Annual Dean’s Honor Symposium at Eugene Lang College Highlights Undergraduate Liberal Arts Research
Eugène Lang CollegeThe annual Dean’s Honor Symposium continues the tradition of celebrating the liberal arts while teaching students how to present their academic research. Attracting students from all walks of Lang, this undergraduate research conference challenges students to showcase their work and find ways to bring their projects together with those of other disciplines from different disciplines under one topic.
“It’s exciting to see the growth of our students as they learn to pitch their projects as academics and share their interests with the world,” said Lang Dean Jennifer Wilson. “At Lang, we encourage students to take charge of their own academic growth, and it shows how much they have broadened their conception of the liberal arts, of research, and of themselves as academics and researchers.”
Almost 30 students participated in this year’s program, which consisted of original research projects presented in a poster session and panels. Interested students applied to the symposium during the fall semester, and those selected were matched with academic advisors who guided them in mastering academic discourse and scientific presentation.
“As a senior, I think part of what made me want to apply for the Dean’s Symposium was that it was like the perfect farewell before graduation,” says Natalie Vaval, Journalism + Design ’21. Vaval’s project is a card game called Lift Every Voice, named after the Black National Anthem; it was initially developed for a mid-term group project on the theme of black identity for the class Transmedia: Skills and Craft. An educational game a bit like a game show Danger, it highlights the unknown and unrecognized achievements of the black community that have contributed to American culture as a whole. “This project has definitely cemented its place in the culmination of the work I have done at Lang over the past four years, and it is also the most creative body of work I have developed in my major,” explains Vaval.
A key element of the symposium is to provide a space for students to engage with others outside of their majors. Rather than being grouped according to their academic field of study, participants are grouped according to the overall objective of their research. This year, the panels were organized under four themes: Redoing the past, changing the future; On the habits of power (American); Cultivate the community during crises; and who am I? Who are we / us? By working together to build their panels, the students gave each other advice, helping them to develop their presentations from the initial concept to the final product.
The panel Redo the past, change the future provided Dillon Bernard, Journalism + Design ’22, with the opportunity to develop relationships and learn from students whose interests lie outside journalism and the media. “I have learned a lot by being able to actively connect with other students through university programs, as my interactions with other students are mostly with journalists and people who are passionate about the media. It was a powerful reminder to me of the many ways people can approach what has become the overarching theme of our session: the power of storytelling and storytelling, ”explains Bernard. “Working regularly on my presentation with other students and a mentor over several weeks has been extremely helpful. I now have a presentation and flow that I can readjust as I continue to give other presentations around my work. I feel more confident to be able to give an engaging presentation.
The symposium is a unique opportunity for students to develop skills that will be useful to them both inside and outside the classroom. “It’s inspiring to see our students grow proud and confident to present the results of their hard work and to discover that their talents extend far beyond just being students. They are researchers, academics, artists and professionals, ”Wilson said.