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Second annual Piedmont Symposium a ‘virtual’ success

Apr 16th, 2020







Engaged learning experiences like the Piedmont Symposium create nimble learners. Students and faculty adapted to overcome the challenge of being off campus to take part in the event, which this year was held online due to COVID-19.

After Dr. Melissa Tingle, a mass communications professor and member of the symposium planning committee, developed an interactive site to host the event, many members of the college community, all working remotely, rallied to make it work.

All told, 138 students created 79 posters and two websites, took part in 12 live sessions and pre-recorded 19 others.

Topics this year ranged from better pain relief for infants to how dragons represent human nature, and from using data science to prevent sports injuries to a behind the scenes look at the making of the Yonahian’s (the college yearbook) 100th edition.

There were also the very topical Coronoavirus: The Impact on Telecommunications and Hand Soap vs. Hand Sanitizer.

Students dove deep into their selected topics and condensed them to present their findings in the online format.

“Usually capstone presentations are an hour long, so trying to encompass a 30-plus-page paper into 20 minutes with time for questions was a challenge, but I did like that it was during symposium, as usually for capstone presentations there are few more than major professors and a few friends in attendance,” said senior Laura Alyssa Platé. “Having it at symposium gave me a much larger audience to talk to.”

Dr. Tim Lytle, professor of philosophy and religion and Platé’s adviser, said, “It wasn’t what we had hope for in planning the symposium, but as a way to adapt to the current circumstances, it was a great success.”

Those watching the presentations and viewing the posters online could give feedback via digital “Liongrams.” Praise for the students and their work flowed in.

“Great information! Thank you for encouraging the conversation on a topic that many see as uncomfortable,’ said one admirer of Abigail Cox’s Beautiful Suffering Turned to Dark Dismay: Glorification of Mental Illness on Social Media.

Of Calliope Adcox’s recital videos, one Liongram read, “I am in awe of your voice…you are truly gifted,” while others said, “you never fail to amaze me” and that she has “the voice of an angel.”

The purpose of the symposium is to engage students in undergraduate research to encourage community involvement and instill resilience and confidence. Presentations are approved by Piedmont’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) committee. Dr. Julia Schmitz, associate professor of biology, is the QEP director. She said the event would not have been successful without the support and enthusiasm of students, faculty and staff, and added that the committee was “extremely thankful for everyone’s flexibility during an unusual situation.

“While we hated to not have the in-person experience, the virtual symposium was a success,” she said. “I was extremely impressed with the presentations I attended. The students represented Piedmont well in their presentations, which attests to the excellent mentorship they received from their sponsors.”

The website, remains accessible for viewing.

Schmitz said the committee hopes to build on the momentum of the first two years for another successful event next year.