Every April, Castleton University recognizes and celebrates student work at its Scholars Celebration. The celebration is an opportunity for students to show off their work to the Castleton community, but it’s also a springboard, allowing many students to continue to show their work at national conferences.
The four-year-old celebration, which happens again at 12:30 Thursday in the 1787 Room of the Campus Center, was started by Associate Academic Dean Ingrid Johnston-Robledo in her first year at Castleton.
“The institution where I taught before I came to Castleton had an annual celebration of student work every April and I always participated in that with my students … When I joined the Castleton community, I was tasked with working on relationship initiatives related to faculty and students because that was my background as a faculty member and so it just made perfect sense to try to organize a similar event on our campus,” she said.
According to Johnston-Robledo, the event began with more presentations from science but has expanded to include many other departments. This year there will be presentations by students from history, English, communication and art, including a sculpture and costume design.
“It’s exciting to watch it expand,” she said.
Lauren Olewnik, assistant professor and librarian, is on the event’s planning committee and has seen an increase in student mentoring since the celebration began.
“There’s money available and that pile of money seems to get bigger every year to encourage faculty to take on students and mentor them through the research process and this is a great way for them to show their work,” said Olewnik.
For some students, presenting at the university is the start to presenting at national conferences.
Patrick Cote-Abel, with a double major in history and communication, is presenting this year and also presented at the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences symposium and at the International Organization of Social Sciences and Behavioral Research conference.
His paper, titled "Poison in Paradise: Creosote Contamination in St. Marie's, Idaho," was voted the best paper in the Social Science section at the conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“It was a fantastic experience to win an award at a conference and be the only undergraduates there,” said Cote-Abel.
The basis for many students’ presentations is research conducted with the mentorship of faculty. According to Johnston-Robledo, a lot of that research is supported by grants either from the university or outside sources.
Christine Palmer, assistant professor of biology, equates research for science students to internships or job experience for other students.
“The faculty-student research grants are huge, they actually let the students get a leg up,” she said.
Chrispin White, director of the Stafford Center for Support and Study of the Community and Entrepreneurial Programs, has seen students’ careers benefit from the celebration.
“It shows one, that they’ve excelled in a certain area during their college career. But, two, they’ve stepped out of their box a little bit and they’ve been able to engage in a variety of different areas and as an employer that’s what you’re looking for,” White said.