This Tuesday I participated in a Susquehanna tradition called Senior Scholars Day. During the day, students give oral presentations and poster presentations about their senior research. Music students have recitals, while students' graphic design work is also put on display. In some ways, this event is a sort of academic culmination for seniors. It’s a chance to show off all the work you’ve been doing to members of your community, including friends and faculty. I was able to present as well as see some of the other presentations.
What I liked about seeing other students’ presentations was that I could get a better sense of their passions and what they spent their time working on this semester (or this whole year). Though I’m aware that many other seniors are also tackling extensive research projects, I still rarely think in detail about all the work other people are putting in at the library or at the lab. I stopped by two posters by friends of mine who did scientific projects. It was nice to be able to hear about their projects—even if I felt like I didn’t have a very sophisticated understanding of the scientific terms they were using! One of my housemates did a poster presentation about her project as well, though hers was in a humanities field. I felt like I learned more about her research when I stopped by to support her, which was cool since we'd already been talking about it frequently throughout the semester.
I ended up going to quite a few interesting oral presentations as well. Oral presentations on Senior Scholars Day last about 10 minutes and then leave a few minutes for questions. I got to hear about similarities between early Islam and Christianity, the racial integration of a college football team, a comparison of Holocaust museums, and the ways Confucian thought can be beneficial to Roman Catholics’ participation in rituals. My friends really are doing compelling research!
At 2:20 p.m. was my presentation on my capstone for the Religious Studies major, called “Recovering a ‘Heart of Flesh’: Challenging the Devaluing of Emotion in Evangelical Christian Approaches to Dating and Rhetoric.” Preparing for this presentation was a challenge. The paper I’m working on about this subject is at 40 pages right now. Reducing that information to 10 minutes seemed almost impossible. After a very late night on Monday, however, I was able to narrow down my scope and figure out what I wanted to present. I shared with my audience some information on how evangelical Christian books on dating and purity talk about emotion, as well as some quotes from female medieval mystics that I think challenge that attitude towards emotion. I felt as if I sharing such a tiny sliver of my research, but perhaps that is really all that needed to be done. A ten minute presentation isn't really enough to allow someone else to dive into your subject, but it is enough to introduce it to them. Some of my friends came to support me, which I really appreciated.
All in all, though, I must admit that it felt a bit anti-climactic. I had this presentation at the back of my mind all year (to be honest, I had probably been assuming I’d participate in the day even longer than that), and then, well, it ended so quickly. Perhaps I was envisioning something more. Maybe I had been wanting people to leave the room as fired up about my topic as I was. Even if that wasn’t quite the case, I did receive some good feedback. Maybe it mostly felt strange because it was another major senior year milestone crossed off my list. Though I have exciting opportunities awaiting me after graduation, I’m still pretty uncomfortable with the fact that there are very few milestones left to go.