Ideas fly at Students to Scholars Symposium

Norwich University last week held its sixth annual Students to Scholars Symposium. The Symposium consists of several workshops and panels that brings students into the mindset of conducting research.

Although summer research fellowships had existed for quite some time, “this was going to be an opportunity at the beginning for students to think about ideas and talk about ideas,” said Dr. Kyle Pivetti, assistant professor of English.

The symposium is run by the Undergraduate Research Committee which is “spearheaded by Professor Woodbury Tease,” said Pivetti. However, this year professor Megan Doczi is filling in for Tease.

Pivetti explained that students really drive the event. “We will set up the panels,” Pivetti said, “but mostly it’s the students though, they’re the ones who bring ideas, they’re the ones who are sharing where they’re at,” he said.

The event itself lasts only two days, a Thursday and Friday each year. Thursday typically consists of workshops for writing research grant proposals and research collaboration.

Thursday night is also an opening event for Friday. Those presenting ideas are awarded certificates and those who conducted research over the previous summer show off their research and help students understand how a summer spent researching really works.

The Thursday night event exists primarily for other students and future researchers to “get to see where other students who may have gone through this program were at, and how they took their idea from the Students to Scholars to get the fellowship,” said Stephanie White, 20, an athletic training major from Starksboro, Vt.

Friday is panel day, where students present their ideas as part of a panel group. Both students and professors in the audience can ask questions and provide input. “The conversation happens between the students giving them [ideas] and the audience responding,” said Pivetti.

“They help you realize how you might improve your project, narrow it down, and make it more specific,” said White.

White presented a research project idea about researching how certain combat boot usage may be causing knee pain for service members. “It’s a great thing to do because it allows you to see, ‘is there someone else wanting to do similar research with me,’ cause then you can always just piggy back with them,” said White. “It allows them [committee] to see where students who might not even apply for the summer scholarships are at,” said White.

“It really did help me try and refine my ideas,” said Benjamin Ferguson, 21, a studies in war and peace major from Stuttgart ,Germany.

Often lots of students may have an idea, but not know quite what to do with it. Pivetti said the Symposium provides opportunities to hear and explore ideas, often to the benefit of its attendees – “Just different ways of approaching problems,” said Pivetti.

“One of the things I always find interesting about the panels is the interdisciplinary nature of all the panels,” said Pivetti. Often on one panel you might have three students of different majors, one in architecture, biology, or even language arts.

“There are other times when students from other disciplines responding to subjects I am familiar with and they ask really great questions or they have insights that I simply wouldn’t consider a lot of the time,” Pivetti said.

In the end, the interdisciplinary aspect of the symposium tends to be its strongest game piece. With a university that has such academic diversity, it allows all of these students and professors to merge together in a type of “think tank,” Pivetti said.

“I’ll definitely be working on it [proposal] over Christmas break so I can have something to bring to my professor and my research advisor,” said White. “I’m hoping to do the fellowship over the summer,” she added.

Granted, there will be many students who are already planning on submitting a proposal for a summer fellowship without having attended the symposium. However, those who have attended should find themselves in a better spot.

“Just with the amount of advice you get, and the questions that they ask you, it allows you to get a better grasp of how you can narrow it down and how you can better your idea to get the fellowship,” White said.

The symposium also permits students to not only make their idea better, but to decide whether or not the entire idea is worth scrapping completely. If you want to make a complete change, “you can do that, because now you have all this advice to help you progress in that new idea,” said White.

The panels go from morning until mid-afternoon. The students have roughly seven to eight minutes of talking time before they are released to a Q and A. “Definitely it’s nerve-wracking having to present your idea, but it was a lot of fun,” said White.

“We’re working on things all the time, we’re open to suggestions,” said Pivetti. The committee for undergraduate research is still looking to expand in any way that would benefit the Norwich community. “Research changes, and there are different projects all the time,” Pivetti said, “we are always open to new ideas.”

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