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LAS 2K16: celebrating undergrad research

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Some of the presenters and their presentation titles (including me!)

 

The Liberal Arts Symposium is one of the most popular traditions in the spring semester, and is where classes are cancelled and the entire college community celebrates the research, project development, and performances of Juniata students. I remember my freshman and sophomore year attending the different presentations and thinking with excitement, “I’m going to present MY thesis senior year!” Well that day came, and let me tell you, I was not feeling excitement anymore but sweaty palms and a knotted up stomach.

This entire year, I’ve been working on my senior honors thesis. As I wrote in my last blog, I’ve been looking at how the Indian media talks about corruption, and though I’m still writing my paper, I was able to share with my friends, classmates, and professors my preliminary findings. (Which is that the way we think about corruption, innocence, and guilt in the West is very different than the way Indian newspapers frame it in a specific politician corruption case.) I practiced my presentation a countless number of times, but that didn’t keep me from feeling extremely nervous before I went.

It ended up going pretty smoothly though! To be honest, I don’t remember anything about it except that I think I talked pretty quickly. Whenever I stumbled over my words or suddenly felt uncertain about what I was saying, all I had to do was look out into the audience, where I had so many friends and classmates supporting me. After it was over, I felt so proud; it was so incredibly rewarding, sharing what I’ve been doing with the Juniata community.

Other presentations were just as good! One friend presented on U.S. immigration policies, and another presentation I went to was on research looking at how to genetically modify mosquitos to halt the spread of malaria. My favorite presentation, though, was about synesthesia and the museum experience – the two presenters are even designing their own art exhibition based on their research findings! All in all, the Liberal Arts Symposium was an amazing day!

Extending My Abroad Experiences

My study abroad experience was absolutely life-changing, so it only makes sense that it’s having lasting effects now on my senior year. Last year, I studied abroad in Russia in the fall and India in the spring, and though unique to each other, both gave me independence, self-confidence, and a greater understanding of other cultures.

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This semester I am sharing that understanding of other cultures with local schools through our Language in Motion program. This program links any student who has first hand language or cultural knowledge (so anyone who studied abroad but also international students too) with K-12 teachers. I haven’t visited any classes yet, as I’m still trying to find a time that fits both my schedule and the teachers’, but I’m excited to share my experiences with the students! Throughout the semester I have been planning lessons, ranging from teaching basic words in Russian to smelling and tasting different Indian spices. Language in Motion not only enriches students’ knowledge and encourages them to study a language/go abroad but also allows me to share my experiences and practice my public speaking and teaching skills.

In addition, I am writing an honors thesis this semester, which was heavily inspired by my time abroad. One similarity that both Russia and India has is its endemic nature of political corruption. This fascinates me (especially the overarching acceptance of corruption), and resulted in questions such as, “How are corrupt acts seen by those living in the society?” “How does external information and dialogue influence the behavior of those receiving the information?” “How is corruption talked about in media outlets?” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this topic could easily get out of hand and become a PhD dissertation. That last question, however, was manageable and grew into my thesis project.

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Working at a non-profit in India exposed me to the functioning of everyday bureaucratic life, including the questionable, not so great aspects (but these kids were awesome)

For several months now, I have been looking at a single political corruption case and through qualitative methodology, I have been analyzing the language that is used in news outlets. It has been a daunting task, and I still have a ways to go.  It’s been keeping me busy, maybe a little busier than a second semester senior would like! This process has and will continue to be very rewarding, though, as I’m learning so much about qualitative research and at the end of April I will present at the Liberal Arts Symposium (eek!). Ultimately, studying abroad has opened up many different avenues and opportunities for me, and I will always be incredibly grateful for that.

Intramural Soccer Moms

Growing up, sports were a very large part of my life. Between multiple sports and multiple teams for each sport, I was always kept very busy. When I got to college, it was almost a relief to decide to not commit to a varsity sport, and instead dedicate this free time to the increased workload and many friends that I was making.

At the same time, it was strange not playing soccer anymore, and I really missed it! Fortunately, I discovered intramural sports, which are a perfect combination of low commitment and low pressure fun with the competitiveness of actually playing. We usually play one day a week, always at night after everyone’s activities and meetings are over. Five people are on the field at a time, and halves are twenty minutes long. This is my second year playing intramural soccer and though my team isn’t very good, it’s a blast!

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Soccer Moms, Fall ’15

Now when I say my team isn’t very good, I should really clarify that we are downright awful. Our team name is the “Soccer Moms,” and we’re made up of both guys and girls who haven’t played in many years, some since they were eight years old! The point, however, is not really to win, but to just have fun running around and trying our best (I know this sounds clichéd but it’s true; after your team scores multiple goals on your own net, your expectations really lower).

