Humanities Honors Symposium, STEM Symposium celebrate culmination of student work


The finalists for the RISE Award at Archer’s 2016 STEM Symposium pose with judges and faculty. The STEM Symposium aims to integrate girls into the scientific field and recieving the award means a scholarship towards future education. Photo courtesy of Marine Yamada ’17.

The annual Humanities Honors Symposium, where Archer juniors and seniors enrolled in honors humanities courses presented their final papers to the community, took place all day on Wednesday, May 18. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Symposium, a chance for Archer’s Honors Research students as well as girls from across the city to showcase their original scientific research and win scholarship money, took place on Saturday, May 21.

Both events offer students an opportunity to share the work they’ve been doing all semester with an audience where they can celebrate its completion.They differ, however, in their academic foci, structures, and fundamental goals.

The Humanities Honors Symposium had 39 student presenters, 29 of whom had taken one of three honors English courses, eight of whom took the honors Ethics seminar second semester and two students with independent studies.

Topics ranged from the fairytale construction of “The Bachelor” to the ethics of pharmaceutical practices to celebrity culture in postmodern Los Angeles to the male gaze in horror films.

“I’m always kind of astounded by the diversity of content and study and also just the depth that people can get to with these,” English Department Chair and teacher Brian Wogenson said. “At its best, these presentations really show off how a student has wrestled with complex issues or texts and come to some fresh and original analysis. ”

Wogenson said that keeping up a consistent audience and figuring out scheduling were the biggest challenges in planning the event, but he’s pleased with the goals they managed to achieve.

“One of the fundamental goals of the symposium is giving students the opportunity to present their work in front of an authentic audience. Another key component is that there’s a chance for people to engage with these ideas,” he said. “It’s also that the honors humanities work is independent study. It’s important to have a culmination for that [work] that allows you to get out of that singular headspace and kind of share that experience with others.”

The STEM Symposium, which featured female students not only at Archer but from schools across the city, allowed participants to showcase their original scientific research they had been working on and compete for scholarships given to students with especially promising work.

“The goals of the STEM Symposium were definitely to encourage girls to participate in original research, to get them to showcase their ideas,” Science Department Chair and teacher Shane Berning said. “Part of it is not only to get girls here at Archer doing original research, but it’s also to invite girls from other schools to come and present and share ideas. The mission is really to get girls doing science.”

This was the Symposium’s fourth year but the first year that participants were eligible to compete for the RISE (Research in Science and Engineering) Award, a 1,000 or 5,000 dollar scholarship.

At the start of the day, all students conducted poster sessions. After the poster sessions, selected students did breakout sessions in individual rooms. RISE finalists had judges, not affiliated with Archer, come and talk to them about their projects. At the end of the day, they announced awards.

The winner of the grand-prize 5,000 dollar scholarship was Zita Surprenant from Crossroads School. Archer junior Marine Yamada, who completed a project on the detection of Lyme Disease, was the only Archer student to win an award.

“It’s really exciting that Archer gets to be at the center of this movement to get more girls involved in science and engineering and research,” said Berning. “We’re very fortunate to have our donors. The fact that [they’ve] entrusted Archer with this initiative is a good place to be in. We’re very lucky.”