Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

From the Archives: 26 Years of the Whitman Undergraduate Conference

Tuesday, April 10 marked the 26th annual Undergraduate Conference, a day intended to celebrate the academic work completed by Whitman students. Dozens of students presented their work over two panel sessions and a poster conference held in Cordiner.

This year’s conference looked different than in years past because of its relocation to the Provost’s Office. Fellowships and Grants played a key role in event organization for over 20 years, and this year’s logistics left students desiring more. Even with limited sessions, last-minute schedule changes and unfamiliar rooms to visit, attendees appreciated the opportunity to watch their peers in action.

The Undergraduate Conference has been an ongoing project since its conception – this week, The Wire highlights some of its moments from the last 26 years: commentary on its beginning, reflections on the first years and a look back at projects from the 2014 conference.

Each article appears as it was initially ran; the only edits are to spelling. 

Students commend peers’ studies at Undergrad Conference

by Elizabeth Johnson, Staff Writer

April 8, 1999

The first annual Whitman Undergraduate Conference on April 6 was a success. Assistant Dean of Faculty Mary Anne O’Neil said that she was very pleased with the attendance of the conference.

“The thing I was happiest about was the quality of the pre­sentations,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil overheard a faculty member comment that the qual­ity of some of the presentations he heard on Tuesday were better than some he has heard at profes­sional conferences.

O’Neil attributes this to the yearlong research that many of the presenters undertook. The confer­ence opened with a musical gala in Cordiner on Monday night.

O’Neil expressed thanks to the music department for their hard work the night of the concert as well as their many performances throughout campus on Tuesday.

Almost every area of campus was well-represented. Presentations ranged from music to photogra­phy to sports.

O’Neil said that a highlight for her was the multidisciplinary pre­sentation on the Kirkman House in Walla Walla.

The presenters, Olivia Allen, Calleen Cannon, Ann Marie Jonsson and Sara Lindsley, stud­ied many archives as well as the buildings’ relationship to Whitman.

There was one minor problem that worried the organizers of the conference — the power outage.

Around lunchtime on Tues­day, all power to the campus was lost. In the small gym of Sherwood, some students’ poster presenta­tions and a reception area of des­serts and coffee had been set up since 9:00 a.m. O ’Neil said they decided to move the posters into the hallway.

Once the lights were re­stored at about 1:30 p.m, the hallway was crammed with students attempting to view the posters.

According to O’Neil, the suc­cess of the conference was a cam­pus wide effort.

Next year, there will be some minor changes, O’Neil said, such as more presenters and different organization of events.

She encourages all students to begin planning on sharing their research at next year’s Undergradu­ate Conference.

Second annual undergraduate conference a success: Activities widely attended, reactions to presentations varied

by Alex Morrison, staff writer

Over 100 Whitman students gave presenta­tions and hundreds more were in attendance during the second annual Whitman Under­graduate Conference.

To many, the presentations appeared uneven — some seemed too specific, inaccessible or unpolished, while others were interesting, easily understood and wellrehearsed. For the most part, however, audiences were happy with the conference. The presenters were also largely satisfied: though a few complained of sparse crowds, most talks were well attended.

In fact, many of the present­ers were grateful for receiving an opportunity to share their work with Whitman as a whole.

“It’s the only time in my life that I ever do what I do as a performer,” senior classics major Elise Schumock explained.

“Sometimes when you work on something for a while, you begin to think that you’re the only one interested in it,” senior English major Tom Luce agreed.

Other students, like sophomore Tyler Ross, felt obligated to give a presentation because Whitman had funded their research.

For the most part, presenters made a conscious effort to make their work understandable to the general student body.

Many students of course did not attend the undergraduate conference, finding it more rewarding to sleep, do homework and play. However, most of those who did attend liked what they saw.

“I really liked hearing what my friends were passionate about,” sophomore Lisa Haas said.

“Some of the science ones were kind of intimidating,” first-year student Sarah Stevenson said.

Junior Tom Armel agreed. He thought that certain science presentations were too technical and aimed at too specific an audience.

“I’m a bio-chemistry major and there was some stuff that I didn’t understand,” he added.

Some presenters, like senior theatre major Kate Ratcliffe, who gave her presentation on solitude in the plays of Samuel Beckett and William Shakespeare, made assumptions about the level of knowledge the audience held. 

