Student Research Shines for 21st Consecutive Year

The annual symposium took place on Friday, July 19, with 59 students from the classes of 2020 and 2021 presenting their research.

The day began with 30 students sharing poster displays in the Innovation and Discovery Center (IDC) atrium. Topics shared with faculty, staff, students, parents and guests ranged from the spirituality of college students to the question of China’s potential to be a superpower.

After the poster sessions, 28 classroom presentations were made with one student presenting an analysis of the representation of schizophrenia in Hollywood films. Art Thomas ’20 explained, “Film represents people with schizophrenia as violent and threatening or extraordinarily talented.” Thomas’s presentation showed that even in films based on real people, such as A Beautiful Mind and The Soloist, the portrayal of schizophrenia is often limited to inaccurate stereotypes. “I studied films that portray schizophrenic characters in order to identify a story that is not being told by Hollywood.” The cumulative result is a screenplay written by Thomas titled “Grey Matter” that portrays an underrepresented Latina character with schizophrenia.

Another student researcher, Sean Lewis ’20, examined the multiple ethical questions behind paternalism using two primary approaches. Specifically, he spoke of “nudges” and gave real-world examples from the Ursinus campus community. Audience questions ranged from the ethics of paternalism in child rearing to how can I use this “to get what I want?” Lewis, like other student researchers, spoke of the value of the Summer Fellows experience and the value of working with his mentor.

The classroom presentations also included a talk by environmental studies major Jess Greenburg ’21 titled “Confronting Existential Despair in Environmental Studies.” Greenburg wrote a manuscript with mentor, Richard Wallace, for publication in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. The paper compiles strategies that will help others in environmental studies courses “process their feelings of existential despair and hopelessness, so that we can continue solving environmental problems instead of being tempted to give up.” The results of the research that Greenburg completed have already been implemented in the environmental studies program at Ursinus.

The summer fellows working with faculty mentors conducted research both inside and outside the classroom. Many of the student fellows already plan to continue their research through the next academic year. Of the Summer Fellows experience, Greenburg added, “It was really great to work so closely with a professor and have that mentorship.”

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Mark Schneider, who described the research program as “cutting-edge” and “increasingly competitive,” says the summer fellows program boasts a “comprehensive set of activities and opportunities for the students not only to engage in their scholarly pursuits, but also to become part of a larger scholarly community.” —Monique Kelly