Celebrating Learning That Never Ends

by Riley Floyd

January 28, 2012

Undergraduate students rarely, if ever, get to teach their professors, alumni, and friends in a single semi-formal academic setting. But that’s exactly what happened Friday at the Celebration of Student Research, Scholarship, and Creative Work, now in its 12th year at the College.

“To me, the Celebration always looks like an open house at one of the nation's finest graduate research institutions, except that there isn't a graduate student in sight,” said National Association of Wabash Men  (NAWM) President Greg Castanias ’87. “It’s a visual testament to the fact that Wabash College doesn't just give a ‘good enough’ education, but an education that transcends what most other colleges expect of young men and women.

“I think it's also a fine testament to how Wabash and its faculty see that our students are capable of even more than they themselves may believe they are capable of.”

Friday’s presentations ranged from plans for local business ventures to an analysis of the fall of a Libyan dictator to research in chemistry, biology, and physics. This year’s Celebration also offered original photography, poetry, and a student film that has been screened across the country and around the world. Eighty students with interests as diverse as the 17 academic departments they represented taught on Friday. Their common denominator: the individual work ethic and close collaboration with faculty members that characterizes Wabash academics.

“To me, the level of intensity of the projects is always a rise. . . It’s not just a science fair. And it’s not just an art fair,” said Associate Professor of Chemistry Lon Porter, who chaired this year’s event.

Juniors William Costakis and Jonathan Wong presented a poster entitled “Attenuation Lengths of MoNA and LISA Detectors.” The pair used a spatial light modulator machine to control the way light is rendered to the eye. Eventually, technology like this will allow television sets and screen monitors to render real 3-D images without the need for glasses. As for the pedagogy involved, Costakis appreciated the opportunity to explain his research to others.

“It was nice figuring out different ways to relate our research in simpler terms,” Costakis said.

For Porter, the Celebration also says something about the College’s commitment to its own students: “It’s important that we come inward and appreciate the core of the liberal arts and share with each other as opposed to going off campus and sharing with others.”

The College’s trustees and members of the NAWM also attend the Celebration, most of them graduates from before the College offered this event—the only afternoon of the year that classes are cancelled.

“There was nothing this dramatic when I was a student here,” said Castanias. “I would have remembered if I had had to defend my English literature or philosophy research in front of a bunch of guests, including successful alumni from all around the world.”

For Castanias, new traditions—like the Celebration—add to the life of the College.

“Alumni need to get back more often to remind themselves that not all the traditions of our days are still around, that new traditions have replaced the old—but even so, Wabash is still, at its essence, the same Wabash committed to a superior liberal arts education and the making of better men.”

Said Ian Grant ’13, who read his poetry for Friday’s Celebration: “It’s a learning process that never really ends.”


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