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Professor Michael Sheridan with student presenter Janie Ames, class of 2014, at the Spring Student Symposium.

Spring Student Symposium Packs the House

April 11, 2014

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The powers of intellectual investigation filled McCardell Bicentennial Hall, the Mahaney Center for the Arts, and other campus venues this week as the eighth annual Spring Student Symposium got underway Thursday evening and all day Friday. Representing all facets of the liberal arts, more than 350 students presented their creative and academic work in a series of performances, oral presentations, poster exhibitions.

Acclaimed author Vendela Vida ’93 opened the symposium Thursday evening with a keynote address at the Mahaney Center. Vida, who credits her launch in writing to the mentorship she received from Middlebury faculty, offered words of inspiration for Middlebury undergraduates and read from her works, which include “And Now You Can Go” and “Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name,” both of which were named Notable Books by the New York Times.  Following Vida’s talk, students continued the evening with musical performances, film screenings, and theater readings.

Author Vendela Vida '93 opened the 2014 Spring Student Symposium with a keynote address at the Mahaney Center for the Arts.
Noah Klammer '17 talks about his research on speech and perceptions of sexual orientation.
Jeffrey Colt '14.5 explains his geology research on coastal Maine to fellow students at one of two poster presentations at McCardell Bicentennial Hall.
Sarah Braithwaite '14 describes her architectural research project to visitors during the morning poster session at Bicentennial Hall.

On Friday, Bicentennial Hall came alive with a dizzying array of student research. With one of dozens of poster presentations in the Great Hall, Noah Klammer ’17 drew steady crowds to his poster titled “Sexual Orientation and Speech,” a project which began in his first-year seminar. Klammer’s literature review looked at research on linguistic connections between speech and how listeners perceive the sexual orientation of the speaker.

“I wanted to debunk some myths that there’s a ‘gay accent’ or that gay men talk like straight women,” said Klammer, who was impressed but not surprised at the interest his poster generated. “The investigation of a stereotype, and shedding light on that stereotype, is what I think interests people.”

A few steps away, Janie Ames ’14 presented a poster titled “Pretending to Be Poor: Social Mobility and Government Policy in Township Housing” from research she conducted in South Africa. “I found that housing is a fierce landscape in Capetown,” said Ames. “It takes daily innovation, daily compromise in order to secure a place to live.”

Throughout Bicentennial Hall’s classrooms and lecture halls, students gave 15-minute oral presentations, grouped by theme. Clifton Bueno de Mesquita ’14, for example, introduced his research on methane production in coarse woody debris at a session titled “Managing Resources” while across the hall Audrey Martino ’14 delved into Titian’s “La Schiavona” in a session called “Artistic Analysis.”

The College’s theatre department capped off the two-day symposium with a stage adaptation of A Clockwork Orange at Wright Memorial Theatre.

The annual spring symposium is organized by a committee comprised of faculty and staff from a wide range of departments. For more information and a complete list of presenters, visit the Undergraduate Research.

Reporting by Stephen Diehl, photos by Matt Lennon '13 and Robert Keren.