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More than 200 students present research at annual Scholarship Symposium

Biology major Erin Spencer discusses her research with biology professor Jennifer Gruenke during the Scholarship Symposium. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)
Biology major Erin Spencer discusses her research with biology professor Jennifer Gruenke during the Scholarship Symposium. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)

JACKSON, Tenn.May 5, 2011 – A large, rectangular piece of art met the eyes of faculty and students entering Union University’s Carl Grant Events Center May 3 for the eighth annual Scholarship Symposium.

“This piece is a visual representation of my intellectual thought process of making art,” said Amanda Chambers, a junior art major.

The art has several layers, Chambers said. Clippings from newspapers and other media represent the influence of American culture on her thinking. Another layer consists of words representing her need for diligence as a Christian and as a student. A brain painted in a bright color and Scripture verses she memorized are at the center of the work.

“God does prize reason, but our mind is transformed by Scripture,” she said.

Chambers said the aim of her project was to embody the goal of the Scholarship Symposium: to celebrate using the mind well for God’s glory.

Through display boards and 15-minute presentations all across campus, 209 students from 17 disciplines presented their work to faculty and peers.

Randall Phillips, associate professor of family studies and director of research at Union, said the purpose of the symposium is “enhancing and advancing scholarly pursuit.” He also said practice in communicating ideas and processes is one of the most beneficial aspects of the symposium for students.

“Being able to communicate is a distinctive of the liberal arts,” Phillips said. “Give these students a chance, and they can show you what they can do.”

Phillips added that the Scholarship Symposium also holds value for students applying to graduate schools, and that the type of research done for the symposium is often conducted only at the graduate level.

Jordan Float, a junior biology major, explained his team’s research project in understandable terms to people who stopped to look at their display board.

His team traveled several times to Tennessee Safari Park in Alamo, Tenn., to determine if diatomaceous earth helped to lower the number of endoparasites, such as hook worms, living inside zebras, Float said. As a result of their study, they determined that diatomaceous earth is an effective, organic means to discourage endoparasites.

A few tables away, Alyssa Karr stood by a picture-filled display board. Karr, a junior broadcast journalism major, conducted a “photo elicitation project” about herself as a class assignment. The project involved taking pictures of people and things in her life, then evaluating herself based on the pictures.

“For this project, I wanted to explore myself — particularly in terms of being a woman,” Karr said. “Gender and gender roles in society play such a big part in how we are perceived as women.”

She said considering the pictures allowed her to see her life and what her and other women’s roles are from a more objective perspective.

John Netland, chair of the English department, was one of the 100 faculty members who advised their students for the symposium. This year, he tried something new in his class, “The Novel.”

“What I tried this year was an experiment,” Netland said. “I assigned them Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel. The class project was for students to work in three different groups to finish (writing) the novel,”

Dickens died before completing “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” The three teams at the symposium presented their versions of the story’s end, written to match Dickens’ style.

It was beneficial, Netland said, “for students to understand how to ‘get inside’ the author’s plot.”

Before visiting the English department presentations, Netland joined students and other faculty in looking at posters about research in other disciplines.

“There are a lot of opportunities for students to be exposed to what other students are doing in the classroom, the lab and the studio,” Phillips said.

Symposium video clips and interviews from participating faculty and students will be posted online at www.uu.edu/research. A description of each of the presentations is available at www.uu.edu/events/uuss.

By Samantha Adams (’13)

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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