Academic Conference Showcases Creativity, Wide-Ranging Research of Holy Cross Students

Maia Lee-Chin, the 2020-2021 Fenwick Scholar, presents at Academic Conference.

The four-day celebration featured presentations, performances and lectures from students of all class years


Two summers ago, while studying abroad in Cambodia, Emily O’Regan ’21 had the first inspiration for her honors thesis: “I spent weeks deep in the jungle surrounded by some of the most pristine landscapes and incredible wildlife I had ever seen. I also saw some of the world’s most vulnerable people, with no running water, no electricity and no opportunities to escape poverty.” The experience inspired the mathematics and environmental studies double major to explore “what a just and sustainable energy transition in rural Cambodia might look like.”

O’Regan shared this journey and her findings as one of approximately 350 student participants in the College’s annual Academic Conference — a four-day celebration of independent research and course work from students of all class years. This year, more than 30 different departments or programs at the College were represented during the event.

The conference, which began on Tuesday, April 27, offered students a variety of different formats to share their work, including live presentations and panels, roundtable discussions and pre-recorded presentations paired with live Q&A sessions. The online format garnered more than 2,500 views across students’ sessions via Zoom.

The conference was also a vibrant showcase for the arts, featuring events like: the Brooks Scholar piano recital; College ensemble performances; a campus poetry walk; a staged reading from a student-authored play; and an outdoor production from artist collective MASARY Studios, hosted by Arts Transcending Borders, which displayed multimedia that had been crowdsourced, in large part, from first-year students and professors from the Montserrat "Natural World" cluster.

“Holy Cross offers many opportunities to students that other colleges can’t — the chance to study closely with their professors as undergraduates and gain experience important to establishing themselves as scholars,” noted Maia Lee-Chin ’21 in the fall as she reflected on her upcoming year as the College’s 2020-21 Fenwick Scholar. Lee-Chin, a classics major and education minor, kicked off the conference by sharing findings from her intensive, year-long project on how young, marginalized students in Worcester engaged and interacted with ancient Greek culture, specifically Homer's “Iliad.”

The array of topics covered at the conference — ranging from the metaphysics of music to the impact of art theft on museums to biomedical ethics — reflected the breadth of students’ passions as well as their varied experiences at Holy Cross, not only within the classroom, art studios and research labs, but also within the local community, on field sites and in study abroad locales.

As Liam Lewis ’21 closed out a reading of excerpts from the memoir he authored chronicling a powerful trip with his father through Newfoundland, Canada, he expressed appreciation for the support of faculty like Leah Hager Cohen, the James N. and Sarah L. O’Reilly Barrett Professor in Creative Writing. “I’m a chemistry major, and I don’t have much background in creative writing. I’m so grateful that Professor Cohen decided to work with me on bringing this project to life,” Lewis shared with the audience. “This is a great way to conclude my time on The Hill.”