themselves have a quality education and access to the experience and resources they need. With teaching, it’s so important to connect theory with practice, and that’s why I think it’s a valuable program.”

A student showcase

Wolf Gumerman, Director the University Honors Program and coordinator of the committee that oversees the Undergraduate Symposium, is excited for this year’s exhibits and presentations, and explains the value of the Symposium—both for the audience, and the presenters themselves.

“I love the Symposium because it’s a showcase for the community to see the various students’ activities and research happening throughout the year,” says Gumerman. “The Symposium features more 700 students, and the beauty of holding it in the Skydome is the diversity of presentations and posters we can include. It’s just a great celebration of all the amazing work our students have accomplished.”