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Academic Festival 2012

Posted: 05/04/2012

Milestones of Creative Thought was the theme of Academic Festival 2012, the 14th annual celebration of academic excellence at Skidmore. This year’s festival was the largest yet, with more than 400 students participating in 120 presentations during the festival’s 64 sessions.

At the close of this year’s event, Honors Forum advisor, Professor Catherine Golden, reflected on a successful day. “Even sessions as early as 9 a.m. in Business and English had about 15 people in attendance. Students from all the divisions at Skidmore presented – humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and pre-professional programs – and the student presenters showed obvious pride in their work, which ranged from thesis and capstone work to community involvement, visual communications, undergraduate research, library exhibitions, and more,” Golden said.

“The campus was buzzing from 9-4, and there were many venues, ranging from the Spa to Palamountain classrooms, Dana Science Center rooms, and the library,” she added.

She singled out several new activities for special mention. “The entire day was a high, but I was particularly pleased with the new initiatives this year – the roundtables and the game/challenges. The roundtable on “Skidmore and the Saratoga Community” and the roundtable on “Visual Communication” were truly interdisciplinary. The Saratoga Community session and brought together like-minded individuals from a range of disciplines who have been invested in Saratoga Springs in a range of ways.  The presenters came from a range of disciplines – Psychology, Business, Environmental Studies, and Mathematics and Computer Science, and English. The students talked about working with the city of Saratoga Springs to further sustainability issues, ranging from hybrid vehicles to bicycle infrastructure. Student interns at Shared Access Saratoga also talked about helping with low-income areas in our city and the use of GIS maps to illustrate areas needing improvement.”  

She continued, “Other students talked about reading in a range of venues, including the Jefferson Terrace Head Start preschool, Saratoga Springs elementary schools and middle and high schools through Saratoga Reads! Junior Reads, Prestwick Chase Book Chat Club, and the dementia unit at Wesley Health Care Center. We had a lively discussion about the ways to become involved with our community, and many students who attended were excited that these are ongoing initiatives and hope to become involved in future years.  Students presented videos and power points, also using the visual to teach about community involvement.  Professor Janet Casey led a discussion that tied together these projects and encouraged students to think of ways to recruit new students to keep projects ongoing and how citizenship projects might be connected to the curriculum through Honors Forum requirements or service learning.”

Added Golden, “The lunch-time trivia challenge sponsored by the newly formed Literary Society was a big success. There were nine teams, and questions ranged from Beowulf to Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, and Harry Potter.  The Skidmore Shop generously provided gift certificates to the top teams.”

She expressed pride in a group of students from her own Honors Forum course, “The Victorian Illustrated Book,” EN228H. Their festival session, titled “Past and Present: An Illustrated Look at Regency and Victorian Times Versus Today” took place in Scribner Library, where “students explained their exhibit that examines aspects of our modern world in relation to Regency and Victorian times. The five cases in the exhibition focused on the past and present in beverage consumption, fashion, popular icons, childhood, and entertainment.  The students spoke with confidence and poise and taught their large audience about how our world resembles and departs from the Victorian age, the dawning of our modern era. A Victorian-themed tea party complete with homemade scones then followed, a highlight for all.”

Other highlights from Academic Festival 2012 include the following:

  • “Beyond Bars: Skidmore Students Lead Reintegration Workshops at Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility” – Three students under the direction of David Karp, professor of sociology and associate dean of student affairs, conducted a series of workshops this past semester at the medium-security Mt. McGregor Correction Facility. As an independent study under the “Skidmore Success” series, Hannah Levine ’14, Phoebe Stein ’14, and Ronald Solis ’12 led sessions for 22 inmates on employment, housing, stress reduction, conflict resolution, and family reintegration. Since the inmates have no Internet access, the students were their liaison to the Web, conducting research online and then organizing packages of materials for each workshop. “We did not present ourselves as professionals or authorities in the field, but as a connection between them and the information on the Internet. We told the participants that we were learning also,” said Stein. Added Stein, “The stereotypes can be crushing. We really learned to see the participants as people, not as prisoners.”
  • “The Pursuit of Novel Sound,” by Brendan Gaffney ’12, with faculty sponsor Flip Phillips, professor of psychology, and Johannes Goebel, director of EMPAC at RPI. Introducing what might be described as a computer-based music box of his own devising, Gaffney reported on his investigations into the psychophysics of sound and his work with sound synthesis algorithms. Phillips led off the presentation in the Arthur Zankel Music Center with a brief review of how the physics of sound are translated into what we commonly refer to as “hearing.” Goebel discussed his own path-breaking explorations in computer music, dating back to the 1970s.
  • “Residual Effects of Adult Cannabinoid Treatment Following Adolescent Pre-exposure,” by Sam Brook ’12, one of a group of Psychology/Neuroscience senior thesis research projects. The poster session represented the results of each student’s year-long senior thesis project.
  • “Symmetry in Knitting,” by Ava Hamilton ’12, with faculty sponsor mathematics Professor Dan Hurwitz. An examination of the concepts of symmetry, and how they can be applied to a piece of knitting. The session covered the symmetry of an actual knit stich as well as the implementation of symmetry patterns within the knit medium. Knit pieces, including sweaters demonstrating frieze patterns, were shown.
  • “Mud and the Maya: A 2,203-year record of hydro climate in Yucatan, Mexico, from an annually layered stalagmite,” by Aurora Pinkey-Drobnis ’12, with faculty sponsor Amy Frappier, Charles Lubin Family Professor for Women in Science. A geoscience senior thesis presentation based on work conducted over two years with the Anthropology and Geosciences departments. Pinkey-Drobnis used stalagmite CH-1 from Yucatan, Mexico, as a proxy for 2,203 years of environmental change and tropical cyclone events. The chronology spans the time of the Terminal Classic Period, giving insight into the mystery of climatic change leading to the Mayan collapse.
  •  Icarus: An Original Greek Tragedy in English,” by faculty sponsor Dan Curley, professor of classics, and the following students: Thomas Coon and Elizabeth Pierce, Class of ’12; Jovany Andujar, Lucile Campbell, Noam Dagan, Julia Romano, Class of ’13; Emma Friedman, William Hoeschler, Mohamed Sylla, Annaleah Westerhaug, Class of ’14; Eric Beriguete, Emily DeFiore, Nicole Friedman, Javier Garcia Frasier Glenn, Zoe Gross, Marcella Jewell, James Rimmer, Hallie Thesing, Class of ’15.

    Icarus is the story of the famous inventor, Daedalus, and his daring escape from the clutches of the tyrannical King Minos. Crafting wings for himself and his son, Icarus, Daedalus flies away from bondage, while Ariadne, daughter of Minos, escapes with a mysterious stranger. The play seeks to answer the question of what happens when mortals test the limits of human ingenuity and trust to the bonds of love?


(Photos by Phil Scalia, Hugh Foley, and Patricia Wright.)