Goshen College hosted its 24th annual Academic Symposium this Wednesday. The Academic Symposium provides a platform for faculty and students from various backgrounds and departments to showcase their original research and creative works. 

“The purpose is to celebrate all the different things that students have accomplished,” said Ann Vendrely, vice president of academic affairs and academic dean. “We know that students are doing lots of interesting individual and small group projects.”

This year, GC decided to suspend classes for the day, marking the first time this has been done. When deciding whether to cancel classes, the planning committee will “pay attention to student participation and make sure it’s worthwhile,” according to Venderly.

Keynote speaker Dr. Laura Miller-Graff from Notre Dame kickstarted the event with a lecture titled “Rigor and Right Action: Supporting Human Dignity in Research.” Her talk focused on how people can contemplate human dignity at stages of the research process in order to impact the research in a rigorous and relevant way.

The Queen Singers, a women of color singing group at GC, also took the stage to sing a rendition of “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys.

Robert Brenneman, a planning committee member and professor of criminal justice and sociology, said the idea was to show that “symposium day is not just for presenting research.” 

“It’s also for presenting the creative arts,” he added. “We’ll have musicians doing things and [some seniors] presenting their recital pieces.”

After the Queen Singers’ performance, Vendrely transitioned into recognizing faculty who were promoted or published in the last year. 

A reception followed before faculty, students and community members attended their first student presentations, which began at 10 a.m. with the last session ending mid-afternoon.

The symposium’s schedule currently lists over 100 students presenting topics ranging from gender roles to robot demonstrations. According to Vendrely, more students are now presenting since the symposium’s beginning.

When speaking about the importance of the event, Brenneman said, “Ideas matter, research matters, it matters that we do it well. It’s important for students, especially seniors, to have the opportunity to share what they’ve learned.”

Robert Sanders, a senior sports management major, shared research from his senior capstone project, “The essence of servant leadership.” 

Sanders said his research focuses on  “maximizing our possibilities to produce servant leaders” through belonging, identity and compassion, with a specific focus on better understanding and improving athletics at GC. “I’m passionate about servant leadership and believe our college athletic department could greatly improve if we continue to rally around a better understanding of servant leadership,” he added.

Sanders also said the Academic Symposium is a “great starting ground” for fitting his research into his future goals. He plans to pursue nonprofit work, having already founded his own nonprofit organization with servant leadership as the foundation. 

Olivia Koop, a senior biochemistry major, delivered two presentations. Her first study examined how patriarchal structures and gender roles impact the lives of Indian women in India and the United States, despite the migration of Indian families to the country. 

For the second session, she and other students involved in the chemistry department “synthesized proteins that have potential to be antibiotics.”

“I think the symposium is really cool because you can learn about … different projects and research outside your own,” Koop said. “It [also] feels good to be able to share my research that I’ve invested so much time into.”

Venderly emphasized the importance of recognizing the accomplishments of others and what people can gain by celebrating them.

“I think some of the things that students are doing are really amazing,” she said. “For them to see each other and be inspired by it, I think that’s important.”

Sanders encourages other students interested in pursuing research or presenting at future symposiums to do so.

“Find something you’re passionate about and take the first steps in that direction,” he said. “Enjoy the research and know the greater purpose attached to what you’re presenting.”