Seven Rivers showcases student research

Kasie Von Haden

Lumen Editor 

On Friday, Nov. 11, Viterbo celebrated the research and creative works of students from various disciplines in its eighth annual Seven Rivers Undergraduate Research Symposium. The symposium, which ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. included a keynote address by Margaret Lowman, Ph. D., a research professor at North Carolina State University, several sessions for students to show their work, and an awards ceremony.

Roughly 300 people registered to participate in Seven Rivers, including the students who were involved in presenting the 50 total oral presentations and almost 100 posters, said Kirsten Gabriel, academic programs coordinator and coordinator of Seven Rivers.

The number of attendees increased significantly this year from last year, Gabriel said. “Last year, we had just over 200 registered, compared to this year’s 300.”

“Seven Rivers is a great first step,” Gabriel said. “Viterbo students are lucky that it’s so close. They can get their feet wet, build confidence, and decide if research is something they want to do in the future. Students are putting into practice all those critical thinking skills and theories they learned in the classroom.”

A total of 11 schools besides Viterbo had attendees presenting at the symposium, Gabriel said. These schools included UW-La Crosse, UW-Platteville, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Eau Claire, Winona State St. Thomas University, Upper Iowa University, Luther Collge, Clarke University, St. Mary’s University, and St. Catherine University.

“It’s great to see what other students from other institutions are working on, too,” Gabriel said.

Anna Hudson, a senior dietetics major from Anoka, Minn., agreed with Gabriel. “It’s fun to see what others are presenting.”

Hudson, who presented her research poster, “Food Deserts: Rural Populations’ Access to Healthy Food,” found her research and presentation experience to be rewarding.

“It was a larger task than I expected,” Hudson said. “But, it’s fun. It’s a different and new experience to be able to talk to people when they understand the process of research.”

Angie Mensink, a senior psychology major from Preston, Minn., who presented “Recovery Narratives: Factors Relative to Gender and Abstinence,” agrees with Gabriel and Hudson.

Though Mensink has presented at two national American Psychology Association conferences, one in San Diego, Calif., and one in Washington D.C., she appreciates the benefit of Seven Rivers as a local, undergraduate symposium.

“It’s a good experience to share undergraduate research with undergraduates,” Mensink said. “It’s nice to have peer, critical, constructive criticism. We’re on the same level of research for growth and understanding.”

Mensink, who attended last year’s Seven Rivers Symposium, described this years symposium as a great event.

“It’s awesome,” Mensink said. “Last year, there weren’t as many presentations, and I’m enthused by the number of Viterbo students and other universities presenting.”

For Mensink, her relationship with research won’t end at Seven Rivers. Because she is interested in clinical psychology, research will be important to her as she continues in her future career.

“It’s an incredible feat to get others to understand your research and why its important,” Mensink said. “And for me, it will help me understand who I work with.”

After the student presentation sessions came to a close, the Seven Rivers Symposium ended with closing remarks and an awards ceremony, led by biology professor, Ward Jones.

Awards were presented to the top two student oral presentations in each discipline, while the two best poster presentations were decided by “people’s choice.” Winners received a certificate of recognition and a gift card to Barnes and Noble.

Mensink was given an award for top oral presentation award in the discipline of the social sciences, while Viterbo students Maryn Williams (“Teacher Work Sample: Farm Literacy Unit”) and Hannah Bigjohn (“Ishkonimaang: We Shall Preserve It, Before We Lose It”) both received top honors in the humanities division.

Viterbo students Amy Braaksma, Chelsea McCoy, and Samantha Gobler won an award for one of two best poster presentations on their work, “Sustainable Graphic Design: Education, Innovation, Conservation.”

“It feels good to be recognized and represent Viterbo,” McCoy said on behalf of her group. “It’s a big honor.”

The ninth annual Seven Rivers Symposium has already been scheduled for next year. Events will take place on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012.

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