In the fall, we lost every single game except for 1, which we tied. Somehow, this was enough to advance us to the playoffs, and then we ended up losing our first playoff game. Now, for the winter session, our record is currently 0-3, but I think we just got off to a rough start and things are going to start looking up. Ultimately, I’m just happy to get some touches on the ball and glad that there are low-key options for those of us who don’t wish to commit to a varsity sport but still want to play. So if this sounds like you, don’t worry – there are plenty of opportunities to still be active and play the game you love (whether it’s soccer, basketball, volleyball, or more). Wish the Soccer Moms luck!

Giving Thanks

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Juniata hosted a candlelight vigil, where students were encouraged to share thoughts of solidarity and peace.

 

Today is the last day of classes before Thanksgiving break, so it only seems fitting that I devote this blog post to what I am thankful for. Beyond the fact that the holidays are approaching, this is an especially appropriate time for us to reflect on our lives, given the events occurring on a national and global scale. Here’s an abbreviated list of the big and small aspects of life that I appreciate and remind me of how fortunate I am:

– an environment that allows me to learn and grow as a person. Like many colleges across the country, Juniata is partaking in essential discussions, ones that I have never participated in on such a large scale. I am being exposed to new thoughts and ideas and learning how to talk about these issues. Even though talking about sensitive topics may be potentially polarizing, I am thankful for simply the ability to be able to ask questions, to have a space in which I feel comfortable listening to others’ opinions and expressing my own. Only in this environment that Juniata provides can we as students grow as individuals and citizens of a global world.

– relatively few responsibilities, which allows me to devote time to friends, family… and Netflix. As a senior, the real world of adulting is slowly creeping into my field of vision, and I’m not looking forward to entering that strange world quite yet. So for now, I’m appreciating the fact that I only have to focus on college papers, exams, work, family, and friends (leaving me just enough time to squeeze in an episode of Parks and Rec).

– mashed potatoes… and of course the hands that prepared them and the company in which I enjoy eating said potatoes. After all, they wouldn’t taste nearly as good if they were whipped up by anyone other than my granddad.

– opportunities. When looking at all of the problems facing us globally, nationally, or even close to home, it’s hard not to feel small and helpless and insignificant. I’ve realized, however, how fortunate I am to be getting an education; how blessed I am that I have so many different options available to me, while a vast majority of people cannot say the same. I have a large support network made up of family, friends, and my college community, who are all helping me succeed in whatever I end up pursuing.  For this, I will always be grateful.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? (Also, check out our hashtag, #JCThanks, on Twitter and Instagram to see what other students and faculty are thankful for!)

 

The Writing Center Takes Pittsburgh

Two weeks ago, I attended the International Writing Centers Association’s 2015 Conference in Pittsburgh. I work as a tutor in the Writing Center, so this was a great opportunity for myself and my fellow tutors to learn how to improve ourselves. Not only was it informative, but it was also a lot of fun!

The conference lasted for about three days, and each day we went to about 3 or 4 sessions. I heard from schools ten times the size of Juniata, so it was really interesting to hear their perspectives and ideas and see how we can apply them on a smaller scale here at JC. For example, one session was about how to make your Writing Center space warmer and more inviting, and this really opened up our eyes to how sparse and clinical our space in the basement of the library is. Another helpful session was about how to tutor STEM papers, and this was especially beneficial to me since I do not take science classes and therefore am not exposed to this writing style a lot. This alone made going to the Conference more than worth it.

It wasn’t all just work, though. After the day of sessions was over, the fun began. An important aspect of Juniata’s Writing Center is that everyone is friends; this is key because when someone needs a shift covered or we need extra people to work, someone can always be relied on to help. When we weren’t attending sessions, we were grabbing pizza and ice cream and sprawling out in each other’s hotel rooms playing get-to-know-you games. This was a great time to bond.

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Bonding time!

One of the most important things that I took away from this Conference is how unique Juniata’s Writing Center is. While bigger colleges have paid, full time staff, we only have a supervisor who in turn gives us a lot of responsibility. We set our own schedules, find people to cover our shifts if we can’t make it, and even hire new tutors. In the end, we are pretty much solely accountable for the smooth functioning of the Writing Center. This forces us to have a great relationship with each other, and I hope this translates into a great, friendly atmosphere for tutees! (Shameless plug: we are now open an extra hour: 6-10!)