The Work We Do Together, Celebrating Student-Faculty Research

From tracking the role of gender stereotypes in political campaigns to determining the complex processes by which stars form and release energy, the range and depth of original scholarship by students and professors at Smith College can seem as vast and varied as a map of the universe.

Honoring that scholarly work is the purpose of the annual event “Celebrating Collaborations: Students and Faculty Working Together, ” held April 12 in various locations around campus. Students presented the results of their senior theses, independent study projects, research seminars and other creative work in a day of oral sessions, panels, posters sessions, exhibits and performances.

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In 2011, Victoria Henry ’12, right, and Genevieve de Mijolla ’13 presented plans at Celebrating Collaborations for a 2,000-book library they developed and hoped to build for teenage mothers in Peru.

“Celebrating Collaborations provides the platform for students to share their collaborative work with peers, parents and the entire Smith community,” says Danielle Ramdath, associate dean of the faculty and chair of the event. “More importantly, Celebrating Collaborations provides the platform for the Smith community to congratulate students on their hard work and dedication.”

Featured projects this year ranged from research on women and consumer activism in the late 1930s to an investigation of the making of an “artist’s book” to a linguistic inquiry into non-binary gender pronouns.

Jesse Kline ’15 spent seven months conducting research as an intern with Lake Research Partners in Washington, D.C., through Smith’s Jean Picker Semester-In-Washington Program. She consulted regularly with Assistant Professor of Government Brent Durbin and on Saturday will deliver a PowerPoint presentation on her investigation into the role of gender stereotypes in political campaigns and how women candidates can “use the negatives to raise more money, win more seats for their party, build more experience, and accrue favors to use strategically in the future.”

“Though we are 14 years into the ‘century of women,’ “ Kline says, “sexism persists and barriers remain in place for women considering running for public office. I was interested in determining whether or not we can learn from the growing ranks of female politicians who have overcome such obstacles.”

Jennifer Podel ’14, who also presented on Saturday, collaborated with L. Clark Seelye Professor of Astronomy Suzan Edwards. According to Edwards, Podel worked to extract information from data Edwards collected at the Keck Telescopes in Hawaii—two of the largest optical telescopes in the world—to better understand the formation of a star and its planetary system. “She has made some very important contributions to understanding how these processes work,” Edwards says. “She’s writing a thesis, and this summer we’ll turn it into a published paper.”

Collaborations projects are often developed as a result of associations with the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute or Praxis, for example, and fall into categories ranging from science and technology to social, cultural and literary studies to the performing arts. Celebrating Collaborations is a project of the Committee on Academic Priorities.

“There’s something about a live and diverse audience—parents,  fellow students, a roving group of faculty mentors—that brings out the best in students who present at Collaborations,” says Susan Van Dyne, professor of the study of women and gender. “In a single day you can see an impressive array of original work—poetry chapbooks, science posters, excerpts from honors theses, even performances. Their talks are succinct distillations of original work that is always engaging and often surprising.”

This year marks the 13th annual event of Celebrating Collaborations. Last year Collaborations showcased the work of 433 students, who participated in 252 presentations, with the guidance of 116 faculty members. This Saturday’s program included a roster of more than 200 presentations. A full list of 2014 programming is available at the Celebrating Collaborations website.