Return to Portfolio Home

Academic Festival 2011

Posted: 05/06/2011

With more than 315 students participating in 150 presentations over 55 sessions, it is safe to say that Academic Festival 2011 was one busy day, chock full of activity and knowledge. 

Sessions covering a wide range of disciplines took place throughout the campus. Although the majority of presentations were by older students, both the First-Year Experience and Master of Arts in Liberal Studies shared the spotlight, with sessions by students in each area. Honors Forum Director David Vella reported that attendance for each session averaged 27 people, and included students, faculty, staff, visiting parents, and community members.

The accompanying Portfolio covers some high points of Academic Festival 2011, including eco-birdhouses, an environmental art project by students of Karen Kellogg. Details on a small number of presentations are shared below.

-According to a Stanford study, 93 percent of Americans acknowledge that they’re “addicted” to their smart phones. So Stephen Lento ’11 decided he would find out what happens if you take away a Skidmore student’s Smartphone. The results were surprising. A group of 20 students who surrendered their smart phones for the 24-hour duration of the study actually reported lower anxiety and higher self-esteem than the control group of 20 students who were allowed to keep their phones. Those deprived of their phones appeared to go through a short withdrawal period during which anxiety increased, but after ten hours it tended to decline, Lento said. Self-esteem increased among those deprived of their smart phones, he theorized, because – unlike the control group -- they were spared the pain of not receiving messages.

-What happens if you take a small group of individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease and present them with a nutritional intervention? That was the question that Exercise Science majors Danielle Voorde, Derrin Jarvis, and Sarah Strothers, all Class of 2011, asked. Their three-week study offered a great deal of information and a considerable amount of tasty, well-prepared food. The eight study subjects were invited to consume a vegetable and fruit dinner, prepared in the College’s test kitchen; and given hands-on details about costs of fruits and vegetables, including how to shop, store, and prepare at home. The result was an increase in positive attitudes toward the preparation and consumption of fruits and vegetables, accompanied by an increased desire to learn more and to eat more fruits and vegetables. The American Heart Association indicates that approximately 90 percent of the population is at risk for cardiovascular disease—so a change in attitude about food and increased consumption of low-fat, high-fiber food can lead to postive outcomes.

- Jared Greenbaum ’11, a self-determined major in arts administration, explored perceptions of the arts at Skidmore, and laid out a plan for more coherently branding the arts at Skidmore and collectively marketing events in music, theater, dance and art. His recommendations included the on-campus distribution each semester of a comprehensive calendar of events suitable for hanging in dorm rooms and offices; an upgrade of the current “arts portal” on the Skidmore Web site; the creation of Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for each of the four arts departments; the launch of a monthly email arts newsletter; and the establishment of an arts hotline by which callers can obtain a listing of arts events for the week.

- A Sociology poster session by students of Professor Catherine Berheide engaged visitors in the Dana/Palamountain lobby for a part of the morning. Six students explained their studies on a variety of topical issues, including the following: “Activism and Interest: Attention to Media and Political Involvement,” by Emily Owens; “Life of the Party: Latino Voters’ Political Party Preference,” by Javier Calderon; “Examining Health Satisfaction of U.S. Veterans,” by Lucy Hochman; “Crossing Racial Lines: Whites” Attitudes Toward Interracial Marriage and Neighborhood Racial Integration,” by Teshika Hatch; “Do Whites Avoid Racially Integrated Neighborhoods? The Effect of Education and Prejudice on Whites’ Neighborhood Preferences,” by Emmily De Los Santos; and “All Men Are Created Equal? Racial Disparities in the U.S. Prison System,” by Gregory Morales. The students, all members of the Class of 2011, were trained in their presentation skills by participating in the 81st annual meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society in Philadelphia earlier in the semester.  Best of all: Owens and De Los Santos received awards for “best poster” in their respective research sessions at the Philadelphia event.

-“Sexuality, the Goddess and You,” was a group effort by students of Professor Mary Zeiss Stange.  The interactive, interdisciplinary, multimedia exhibit connected goddesses past and present through the study of feminist spirituality. Among the items of interest: Skidmore survey data on knowledge about goddesses and their worship, an original documentary film, an interpretive altar display and meditation space, and visual depictions and explanations of modern-day goddesses. One quirky aspect: Socrates as feminist. Who knew?

-Would you trade a spring break in Florida to work on an upstate New York farm? Ten students under the sponsorship of Kim Marsella, environmental studies, did just that to gain hands-on experience and knowledge in sustainable agriculture. Anna Graves ’14 helped coordinate the project, which took place on a farm in Essex County, N.Y., toward the end of one of the harsher winters in recent memory. The result? Students experienced some of the less-romantic aspects of farm life—rising before the sun to do morning chores while wearing headlamps, for example. In addition to collecting eggs and mucking out stalls, the students helped the farmers get a head start on their maple season by forging a new trail and tapping numerous trees in the sugar bush. In one morning they moved three tons of grain into a barn, a chore much appreciated by their host farmer. They split into teams to prepare and serve meals and were surprised by how much time is spent on things such as making butter, jam, and cheese. The students said they did not realize how busy a farm could be in the winter; they gained considerable knowledge about the risks of farming. And they came away with a greater understanding of the time, effort, and patience involved in farming. Another dividend: “I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did,” said Kelsey Renning ’11.

More Academic Festival: Click here to view a video on Environmental Studies, here to see a poetry reading, here to view the Psychology/Neuroscience poster session, and here to see the session on Japanese folktales.