‘Thinking and learning made visible’: Seniors share semester research journeys at annual Humanities Honors Symposium

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Photo credit: Thea Leimone

Senior Kaitlyn Kim presents to her classmates and faculty on “An Analysis of the Failures of the American Medical System for Women of Color.” Kim’s presentation was given in the dining hall and was based on the research from her semester-long Gender Studies seminar.

By Thea Leimone, Features Editor

Discussions of techno-orientalism, conspiracy theories and psychoanalytical interpretations of “Coraline filled the air of the dining hall and library on Monday, May 24. Throughout the day, seniors at the Humanities Honors Symposium presented the work from their independent research papers in English, History and World Language courses.

“I really love how Archer students embrace their intellects and studies, and the symposium was a great culmination of this — a day for sharing and comparing learning, for seniors to see efforts come to fruition and for the whole class to see thinking and learning made visible,” English teacher Brian Wogensen said.

The participants of the symposium presented their work from Honors Humanities seminars such as Back to the Future, Literature of Fairy Tale and Fantasy, along with Ethics and Social Justice courses. Classes remained primarily online this school year, as students first returned for in-person learning in mid-April.

“I think working remotely first semester, we didn’t really get to see what everybody else did. The topics that some of my classmates came up with were fascinating and I never would have thought of them,” senior Nicole Farmer said. “It was really cool to see how they brought in fantasy and reality and took two completely different things and brought them together to  [create] the super cool presentations. It was amazing to see, and they all did such great work.”

Some of the seminars are only a semester long, while others last the entire school year. Students are encouraged to pursue any topic that draws their interest, inspired by the learning and work of the seminar, and at the end of the semester, produce a research paper and presentation on the topic.

“It was a process of figuring out what I was most interested in, which wasn’t that hard because I had already done projects on representation of marginalized communities,” senior Kaiya Jefferson, who presented on the topics of Performative Bisexuality and LGBTQ+ Latine Representation, said. “So, I used some of my resources from last semester and combined them with new ones that I found. The process was pretty enjoyable if you choose a topic that  you’re actually very interested in.”

Wogensen commented on the positive energy that filled the room during the live presentations, and the importance of a supportive environment.

“Last year the symposium was asynchronous, and seniors posted presentation films that everyone watched and commented on — it was actually pretty awesome but it pales in comparison to the energy of the live presentations,” Wogensen said. “I think it was especially important for the seniors to be together, supporting each other in-person, looking each other in the eyes and clapping and hooting approval after each presentation ended. The Q&A period after each presentation also allowed for more vitality and depth.”

Students were given the option of recording the audio for their presentations or presenting live on campus. Presentation slides were projected onto screens behind the speaker podiums as the rest of the senior class and faculty filled the room. This setting contrasted last year and last semester’s presentations, which were pre-recorded and shared to the community. For this semester’s presentations, anyone on-campus was free to attend the symposium while family and friends could also watch the presentations live via Zoom.

It was really nice to hear the support from my classmates and to have this last hurrah for our work.”

— Nicole Farmer

“Ultimately, I chose to present live, and I’m so glad that I did. It was just one of those experiences that was super great – I got up there, I wasn’t nervous at all. I was able to talk about a topic that I was really passionate about and I’d been working really hard to put together,” Farmer said.”It was really nice to hear the support from my classmates and to have this last hurrah for our work.” 

Jefferson, who presented two research projects from her Spanish seminar and English seminar, echoed Farmer in her enjoyment of presenting live in front of her peers.

“I think the environment of being able to see everyone in-person and answer their questions live and hear what everyone’s been working on this entire year was really special, especially since we missed out on so much of it,” Jefferson said. “And I think it was  a great moment for us to really be proud of what everyone has done this year.”