G.R.E.A.T. Day celebrates interdisciplinary successes, highlights academic achievement

Geneseo hosted its 11th annual G.R.E.A.T. Day on Tuesday April 25. Among a full day of events, keynote speaker neurobiologist Dr. Erich Jarvis spoke on his research and career path. Beyond the vast amount of research studies presented,  the Geneseo Insomnia Film Festival and the Great Battle of Artists showcased a multitude of artistic talents. (Keith Walters/Campus Photographer)

Geneseo hosted its 11th annual G.R.E.A.T. Day on Tuesday April 25. Among a full day of events, keynote speaker neurobiologist Dr. Erich Jarvis spoke on his research and career path. Beyond the vast amount of research studies presented,  the Geneseo Insomnia Film Festival and the Great Battle of Artists showcased a multitude of artistic talents. (Keith Walters/Campus Photographer)

Geneseo hosted its 11th annual Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement and Talent Day throughout campus to celebrate student work on Tuesday April 25. With a full day of programming, the symposium highlighted academic, professional and community development.

Neurobiologist Dr. Erich Jarvis delivered the G.R.E.A.T. Day keynote address in Wadsworth Auditorium. Much like the interdisciplinary student presentations, Jarvis’ lecture addressed not only his research, but also his journey to a career in science and his role in recent activism to support scientific endeavors.

Before Jarvis spoke, President Denise Battles established his background, including a previous interest in the performing arts. In addition to delivering an introduction, Battles expressed her thanks to students, faculty, staff and the campus community for their contributions to G.R.E.A.T. Day.

To begin the address, Jarvis explained his research focus: brain mechanisms of vocal learning. Through his work, Jarvis studies how the brain controls complex behaviors, including language. Specifically, Jarvis’ research foregrounds the relationship between evolution of vocal production in birds and language development in humans.

“I argue that if we can discover how the brain controls language, then that trickles down to how the brain controls other things,” Jarvis said. 

Following a discussion of his research, Jarvis reoriented the lecture from a scientific to a humanistic approach. From his paper “Surviving as an Underrepresented Minority Scientist in A Majority Environment,” Jarvis presented four main lessons that have shaped his career. 

Calling on his training as a dancer, Jarvis suggested classifying science as an art, considering that both science and art demand discipline, creativity and arduous work. In his advice, Jarvis also reiterated the crucial contributions of role models in shaping their mentee’s careers.

“One of my role models is my grandfather, who worked his way to postmaster of New York City,” Jarvis said. “But your role model doesn’t even have to be a member of your own family, ethnicity or gender.”

Proposing his formula for success, Jarvis highlighted hard work and talent. He encouraged the audience to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. Further expounding on success, Jarvis argued that diversity breeds success.

“Diversity brings different views and different ways of thinking,” Jarvis said. “Bring people of different ethnicities together and you will make more interesting scientific discoveries than otherwise.”

Jarvis concluded his lecture by reading the speech that he delivered during the March for Science at the National Mall on Saturday April 22. The speech emphasized the benefits of scientific research—which largely rely on government funding—and the role of congressionally funded diversity programs in creating opportunities for the scientists of tomorrow. 

Winners of Geneseo’s Insomnia Film Festival were also announced on G.R.E.A.T. Day. First prize was awarded to the film team Valley Motion Pictures, who created the film called Product Release, parodying the announcement of “new” products: the paper bag and cardboard box. Teams Panda Production and Rupkotha took second and third place respectively, and a new Student Life Award given to the team with the most number of students from the same residence hall was awarded to the team Ass Kickers United. 

Additionally, on G.R.E.A.T. Day, GCAB Arts and Exhibits and Nassau Hall joined forces to host The Great Battle of the Artists in the MacVittie College Union Kinetic Gallery throughout the day. In the evening, a panel of faculty, staff and student judges announced a winner of the multi-media art contest. 

Arts and Exhibits GCAB Coordinator sophomore Emma Belson and biology major senior Hannah Fabiny collaborated to organize the event. After a day of deliberations, Belson delivered the awards for students’ choice of first, second and third best submission.

Coming in first place, communication major senior Emmalyn Pure—who submitted three pieces—won with her painting “People Watching.” In the show’s program, Pure emphasized her work’s colorful and celebratory nature. 

History and adolescent education double major senior Timothy Burger placed second for his graphite pencil drawing “A Study of Age.” In third place, psychology major senior Jenny Wong—who also entered three works—won for her piece “Portrait.” 

With her piece “Purity,” musical theatre major freshman Annie Levine won the students’ choice award, for which anyone on campus could vote. 

In addition to the awards, Belson distributed participation certificates to anyone who entered artwork for the display.

“I think the highlight of this event was seeing everyone come out and support their friends who submitted work,” Belson said. “This really proves that the arts are still alive at Geneseo—something that everyone on campus should realize.” 

News editor Annie Renaud contributed reporting to this article.