Students and staff gather in the Fireside Room for the Opening Reception of the 2022 Seaver Research Symposium. Vice Provost Lee Kats said the event has grown from a group of 10 student participants in 2006 to over 150 this year. Photo by Sammie Wuensche
On March 25, dozens of seats in the Fireside Room filled with students and faculty dressed in their nicest business attire to kick off an annual series of events celebrating research and honoring the students who spend months — and for some, years — on their projects.
The Seaver College Research and Scholarly Achievement Symposium is a 16-year tradition that brought in over 150 student participants. Assistant Provost for Research Katy Carr said the symposium empowers student researchers and brings attention to the work they do with faculty mentors.
“In the research project process — there’s so many parts of it depending on your discipline or your specific project that are essential — but one of the most essential that sometimes people don’t think about is dissemination,” Carr said. “You have to have a place to share it. So this was meant to give that opportunity.”
The Provost’s Office sponsored the symposium and welcomed the Pepperdine community to the conference-style research event with a formal Opening Ceremony. Carr said students working in research programs at the University and on their own participate in the symposium, with creative and performing artists taking part as well.
Seaver Dean Michael Feltner was the keynote speaker at the ceremony, offering remarks about his hopes for the symposium and his goals for participants.
“I know all of you in the room have engaged in scholarship, and that requires perseverance and sacrifice, and all the information can be tedious and exact and incredibly frustrating,” Feltner said. “But that’s not the fun part of it. That’s the part that leads to fun because we have a discovery and we put the puzzle together.”
Vice Provost Lee Kats said he and his office were impressed by the high turnout given the transition back to in-person instruction this year.
“I was afraid that it’d be a third or a half of what we used to get, but it’s pretty much matched our best turnouts from the past,” Kats said.
Art Exhibition and Poster Session
To engage students who may not be aware of research opportunities on campus, Carr said she placed the art and poster sessions — which took place at 2 p.m. following the Opening Ceremony — in the Waves Café. Carr wanted to grab peoples’ attention and encourage them to learn about the topics their peers are passionate about — possibly motivating new research in the future, she said.
Chief Business Officer Nicolle Taylor said students are not the only ones she hopes are inspired by the symposium.
“It is to remind all of us faculty what our work is doing,” Taylor said. “It is for us to be able to see what all of that work culminates in through the success of our students,” Taylor said.
For junior Chemistry major Elizabeth Chang’s research, she created an enhanced microwave that preserved the starting ingredients of scientific compounds she was studying. Chang said in her eyes, the symposium is a day of exploration.
“It’s really cool to see what other people are doing, especially the people outside of your department,” Chang said. “Sometimes it can feel like I’m in a little bit of a science bubble.”
With research studying the growth of alternating generations of ferns, senior Tristan Furlong said above all, he cherishes the support he received from his faculty mentor — Biology Professor Donna Nofziger.
Sophomore Art minor Stella Engel said she worked on observational portrait drawing with her faculty mentor Yvette Gellis since the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year. Engel said the symposium was the perfect time to put her work on display.
“I was interested in doing a showcase as a senior presenting all my things, but I can’t because I’m [an Art] minor, so it was great to have this opportunity,” Engel said. “I think this brings attention to artists because we don’t do a lot of shows like this, and if we do, they’re usually a lot smaller.”
Performing Arts Session
The musical component of the symposium began at 3:15 p.m., and music professor Ryan Board moderated in Raitt Recital Hall. Artists based their performances on research they did on composers, Carr said, and the goal was to draw attention to unconventional forms of research.
“When you think of research, people think of labs with petri dishes — I mean, I certainly thought of that,” Carr said. “There is that more traditional view of it, but really, it does look different when you’re talking about the performing arts or the creative arts.”
Students performed various genres of music in a concert-style show. This included some of Christopher Parkening’s guitar students, classical artists, musical theatre students and instrumental chamber performances.
Senior Madalen Carerra — who has a double major in Political Science and Sociology — gave an oral presentation of her research in the Black Family Plaza Classrooms at 3:15 p.m.
Carerra said an internship with the Department of State for the Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement within the Caribbean region in spring 2021 inspired her research.
“I was noticing a lot of gaps in research where immigration statistics could fill,” Carrera said. “A lot of the policies that they were implementing in these countries, I felt like I could help aid in their decision making, so I decided I wanted to start Caribbean immigration research.”
After all her hard work, Carerra said she was excited to finally put her research on display.
All student researches receive invitations to participate in the annual symposium, Kats said, and Seaver is proud to provide them with a platform to share it.
“There’s a lot of hard work that goes into scholarly and creative activities in the academy,” Kats said. “Today is just one day where we try to celebrate it at Seaver College.”
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