Whitman students turned into scholars, lecturers and teachers as students from every academic discipline of the college shared their research and creative activities with the campus community during the Whitman Undergraduate Conference, April 10, 2012.
In its 14th year, the annual Undergraduate Conference is noteworthy for its variety of presentations, which take the form of lectures, poster presentations, musical performances and artistic exhibitions.
“The conference gives us a chance to go from the student desk to the front of the classroom,” said English major Andrew Ryan ’12, who gave a presentation on the Icelandic Sagas, specifically the inherent differences between the oral Sagas and their written counterparts.
“We get to experience a wide range of disciplines in one day, get the chance to talk to our peers, and learn something new,” Ryan said.
Ryan was one of more than 200 students who took part in the Undergraduate Conference. These students presented projects that attested to the original work they have produced in their courses, senior theses, summer internships and study abroad programs.
“I love hearing the diversity of research that Whitman students are involved in,” said Nina Neff-Mallon ’11, a history and philosophy major who presented “The Impossibility of Cruelty,” a lecture examining certain forms of extreme cruelty.
Students, faculty and staff, parents and community members traveled from venue to venue in a day broken up into four sessions.
The Undergraduate Conference included presentations on a range of topics from women’s identity, literary inquiries, Arab Springs and other revolutions to children and poverty, Canadian literary plurality, Earth science and ecological concerns.
“Each year is a five-course meal. The research is robust and diverse; it stretches across all disciplines and departments,” said Keith Raether, Whitman’s director of fellowships and grants and conference organizer.
“Topics ran the gamut from Odysseus as epic liar to life in the world's deep-sea trenches to the deconstruction of Starbucks. It's a feast for thought – literally. This year we even had a presentation on wild edibles, which was enormously popular,” Raether said.
The Undergraduate Conference has grown so popular in its 14 years that it has attracted outside attention. This year, representatives from University of Puget Sound attended because UPS is looking to develop its own undergraduate conference, and is using Whitman’s conference as a model.