G.R.E.A.T. Day commends students across disciplines

Geneseo held its 10th annual Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement & Talent Day on Tuesday April 19, giving students the opportunity to showcase an area of directed study through presentation or performance. According to the event’s program, the purpose of G.R.E.A.T. Day is to “help foster academic excellence, encourage professional development and build connections within the community.” Presentations represented a myriad of academic subjects including—but not limited to—psychology, English, theater and dance, science, international relations and mathematics.

Four concurrent presentation sessions lasting an hour and 15 minutes each comprised most of the day’s schedule, while other segments—including the keynote address, the “G.R.E.A.T. Battle of the Artists,” the Chamber Music Festival, two poster sessions and dance performances—were held intermittently. Events began at 8:30 a.m. and concluded with Insomnia Film Festival screenings at 7 p.m. in Wadsworth Auditorium.

Psychology majors junior Jessica Goldstein and freshman Christopher Weber presented “How to Be a Happier Person” with support from faculty sponsor and associate professor of psychology Jim Allen in Bailey Hall 102. Both students took PSYC 278: Psychology of Happiness—taught by Allen—this semester.

The interactive presentation encouraged students to express gratitude, to stop overthinking and to find an outlet to let the mind “flow” in order to enhance their happiness. The project—which took approximately 100 hours to complete—was inspired by an assignment Goldstein and Weber did for their class.

“For our class [Allen] has us reading books by Sonja Lyubomirsky—she is a great author and an amazing psychologist—and it’s easy reading … [Goldstein] came up with the idea to do a G.R.E.A.T. Day project on it,” Weber said. “This isn’t even for our class.”

Across from Bailey in Brodie Hall, theater and dance presentation “Dance Composition: Senior Choreographic Projects” took place, featuring senior Kristen Czerwinski’s “From the Beginning,” senior Antonia Maric’s “Lotus” and senior Nicole Bergamo’s “Serendipity” during the first morning session, as well. Assistant professor of theater and dance Mark Broomfield was the faculty sponsor and chair.

Psychology major and dance and human development double minor junior Laura Dolan—who performed in “Lotus”—was also presenting for her research lab psychology group in a later poster session and commented on the significance of featuring a wide variety of disciplines in the annual event.

“I think that the arts are just as important as the sciences … just because they go so well together. You need both, you can’t just focus on science—you need to have something to kind of bring all of that knowledge into it,” she said. “The arts, they’re more than just academic; there’s critical thinking skills and all of that as well. I think at G.R.E.A.T. Day it’s important to show all that we do on campus.”

Dolan added that this year’s G.R.E.A.T. Day had its first dance history presentation: “Tai Chi in a College Setting: Educating and Benefiting Undergraduate Students” from senior Sierra Bouchard, sophomore Emily Ellmann and junior Alex Sherry.

“We do more than just dance in the dance studies program,” Dolan said. “We also do dance history and kinesiology and a bunch of different classes. It’s pretty exciting.”

The subsequent presentation session included projects from multiple international exchange students in “International Linguistic and Cultural Exchange” and Edgar Fellows “Ethnic Prejudice in Dutch Counterterrorism: Exploring the Histories of and Interactions Between Immigration Policy, Security Strategy, and Xenophobia,” presentation by international relations major senior Yaela Collins.

Following the two concurrent sessions, the poster sessions allowed students from a variety of disciplines to display their work throughout the MacVittie College Union’s Ballroom, third floor and Starbucks stage.

English and communication double major senior Leandra Griffith exhibited her project “Can Given Names Give Empowerment? The Effects of Non-Conventional Names on Women,” which—according to her abstract—“[examined] the function of non-conventional first names on women based on the perceptions of the individual who holds the name, the parent that gives the names and the authors of baby-name media that advise expecting parents in name selection.” The poster was selected for presentation at the Eastern Communication Association Undergraduate Scholar’s Conference in Baltimore.

“I started last semester in [associate professor of communication Atsushi] Tajima’s research class … I was working on it for that entire semester and then I presented it in-conference this semester,” Griffith said. “Last semester, [this project] was basically my life … It was a lot of work but, in the end, I got such good results and I’m really happy with it.”

