Annual Advanced Study Humanities Symposium highlights seniors’ passions through presentations, writing


Photo credit: Maia Alvarez

Senior Ella Poon recounts the power of theater for Latine Americans by highlighting everyday life in Washington Heights from the musical “In the Heights.” Archer’s annual Advanced Study Humanities Symposium was held in the library and Media Space Friday, May 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.

By Maia Alvarez, Features Editor

From assisting mothers who have children with Down syndrome to the stereotypes K-dramas perpetuate, the Class of 2023 spent their last academic school day presenting humanities projects at the Advanced Study Humanities Symposium.

Seniors in Advanced Study English, history and language classes gathered Friday, May 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. in the library and Media Space. Students shared presentations of their unique perspectives and research using skills and texts from their classes. The Advanced Study Humanities Symposium is separate from the STEM Symposium, where students in Advanced Study Engineering and Research classes present their yearlong projects.  

In previous Humanities Symposiums, every student in an advanced humanities class presented. However, due to the large number of seniors in these classes, teachers decided on 31 presentations to be showcased at the symposium. All students still had the opportunity to present their pieces in their advanced study classes.

As English and history courses are semester-long in senior year, teachers advise students to begin brainstorming their papers at the beginning of the course. While they give a summer reading text to help generate ideas, they might not know where to head next in their writing. This is where teachers such as Jim Russo, who teaches the Back to the Future English course, help students find secondary sources or foundational texts to guide them toward their final papers.

“They say, ‘I want to explore Hollywood and media,’ but they don’t know what film to look at or what novel to read,'” Russo said. “So I might point them in the direction of something to take a look at. They read it, they digest it and they decide whether or not they want to use it … At the end of the day, [they] choose their avenues of exploration, and that’s what makes it fun.”

Senior Lizette Gonzalez describes the power of social media to amplify the sexual assault and suppression women are experiencing in Mexico. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s as much effort as you put into it,” Epps said. “It’s as much reward as you put into it.” (Photo credit: Maia Alvarez)

Senior Zoe Epps presented “The Pony’s One Trick: A Psychoanalysis of Existential Nihilism and Substance Abuse in BoJack Horseman” as a culmination of her learning in the Literature of Fairy Tale and Fantasy class.

“It was just a silly little idea I had in my head two months ago, and now it’s a paper, except that it’s not,” Epps said. “It’s me writing out the entire plot and saying every little idea I’ve had about the show ever on a piece of paper.”

Teachers set time benchmarks in each course to ensure students could complete the thesis, paper and presentation in time for the symposium. Senior Daisy Marmur is an interdisciplinary English student who takes two Advanced Study English courses each semester instead of one.

Since Marmur took Canonical Literature and Happiness in the Study of Wellbeing this semester, she decided to combine the topics for her paper to highlight how society’s shortcomings make “Brave New World‘s” propaganda quotes — a book she read in Canonical Literature — lead people to want to join cults. Marmur said one of the challenges while writing this paper was remaining respectful of others’ belief systems.

“The biggest message of my presentation is: Don’t isolate from what makes you happy,” Marmur said. “I wanted to make sure that there was this bit of caution that I was giving the viewer as well as acknowledging that it’s okay to have your own personal interests and finding that balance.”

You’re basically seeing a potpourri of all that’s wonderful about Archer.

— English teacher Jim Russo

Unlike the Literature & … Conference, where participation was optional, each student in a spring advanced study course was required to complete a presentation, and the symposium was solely for Archer seniors. Russo said the all-day event highlighted seniors coming into their own with a last project.

“You’re basically seeing a potpourri of all that’s wonderful about Archer,” Russo said. “You’re seeing all of these variations on the ideas we’ve been exploring all year, but the students totally own them as their own, and they’re such rich and provocative works. It’s really one of the best days as an English teacher because you get to sit there and be like, ‘Wow, that was really interesting.'”

Once presentations finished, seniors gathered in the courtyard to participate in the yearly fountain jump, where seniors celebrate the end of their academics at 3 p.m. by jumping into the star fountain. Marmur said the symposium tied together the end of senior year academics perfectly.

“Just coming off of my presentation, I was met with such a room of supportive girls that I’ve been with since I was 11 or 12 years old, and it didn’t feel like a scary moment, but instead a perfect wrap-up to senior year,” Marmur said. “I finally got to show them … all the work I put forth [with] an 8-minute presentation, encapsulating my English time at Archer.”