Undergraduate Conference Showcases Whitman’s Diverse Interests

Josephine Adamski

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.

Photo by Marra Clay

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,” said senior Emma Snyder, who 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,” said junior Clayton Collins.

Photo by Marra Clay

This year there was no shortage in topic diversity. Presentations included everything from senior Keiler Beers’s topic, “‘Esclavitud en Arizona’: Immigrant Detention as Systemic Neoslavery” to Collins’s, “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,” said Snyder

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”  said sophomore Randy Brooks.

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.

Photo by Marra Clay

“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” said senior Kari Paustian.

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,” said sophomore Nick Wechter.