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LAS 2K16: celebrating undergrad research
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!
As the school year comes to an end, there are more and more activities and events on campus. Most recently, I was involved in the week-long Francophonie festival, which was organized by the French club. After having been recognized by the French embassy for its diversity and contribution to the French Language, the French club celebrated and showcased the various cultures of French speaking countries. The club members and I pulled our strengths together to make dishes, create performances and presentations, and promote Francophone culture.
The week-long festival started with short country presentations given to the public by students representing a particular francophone country, including Côte d’Ivoire (given by me!), Tunisia, Bretagne (a region of France), Burkina Faso, and of course, France! I even learned some fun country facts; Planet Tatooine from Star Wars is an actual town in Tunisia! There were also movie screenings such as Kirikou and the Sorceress, one of my favorite animated films, and Timbuktu, an Oscar nominee for best foreign film, which shows the effects of Jihadism on both the victims and culprits. I was very happy to see that some of the events were considered extra credit for various courses!
To conclude the event, we organized a dinner, with dishes from various francophone countries. As a result, I decided to make our famous alloco (fried plantains), fried sweet potatoes, and my own recipe called sardine fried rice. This dish in particular was a combination of a fried rice recipe, taken from my host mother during my stay in China, and Ivorian spices! The biggest challenge was obtaining ripe plantains two days before the dinner. Although it seemed impossible, we were able to find the ideal plantains in the local Walmart! Other dishes included Tunisian couscous and gratin dauphinois from France. In the audience, there were middle and high school students present, and they enjoyed the food as well as learning about the Francophone world.
Finally, the dinner came to an end with an energetic dance performance by me, Haruka, the French club’s president, and Joël from Burkina Farso, to a song called “Remanbele,” by Serge Beynaud. The dance moves were mostly based on an Ivorian dance and musical style called coupé-décalé! My friend, Yasmine, also performed an Arabic dance from Tunisia. Given the success of the festival, the French club and I look forward to making the event happen again next year, and every year after that!
The Multicultural Storyfest
Each year, Juniata holds a Liberal Arts Symposium—a day when all classes are cancelled and students have the opportunity to present their research to the campus community. Oftentimes, international students are not able to contribute to the symposium because many of them study at Juniata for only one semester. For this reason, Grace Fala, special assistant to the President for diversity and inclusion and professor of communication, developed the “Multicultural Storyfest.” This event takes place during the Liberal Arts Symposium and invites international students as well as other interested students to share parts of their heritage with the community.
This year, I am receiving two credits to serve as the intern for the Multicultural Storyfest. I have been working very closely with Grace and a few other students to help coordinate the largest one yet. We will have a total of 19 performances representing the following cultures and co-cultures: African, American Indian, Amish, Burmese, Buddhism, Chinese, Indian, Irish, Italian, Filipino, German, Japanese, Korean, LGBTQ, Maori, Middle Eastern, Pakistani, Salvadoran, Thai, and Vietnamese.
Personally, I will serve as the emcee for the event and also be a part of the performance representing Maori culture in New Zealand. One of my best friends studied abroad in New Zealand, so we are going to incorporate what she learned into our performance. We will be teaching about common greeting words and customs used by the Maori people. Other students will be dancing, singing, playing instruments, modeling, and reading poems.
All in all, I have gained so much valuable experience and many budding friendships from organizing this event. I have been able to meet and talk to people from all over the world!
If you’re interested in attending the Multicultural Storyfest, it’ll take place on Detwiler Plaza on Thursday, April 21st from 1:30-3:00 pm. I hope to see you there!
For the past few weeks, my Performance Lab class (run through the Theatre Department) has been building our show, Solos, which opens in two weeks! Performance Lab is an incredible class that Theatre Performance POEs get to experience, where every few weeks different guest artists come to school to work on specific techniques or skills with us. We’ve worked on movement, scene studies, playwriting, and stage makeup, and learned what it’s like to be an actor after we graduate. I’ve only had two semesters of Performance Lab so far (as a Theatre POE we need five semesters), and it is definitely the best and most rewarding class I have taken at Juniata. We get to build so many different skills, work with incredible artists, and make outside connections in the “actor world.”
Recently, we have been working with Leigh Hendrix, an actor and theatre performer based in New York, who is serving as our mentor for our solo performances. Each student in our Performance Lab class has created a seven-minute piece, and is starring in it alone. The themes and stories are all incredibly different, and my classmates have worked to portray a multitude of diverse characters.
For my solo, I wrote a short play called “Out of My Head”, which shows the struggle of a girl who is arguing and sometimes being controlled by the voice in her head (which I believe everyone has had some experience with at some point). I will be playing the girl and the voice at the same time, switching back and forth between the two simultaneously. Playing two characters at once is something I’ve never done before, so I’m really excited to continue working with my play in rehearsals. I probably re-wrote my script a dozen times, always tweaking and changing little things here and there until I found a draft that I am very satisfied with. As an actor and playwright, it’s nearly impossible to find “the perfect draft” of a play because every time you read it, or listen to it being read, you find new things you want to change. It’s a really fun but strenuous process.
Solos are being performed April 20th, 21st, and 22nd in both the Suzanne Von Liebig Theatre and The Movement Studio. Since there are eleven students in our class, we split the group in half, so six will be performing in SVL Theatre, and five in the movement studio. I definitely recommend coming to see a performance, because it’s really amazing to see some of the work Juniata’s performers can do. If you want to see all of the student’s pieces, you’ll need to come two nights (since you can only be in one space at one time). My friends and I have worked really hard on these original pieces, and I can’t wait until we can show everyone!
Wildlife Student Conclave 2016
In high school, and even in college, you work on projects that are hypothetical. They don’t play out in the real world, or really determine much in your life besides a grade. However, in college, I’ve found one project that really does make a difference.
As I have said in a few of my other postings, I am a member of The Wildlife Society here on campus, and we’ve undertaken a huge project. Every year, each region of the United States has a student chapter that hosts the Wildlife Conclave. Our chapter members decided last spring, “Hey! We can do this!” and signed us up.
When I signed up for Wildlife Conclave planning last semester, I wasn’t sure what exactly I would be getting into. It turned out to be a massive event – we have almost 150 people attending – that would require months of planning, budgeting, and long meetings.
In attending events, I never really thought about how much time and effort went into it. It was just something I would go to, enjoy, and go home. In planning an actual event, I have learned that it is a lot more than that. We have to think about site logistics, funding sources, workshop assignments, making nametags, planning meals… the list goes on forever. At first, it was incredibly intimidating. It seemed like the planning would never end, and that this event would never actually happen.
Now, looking back on the past two semesters, thinking about how the event is only a week and a half away, I’m a lot less intimidated, and I realized that I have learned a lot. I learned to make a vanguard to plan when things need to get done, how to make a budget, how to coordinate orders, and how to be committed to deadlines. None of this would get done without the amazing work of everyone in The Wildlife Society, and the motivation to do that work.
I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, there is something special in knowing that the project I’m working on is a real thing. The pens and water bottles I ordered for this event are tangible. The people are coming, whether we’re ready or not, so we have to try like crazy to be ready. My work matters here, and that is an incredible experience to have.
If you are interested in learning any more about the event we are holding, or The Wildlife Society at Juniata in general, always feel free to contact me or to like our page on Facebook!