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Undergraduate Students Display Academic Excellence at Virtual Research and Scholarly Achievement Symposium

April 28, 2021  | 3 min read

Research and Scholarly Achievement SymposiumOn Friday, April 23, 2021, the Pepperdine University community and family and friends joined together virtually to celebrate student research accomplishments at the Seaver College Research and Scholarly Achievement Symposium hosted by the Office of the Vice Provost. The afternoon featured more than 120 student presenters representing research and scholarly work across all eight of Seaver College’s academic divisions. 

The afternoon opened with remarks from Pepperdine’s provost Rick Marrs and director of institutional research Jazmin Zane. Marrs and Zane shared their journeys into academia and research and the critical role faculty mentors played throughout their growth.

“You honor us, your faculty mentors, as you share your research with us today,” said Marrs. “There is nothing more complimentary than seeing our students present and publish their incredible work.” 

After Marrs and Zane’s opening remarks, the event dispersed into six sessions running concurrently. Each session covered a diverse range of topics including performing arts, studio arts, political science, psychology, biology, and much more. In each session students’ commitment to academic excellence was evident through their engaging presentations and perfection of technique and craft in each of their disciplines. 

In the performing arts session, Pierre Long-Tao Tang, assistant professor of music, and Ryan Board, director of choral activities, led more than 20 students in performances of instrumental solos, song, and more. Each piece is informed by detailed research on the composer and composition and meticulous practice to master the art of expression.

“It was deeply inspiring to hear each presenter speak on how art is helpful, effective, and impactful even in the most challenging of situations,” shared Ty Pownall, associate professor of fine arts and moderator of the art exhibition session. 

The art exhibition featured mixed media paintings and sculptures from seven studio arts students. Their pieces used vibrant colors and textures while also exploring difficult topics such as white supremacy in the media and anthropogenic impact on marine ecosystems. 

The four oral presentation sessions––moderated by assistant professor of biology Helen Holmlund, professor of political science Brian Newman, assistant professor of sport medicine Rachel Tan, and assistant professor of international studies Felicity Vabulas––covered topics such as “The Effects of News Media Bias on Affective Polarization” from senior political science major Timothy Song and “Traditional Masculinity and Toxic Masculinity in Superhero Films: A Content Analysis” from senior psychology majors Brianna Barnett and Kaelin Mendez.

Despite the range in topics and the challenges of the virtual format, the student presentation sessions were dynamic with engaging and interactive question and answer periods. One notable dialogue occurred between student authors of three different projects, all overseen by assistant professor of psychology Nataria Joseph, analyzing various mental, physical, and economic health impacts on African American young adults.

“You wouldn’t have known we were in presentations the whole afternoon thanks to the fast-paced energy students brought to each of their presentations,” reflected Vabulas. “I loved learning about topics outside my area of expertise, and I was unbelievably impressed by the eloquence of our students.”

Pepperdine University faculty, staff, administrators, and students alike eagerly anticipate the energetic symposium each year. This year’s event was the first since COVID-19 required cancelations of the 2020 symposium, and it marked the end of Undergraduate Research Week, a national celebration of students’ achievements and their mentors. 

“Opportunities for our students to perform and showcase their scholarly work are not only an essential component of their research experience, but they are also equally important for those in our academic community to be able to experience and engage with the work of our student scholars,” shared Katy Carr, who serves as the assistant provost for research at Pepperdine University.

To learn more about the presenters and read their project abstracts visit the Research and Scholarly Achievement Digital Commons website.