Symposium highlights students’ education through presentation

Symposium

Capstone projects are the embodiment of the collegiate experience.  Though many capstones require adequate time and effort on a student’s part, the end result is well worth the wait.  For some NAU students, the fruit of their labor comes during the annual Undergraduate Symposium.

The Symposium, now in its fifth year, provides students the opportunity to showcase their work to their peers, professors and the university and Flagstaff communities.  Running in conjunction with Honor’s Week, the Undergraduate Symposium features a week’s worth of activities highlighting the different areas of study around campus.

Wolf Gumerman, Director of the University Honor’s Program, says the Undergraduate Symposium was created to showcase the diversity of the campus’ learning experience throughout the different colleges.

“It’s really highlighting the great things our students are doing,” Gumerman says.  “We think of research broadly, so it can be creative endeavors like a photographic exhibition or your more traditional research activity.”

Planning for the Symposium differs from college to college.  For example, the College of Arts and Letters plans to showcase their students’ talent through choral events and a presentation of the play Love Letters, whereas the College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences is holding a daylong event featuring the projects of many of its students.

Amanda Shapter, a senior majoring in environmental engineering with a minor in chemistry, says the majority of students presenting at the Undergraduate Symposium are required to do so as part of their capstone, which provides a learning experience unlike any other.

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“This is what I came into engineering expecting to do all the time,” Shapter says.  “It’s working in the lab, doing testing, and building things.  It’s the time to actually design and construct something so we can test it and see if it works.”

Shapter says her group project, which involves purifying water for use on ships, has been in production since the fall semester.  In addition to showing their completed works, Pauline Entin, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences and professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, says some students are also required to give an oral presentation and present a poster of their findings.

Despite having an emphasis on seniors and their capstones, the Symposium’s goal is to showcase students of all academic years.  Each college accepts applications detailing student proposals.  From there, students are free to work as they see fit in order to prepare for the community-wide event.

Entin says students and community members alike should attend the Undergraduate Symposium to see what those who attend NAU have a chance to learn firsthand.

“It can be really hard to sit around and imagine what’s feasible; if you attend, you can actually see those things,” Entin says.  “We like to show off the students’ work so the community can see all the opportunities they have during their academic experience.”

The 2012 Undergraduate Symposium takes place from April 26 through the 28.  A complete list of events can be found at nau.edu/symposium.