After a Student Association-sponsored buffet luncheon and performances from Geneseo String Band and Slainte Irish Dance Performance, keynote speaker President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation Brother Guy Consolmagno gave his presentation “Why Do We Do Science?”

Consolmagno spoke in Wadsworth Auditorium about why individuals search for pure knowledge, how the choices of both individuals and society impact scientific discoveries and the manner in which individuals think of themselves.

In his speech, Consolmagno argued for the crossover between science and religion. “There’s a temptation to divide our experience into separate categories: faith versus science, emotion versus logic. It’s a false division,” he said. “Real people are not just Kirk or just Spock. Heck, even Kirk and Spock were not just Kirk and just Spock. It’s on the basis of both reason and gut feeling that we make all decisions of our life.”

According to Consolmagno, science and religion can coexist because both are ever-changing. Consolmagno also stressed the necessity for scientific research to be explored as a community.

“Science is done as a part of a big community. If you don’t have a community of people around you, it’s not going to happen,” he said. “You won’t learn science from somebody else, you won’t have anybody to pass it on to … And that’s why it makes a difference whether the society thinks that science is worth doing.”

Physics major junior Ash Dean found Consolmagno’s outlook on religion and science to be thought-provoking and he believes such a crossover is viable.

“I have friends who are religious who are physics majors and they can accept physics as real and something that we can study even though they’re religious,” he said. “It just depends on what part of science you’re talking about and how you interpret your religion.”

Two final presentation sessions succeeded the keynote and commenced in a similar fashion to those that occurred earlier in the day.

Juniors physics and mathematics major Jessica Steidle and physics major Ryan Ward presented “Radiochromic Film Sensitivity Calibrations Using Ion Beams from a Pelletron Accelerator,” sponsored by physics department chair professor Charlie Freeman. RCF is a transparent film that changes color after being exposed to ions. In their study, Ward and Steidle tested the sensitivity of multiple types of RCF to various energy levels of ions.

Ward said that he gathered this data as part of a paid research program over the summer. He added that performing this presentation was challenging, as such concepts can be difficult to explain.

“It was a little stressful getting the whole PowerPoint together because we wanted it to be as perfect as possible—hopefully, as understandable as possible—which is kind of hard for us because it’s not straightforward or easy to explain,” he said.

Freeman noted mentoring students is a rewarding experience.

“It’s what Geneseo’s really all about: getting students involved in research and real world applications and extending their learning beyond the classroom,” he said. “The creativity and scientific inquiry that they bring into the process is really rewarding for me as a faculty member to see.”

International relations major junior Maria Gershuni, childhood and special education major senior Tatianna Flores and history major senior Thomas O’ Hara participated in the final session of presentations with “Defining the Panoptican: Three Perspectives,” sponsored by adjunct lecturer in history Todd Goehle.

Gershuni examined the popular social media platform Yik Yak and the role it has in how people choose to represent themselves. “The point [of Yik Yak] is not who you are or what you look like, it’s what you’re talking about that matters,” she said. “There is a culture of confession without repercussion.”

O’Hara discussed what he called the “remixed folk art” of the 21st century, where the appreciation or analysis of art can be its own media field in and of itself. “The remixing culture has a wide range, from fanfiction and criticism to ‘Let’s Play’ videos and discussions,” O’ Hara said. Flores rounded out the trio by exploring how people construct their identities on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram using a personal context.

“I subconsciously police my actions to be accepted into the social fabric, and the nature of social media allows me to construct a social identity,” she noted. “The accurate parts of my identity become indistinguishable from the projected parts of my identity.”

G.R.E.A.T. Day concluded with a Geneseo Bhangra performance and final round of poster presentations in the MacVittie College Union. The Geneseo Insomnia Film Festival reception and screenings were the last events of the day.

Freshman chemistry major Meghana Kakarla noted that she thought G.R.E.A.T. Day’s diversity in student projects was astonishing.

“I thought it was amazing to see the student body’s projects coming together and how far they’ve come since the beginning of their endeavors,” she said in a phone interview.

Editor-in-chief Taylor Frank, managing editor Megan Tomaszewski, associate News editor Annie Renaud and assistant News editor Malachy Dempsey contributed reporting to this article.