Holy Cross Academic Conference to Showcase Student Work

300 students, including Fenwick Scholar, will present results of research, independent work

As the academic year comes to an end, the College of the Holy Cross will celebrate the great and varied work accomplished by its students at the annual Academic Conference taking place across campus from April 27 through April 30.

The four-day conference gives students from all class years the opportunity to present the results of their independent research and course work done in a variety of environments—from campus classrooms and libraries to within the Worcester community; from research labs and study abroad locations to art studios and field sites.

More than 300 students from the arts, social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences will bring the liberal arts to life through performances, poster sessions, and presentations, showcasing a high level of independence, creativity, and intellectual discipline, as well as the role professors play as mentors and model teacher-scholars for Holy Cross students. Academic Conference 2016 is free and open to the public.

Here are a few highlights:

Fenwick Scholar

2015-16 Fenwick Scholar Joseph MacNeill '16

The conference will begin with a lecture by this year's Fenwick Scholar, Jospeh MacNeill '16, at 4 p.m. on April 27 in Rehm Library. His lecture, "Encountering God as Logos: A Postmodern Theology," will be the culmination of a year of interdisciplinary independent research, intersecting classics, philosophy, and religious studies.

MacNeill's project looks at the relationship between language and liturgy, specifically through the lens of the Gospel of John, which was originally written in ancient Greek and in which the Greek word "logos" is used to refer to God. Using the Gospel of John as a guide, MacNeill explores three post-modern "moments" — philology of Scripture, the philosophy of language, and Eucharistic theology — to attempt to recover theology as a personal encounter with God as Logos.

"The interdisciplinary nature of the project was a natural outgrowth of the academic freedom that I was afforded at Holy Cross," says MacNeill, a Catholic studies and classics double major from Newington, Conn.

MacNeill, who is also a member of the College Honors Program, spent the academic year working with numerous professors, including John Manoussakis, associate professor of philosophy; Rev. John Gavin, S.J., associate professor of religious studies; Blaise Nagy, professor of classics; and Lee Oser, professor of English.

"This was an amazing opportunity, particularly because it served as such a fitting capstone to the work I have done over the past four years," MacNeill explains. "It allowed me to combine both of my majors in order to address a question which I have regularly encountered on both a personal and an academic level: what is theology and why is it important to me? My research has revealed that there can in fact be no division between my spirituality and my study, between my person and my work."

The Fenwick Scholar Award is one of the College's oldest and most prestigious academic distinctions, named in honor of the late Bishop Benedict J. Fenwick, S.J., founder of Holy Cross. The recipient, selected by a committee on the basis of a proposal, designs a program of independent study leading to a significant research or creative project spanning the entirety of his/her senior year.

Performances and the Arts

The Academic Conference will include a special performance on April 29 on the Hogan Oval at 8 p.m. titled "A Jookin' Jam Session with Lil Buck, Cristina Pato & Friends," which will bring international dance phenomenon Lil Buck together with an outstanding cast of musicians, including world-renowned Galician gaita player and Holy Cross' fall 2015 Arts Transcending Borders (ATB) artist-in-residence, Cristina Pato, for a unique collaboration. The performance will kick off the College's "Become More: Campaign for the Future of Holy Cross" and is cosponsored by Arts Transcending Borders and the Office of Advancement, in conjunction with the 2016 Academic Conference.

Other arts performances include:

The Chamber Orchestra will perform works by Shubert, Bach, and Vivaldi in Brooks Concert Hall on Wednesday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. The concert will include solo performances by Adam Ouellet '16, tenor; Christopher Goessling '18, violin; and Teresa Murphy '19, mezzo soprano.Six senior visual art majors — Michael Allen, Elizabeth Baker, Rebecca Blackwell, John Gallagher, Caroline O'Day, and Sarah Kane — will showcase their work in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery in an exhibition titled "Amalgam," beginning with presentations of their work in the Cantor Art Gallery on Wednesday, April 27 at noon. The opening reception of the annual exhibition will be held on Thursday, April 28 from 5:30-7 p.m. The exhibition allows the students to showcase the work developed through their yearlong senior concentration seminar, where they are given an individual studio space and encouraged to experiment with ideas and mediums. The exhibition will include works in a range of media, including installations, photography, painting.

College Honors

31 seniors will give presentations of their yearlong College Honors senior thesis projects, which span topics in the natural sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities. The presentations will be given from April 28-30 at various time throughout the day (see PDF of program below). Through the College Honors Program — one of the oldest programs at Holy Cross to provide special educational opportunities for academically accomplished and highly motivated students — each students conducts research during their senior year on a topic of their choice, under the supervision of a faculty advisor or advisors. A culmination of rigorous academic work by students, the presentations include:

"Characterizing the Evolution of the Sex Peptide Network in Drosophila," Meaghan McGeary '16"Irish America, The Northern Ireland Peace Process, and Ethnic Political Lobbies: A Case Study," Jack Green '16"When Language Fails: An Inquiry into the Communication of Inexpressible Trauma in Literature," Anna McGeady '16"Arctic Geomorphological and Ecological Change," Benjamin Ritter '16"Understanding the Relationship between Corporate Social Responsibility and Financial Performance," Lydia Deneen '16

Departmental/Program Presentations

The majority of the four-day conference is made up of specific presentation sessions held to showcase the work of students from each academic department and/or departmental honors, as well as a range of programs across campus, including Study Abroad; Holy Cross Manuscripts, Inscriptions and Documents Club; and the Digital Transgender Archive. These presentations include work from both upperclassmen and underclassmen.

Erica Mendoza '18, who will be giving a presentation titled "Defining Home: How Latin American Immigrants Express their Home Culture," says that presenting at the Academic Conference was not something she expected to be doing as a sophomore. She, along with 10 other students ranging from sophomores to seniors, will be presenting the ethnographic fieldwork they conducted through their course "Anthropology of Field Methods" taught by Susan Rodgers, Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Society and professor of anthropology.

"I have been given the privilege and the honor of presenting the life histories, thoughts, and feelings of my interviewees from an analytical standpoint," Mendoza shares regarding her research and presentation. "I think that this class has been really helpful in helping me get out of my comfort zone."

The conference is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Dean of the College.

Images by Tom Rettig