By Logan Monteleone
Elm Staff Writer
At 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 30, current sophomores presented their First Year Seminar “Flock Talks” to peers and faculty members gathered in Litrenta Lecture Hall.
Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Director of the First-Year Seminar program Dr. Martin Ponti organized “Flock Talks” as a way for second-year students to present the findings of their research projects, which were inspired by their respective FYS courses. Upon completion of their FYS, Dr. Ponti explained, students with continued interest in relevant topics were offered a small stipend to develop a research project, working alongside a faculty member.
Dr. Ponti noted that the opportunity to receive such support for FYS research will continue to be available for students in upcoming semesters who wish to develop a project, and who receive the approval and commitment of a faculty member.
“Flock Talks” presentations, Dr. Ponti said, are a culmination of the research students have developed and worked on throughout the previous semester, and in some cases over the summer.
Five groups of students shared their work, each giving a presentation that explained the details of their research, their motivation for studying their respective topics, and the application of their findings.
The first pair of students, sophomores Elizabeth Fitzpatrick and Liam Peregoy, studied “The Disappearance of Martha Polk” with the help of Electronic Resources Librarian Cori Lynn Arnold, who teaches the Magpies of the Archives FYS.
Arnold was also the impromptu technician of the “Flock Talks,” when multiple groups struggled to display their digital slide presentations using the computer in Litrenta, and looked up from the screen with a pleading of “Cori Lynn?”
Fitzpatrick and Peregoy’s presentation began with a video that narrated the history of Martha Polk’s disappearance. First-year students currently in Magpies of the Archives —Tiyaba Jamil, Anabella Goglia, Jasmine Schaeffer, Zachary Tipton, and Kaelynn Bellamy — were dressed in period-appropriate attire for reenactments, which went along with the history in the voiceover video.
Peregoy and Fitzpatrick explained that they searched for answers to the Martha Polk mystery by reading old affidavits and other legal paperwork from the archives at Miller Library, as well as from databases and libraries in the local community.
The second pair of students to present their project included Jocelyn Aquilino and Erin Helgerman, who researched “The Impact of Mentorship Programs on Youth Development” with the help of the Director of the Writing Center and teacher of the Language is Limitless FYS Rachel Rodriguez.
“What inspired us to do this was working with Minary’s Dream Alliance in their mentorship program that helps students with life skills and homework, and we wanted to know what impact this program had on not only the mentees but the mentors who worked with them, and we also wanted to find stronger information on why programs like this should be funded,” Aquilino said.
Helgerman outlined their four main questions she and Aquilino strove to answer in their research, including how the absence of parental figures, the socioeconomic background, teaching communication style, and the presence of a mentor in a student’s life affects their cognitive and social development, as well as their performance in and enjoyment of school.
Helgerman and Aquilino’s presentation included relevant research on education, teacher income, school funding, psychology, and childhood development, as well as graphs displaying the data they personally collected from working with students and teachers in Kent County Middle School.
Their results suggest the value of more teacher involvement in after-school programs, as well as a mentorship program which would give students extra support and attention that they may not receive at home or as a result of various factors in school.
The third group of students to present included sophomores Emily Manson, Samantha McMahon, Malery Andrews, and Andrew Ellestad, who took the How to Succeed in College FYS with Assistant Dean of Advising and Academic Advocacy Hilary Bateman. Manson and McMahon are on the WC Field Hockey Team, Andrews is on the Women’s Lacrosse Team and Ellestad is on the Men’s Rowing Team, and as together they recognized common challenges that they face as student-athletes, and determined to develop these topics in research.
The student-athletes created a survey, sent out to the WC community, and designed to assess mental health, sleep, nutrition, and academic pressures of athletes as opposed to non-athletes on campus. They discussed the details of formatting questions, making personal assessments anonymous, and then analyzing their findings from the survey, which suggested that athletes often do not get enough sleep, proper nutrition, and often restrict themselves to a narrower range of studies than non-athletes.
A common sentiment among all of the researchers was the desire to implement their findings to promote positive change, whether on WC sports teams or in KCMS.
The fourth presentation was by Sarah Sypolt who took the LGBTQ+ Psychology FYS, and who researched “LGBTQ+ Minority Stress and Well Being at WAC” with the help of Dr. Ponti, who currently teaches the Queer Pop Culture FYS. Sypol
focusing on stereotypes, microaggressions, biases that contribute to feelings of isolation among LGBTQ individuals. Sypolt asked both non-LGBTQ groups and LGBTQ individuals to answer questions about sexual education in previous schooling, feelings of acceptance on campus, among others that yielded results.
Sypolt outlined her main findings by quoting student responses. Her results showed the effectiveness of representation — including being open about one’s LGBTQ identity and displaying pride flags on campus — in promoting feelings of inclusion, as well as the need for appropriate education and recognition to help everyone to feel a welcome part of the WC community.
Lastly, students Maura Collins, Hayley Covington, and Rachel Beall, who took the End of the World FYS with Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Jordan Tirrell, studied “Civilizational Resilience.” The question they considered was how a community like Chestertown could restore itself after a destructive event. The presentation focused especially on issues related to agriculture and energy.
Covington, Beall, and Collins entertained a series of scenarios where 50 to 60 years post-disaster in Chestertown, residents would be faced with challenges of recovering intellectual as well as environmental resources. They combined environmental science research with studies that included talking to the faculty at Miller Library to learn about the endurance of physical books over time. Their conclusions included a reliance on native foods, a return to methods of energy like the water wheel, and other changes that would be necessary if present civilization were to be destroyed.
Dr. Ponti hopes to continue “Flock Talks” in the foreseeable future as well as encourage first-year students to pursue further research related to their FYS. For more information on FYS research projects, reach out to Dr. Ponti or current FYS professors.
Photo by Faith Jarrell
Photo Caption: Dr. Martin Ponti coined the newest WC series “Flock Talks” where sophomores discuss research completed during and after their former FYS classes.