March 1, 2024

The diversity of learning at Wittenberg was at full display at the Celebration of Learning on April 5. All day, students displayed their academic achievements through posters, panels and performances. The day ended with the Honors Convocation, which awards Wittenberg’s students for their hard work and dedication to their academics.

The Celebration was split into different sections, all open for attendees to come and go as they wished. There were panels held in Shouvlin, where students discussed their research projects or senior theses in 15-minute presentations, followed by questions asked by their audience. Each of the panels were clustered around a different theme, like “Philosophy and Morals” or “Gender Issues and Domestic Violence, Resistance and Inclusivity.”

One of the panels, “Issues Affecting Students,” included The Torch’s Editor-in-Chief, Jenn Ryan, ’19, who presented “Into the Water: A Creative Writing Thesis.” Ryan’s goal with this thesis, she said, was to “correctly portray a teenager as she experiences a major depressive episode and suicidal thoughts/ideations.”  She also presented a critical introduction to her thesis, which analyzed the misrepresentation of depression and suicide in young adult novels.

Ryan was followed by two separate first-year research presentations. The research projects were two of about a dozen grants given to freshmen to give them the opportunity to carry out a college-level research project. This is unique to a liberal arts college like Wittenberg; at a larger state school, a research project would be much more difficult to achieve before graduate school.

The first of these presentations was by Emma Schewe, ’22, and Tatum Bruno, ’22, who made the argument that offering extended summer academic programs for elementary school students would help them maintain their academic stamina instead of losing most of their learning over the summer months. They had carried out a survey and shared their results and future expansions on their research.

Weston Sharpensteen, ’22, followed Schewe and Bruno with a talk on cyberbullying and how it is portrayed in journalism. After analyzing dozens of journalistic articles that focused on cyberbullying, Sharpensteen concluded that 85 percent of articles do not properly define cyberbullying, and a vast majority of articles focus on cyberbullying in adolescents, but not in any other age group.

There were also posters in Shouvlin and Geil Lounge that featured more academic projects that had been carried out throughout the school year. For example, Cassie McLean, ’19, displayed a poster on her senior project, “Therapeutic Alliance in Pediatric Occupational Therapy.”

“I wanted to see how [therapeutic alliance] correlated with the progress of the child and adherence of the family,” McLean said.

Therapeutic alliance, she explained, is the relationship between an occupational therapist (OT) and their client. Her research proved that a stronger therapeutic alliance between a pediatric OT and their client led to better progress in the child and a higher likelihood that the parents would adhere to the OT’s instructions outside of therapy.

Darby Szmania, ’21, and Jennifer Barron, ’22, hypothesized that the chemical N-acetylcysteine may be able to reverse the effects of OCD in the brain. Their research was inconclusive for the most part, but with future expansions on their research they may obtain more results.

There were also music performances held in Post, and dance performances in Shouvlin 105. There were a variety of different performers in both categories. Anna Fox, ’19, sang a piece from her recent senior recital, and Shante Leslie, ’22, performed two pieces for soprano voice from past student recitals.

Alexander O’Connor, ‘20, embraces Charles Samuel, ‘19, after winning Alma Lux. Photo by Delaney Slattery, ‘22.

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