Senior Projects Day

April 25, 2012

It's Senior Projects Day, and students in the College of Arts & Sciences are doing Pacific University proud with some outstanding and intriguing research presentations.

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New: Pictures now available from Senior Projects Day 2012!

It wasn’t even noon, and already I had learned about modern feminism, local agriculture and the most feasible “green” habits to integrate into an average household.

It’s Senior Projects Day here at Pacific University. Throughout the day, seniors in the College of Arts & Sciences are taking turns, in various venues around the Forest Grove campus, giving 30-minute presentations on the culminating projects of their undergraduate careers.

It’s my first Senior Projects Day here, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Let’s be honest: A series of presentations on academic research runs the risk of being overly technical and, dare I say it, boring to a general audience.

In reality, that’s not the case at all. As students gather their composure (this has to be a nerve-wracking process, though every student I’ve watched has exhibit great professionalism) and stand before their professors and friends, visiting family and a few complete strangers, they have brought an insight not only into their college research and education, but also their passions and future plans.

Stephanie Haugen, a media arts-journalism major, gave a stellar presentation on agriculture in Washington County. She didn’t read us the seven separate articles she has written on the topic (though I’ve read one, and it was some excellent journalism)—she told us about the process of developing the stories: why she cared, who she talked to, and the like.

Helen Fibbs, an environmental studies major, got personal into her research of low-impact living, turning her own home into a laboratory for real-life energy-saving practices over the summer (and, she jokes, making her roommates into lab rates, of a sort). She not only had the list of tips for reducing your carbon footprint, she had data on what it meant to her own household budget and what the experience was really like.

When I was in college, we didn’t do anything like this. I wrote some pretty big research papers for my communications degree, but I never had a single culminating project that tied all my classes and interests together. I certainly didn’t have to stand up and talk about it in front of a crowd.

Though I’m sure the practice is more than a bit stressful, I think that our students are lucky to have the opportunity to conduct their own research and to produce meaningful work that gives them both real-world experience and something to show off as they move to the next stage in their journeys.

My only complaint is that I can’t be in multiple presentations at once. Oh the things I’ve missed: zombies and vampires, prisons and schools, original art and stories.

Congratulations, seniors, you’ve done yourselves—and Pacific—proud today.