Each spring, just before commencement, Fort Lewis College hosts the Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities Symposium to celebrate the research and creative works of graduating seniors. This year, more than 150 projects were featured in the event either as posters, live oral presentations, or recorded videos shared online. This year's projects represented a wide range of interests from studio art to carbon fiber bicycle frames, rockets to brand graphic design, and fiction adaptations of films to mathematical theories.
“I was happy to see how broad and diverse the Symposium works were this year,” says Missy Thompson, associate professor of Health Sciences and coordinator of Undergraduate Research. “In years prior, it’s been dominated by the sciences, but we’ve worked with faculty to encourage more participation and we’ve grown to be more inclusive.”
The event kicked off the morning of April 29 with recorded presentations going live on the platform Symposium and an online opening ceremony with remarks from Provost Cheryl Nixon.
"This is about celebrating the work you’ve done over the past year and celebrating you in your role as a researcher, a creative thinker, and an idea inventor and embracer."
“This year has been one of struggle like no other, but now we’re at a point of triumph. This is about celebrating the work you’ve done over the past year and celebrating you in your role as a researcher, a creative thinker, and an idea inventor and embracer,” says Nixon. “Hopefully your research has led you to think of some new ideas and find new meanings. That self-discovery and self-definition is a part of thinking through who you are and coming out of COVID with a sense of a new you, a new set of ideas, and a sense of shaping yourself to embrace the future.”
Oral presentations took place indoors across campus and posters were arranged outside on walkways in the heart of campus. The online and outdoor poster presentations were products of COVID-safe event planning, but both elements were a huge hit. The outdoor presentations highlighted the beautiful natural environment students have learned in as Skyhawks, and online presentations were shared far and wide with families, friends, and even graduate schools.
With the help of Career Services, graduate schools across the country had access to the Virtual Symposium for recruiting students to their programs. Because seniors conducted research and shaped their creative works under the close mentorship of faculty, the prospect of graduate-level work is a natural progression for many of them.
“FLC is so unique in that we offer these amazing research and creative experiences and a close faculty-student connection; that is something you really don’t see until graduate school,” says Thompson. “These things are so embedded and celebrated in our curriculum.”
The event’s closing ceremony reflected that celebratory energy, acknowledging seniors’ hard work this past year and their accomplishments. Thompson announced the award winners and President Tom Stritikus provided closing remarks, setting the stage for what seniors will do next.
“What you did today sets the path for your professional future,” says Stritikus. “Seniors, congratulations on your amazing work, showing the breadth and depth of what we can accomplish here at Fort Lewis College, and faculty mentors, thank you for your close work with our students creating high-quality projects that set the stage for the rest of our seniors’ professional service.”
2021 Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities Symposium Awards
Best Oral Presentation
Elise Boulanger, Throughline: Student Works Inspired by the Center's Collections, an exhibit at the Center of Southwest Studies
Department: Art & Design
Faculty mentor: Elizabeth Quinn MacMillan
Best Poster Presentation
Tiarney Andreas, Ethnic Identity, Acculturation, and Well-Being
Faculty Mentor: William Mira
Best Creative Work
Alyssa Ford, My Seven Sisters, A Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Series
Department: Art & Design
Faculty Mentor: Amy Wendland
People’s Choice Award (bracket voting via Fort Lewis College’s Instagram page)
Kaytie Ridle & Tad Elliott, How Exercise impacts Vitality and Sleep Quality
Department: Exercise Science
Faculty Mentor: Susumu Iwasaki
The virtual presentations can still be viewed online on the Symposium platform.