“Most of you know quite a bit about Shakespeare, I as­sume,” Ratcliffe said as she be­gan her speech. Often, such assumptions proved accurate.

Other presenters defended their choice to make their talks more specialized. Though he did try to explain some of the more complex terms, Ross, who spoke about the Washington State economy, said, “I perceived my audience as economics students.”

Ross added that he tried to explain some of the more complex terms, but admitted a student who was not taking economics might find it difficult to understand.

“I didn’t gear it toward pro­fessors, but I didn’t want to bore them, either,” he explained.

Several students thought that the pre­view book should have indicated the type of audience at which each presentation was aimed.

Though organizing com­mittee member Mary Ann O’Neil said, “It’s never as successful as I wanted it to be,” she and virtually everyone else associated with the planning of the day was pleased.

This year’s conference seemed to go smoother than last year’s.

Because last year was the first, “it was sort of a shot in the dark,” Jeff Gower said. Gower is an intern who worked on the undergraduate conference this year and made a presentation last year. Mostly, little things were improved. For example, this year, each speaker was supplied with water.

There were some things that, in retrospect, the organizing committee would have liked to change. The opening musical gala, which was held in Cordiner Hall, occurred at the same time as the final game in the NCAA tournament, and only about 100 students showed up.

Undergraduate Conference Showcases Whitman’s Diverse Interests

by Josephine Adamski, staff writer

April 10, 2014

On Tuesday, April 8, the Whitman Undergraduate Conference sought to showcase the hard work of the students at Whitman College. The day is dedicated entirely to students presenting short talks, posters and performances inspired by academic and extracurricular research and scholarship.

This year’s conference continued the tradition of focusing on the diverse interests of Whitman students and highlighted projects many have spent months completing.

“I think many students want to share something they are proud of with the rest of the Whitman and Walla Walla community –this could take the form of a thesis or class project, or anything really that they’ve devoted a significant amount of their brainpower to,” senior Emma Snyder said. She presented a talk entitled “Binge Watchers Anonymous: The Disruption of Contemporary Television.”

Whitman is known for having students who are passionate about their academic work. The conference allows exposure to projects many have spent the greater part of the year taking on.

“People spend so much time on their research or study abroad and don’t get a lot of exposure for them, and I think it’s great that the school sets aside time for them to do that,” junior Clayton Collins said.

This year there was no shortage in topic diversity. Presentations included everything from senior Keiler Beers’ topic, “‘Esclavitud en Arizona’: Immigrant Detention as Systemic Neoslavery” to Collins’, “Fellowship of the Voice,” which examines a capella vocal music. Though diverse in interest, a common theme within these presentations was awareness. The presentations, be they from the hard sciences or the humanities, consistently questioned and analyzed the world around us.

Director of Fellowships and Grants Keith Raether is one of the organizers of the conference. He said this year offered some new record highs in terms of student participation, and in turn offered an example of the value of a Whitman education.

“We did see a record number of poster presentations this year –42,” Raether said in an email. “The [conference] is plain evidence of the value of a liberal arts education. The conference demonstrates the benefits of broad knowledge and ways of thinking that have practical application every moment of your waking life, personal and professional.”

The Whitman Undergraduate Conference gives those who have worked hard a point of pride as they move forward.

“I love the way the conference almost acts as this Whitman academic career benchmark I can look back on,” Snyder said.

This event effectively showcases Whitman students’ dedication to being active participants in the world. Those who are not presenters also reap the benefits of this showcase.

“The Whitman Undergraduate Conference was highly rewarding. The day was significant in that it reflected the extreme wealth of knowledge available to us as Whitman students, and it was inspiring to see so many students participate,” sophomore Randy Brooks said.

This day was made possible by the cancellation of all other classes. This allowed students to learn and support friends who participated in the day without academic repercussions.

“I’m really excited [about the day] – I know a ton of people who are presenting and it’s really cool to hear what people have been working on. We have always talked about the thesis as this huge thing, and we don’t really talk about it in detail. It’s fun to hear about the details from my friends,” senior Kari Paustian said.

Because there are so many presenters, students attending the day have a hard time choosing who to go see.

“I’m so overwhelmed by it, in a good way. I see so many familiar names, and I want to go support them all,” sophomore Nick Wechter said.

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