Students Showcase Work and Personal Interests at Celebration of Learning

The ivory tower was rife with intellectual, civic and artistic energy last Friday at Wittenberg’s third annual Celebration of Learning.

According to the event’s website, nearly 200 students presented their work throughout the day-long event. The showcased works ranged from class projects and senior honor theses, to creative projects in fiction and music.

Some participants found the event to be empowering.

“[The celebration of learning] gives students a podium to talk about what we are passionate about,” senior Nelson Laracuente said.

Laracuente’s participation epitomized the diversity of subjects addressed throughout the day, as he presented three separate pieces of work: one addressing poverty amongst women in China, one on the politics and cultural identity of Northern Virginia and one on the social dominance of masculinity.

This diversity, according to Laracuente, is what made the day so compelling.

“We get to hear various perspectives on various topics,” he said. “It shows that everything is connected.”

As the topics of work ranged, so did the mediums of presentation. The presentations were broken into three forums: panels, poster presentations and informal performances, the latter of which took place in the bohemian environments of Post 95 and Founders.

The panels were arranged thematically, with a faculty member sitting in to facilitate discussion after participants delivered their presentations. The panels not only offered an in-depth, detailed look at particular work, but they also drew interesting connections across disciplines.

The “Analyzing Text and Media” panel, for example, brought together senior Noah James from the foreign language department and senior Jenny Klose from the communication department. James explored the difficulties of translation, using his work rendering a Japanese short story to English as an example, while Klose presented a rhetorical reading of Jodi Ernst’s successful 2014 congressional campaign strategy in Iowa.

In addition to acting as a forum for the presentation of academic work, a few panels also shed light on the efforts students have been making outside the classroom. One panel highlighted the experience of two after-school mentors, an opportunity that allowed them to use the things they have learned in class and make an impact on the surrounding community.

“It was nice to gain in-field experience while building relationships with the kids,” said junior Emily Fitch on her experience working through the Hagen Center for Civic and Urban Engagement.

Fitch and her partner, junior Kate DeVantier, co-lead an after-school reading club for third through sixth graders at Lagonda Elementary school in Springfield last summer. Most notably, the two presented survey results that showed that their work with the kids increased their confidence and interest in writing.

Beyond highlighting particular results and findings, the event also shed light on what a liberal arts education and civic engagement meant to participants as human beings.

“I’ve always loved reading, and having the chance to pass that on has been really rewarding,” DeVantier said.

Laracuente, in fact, thinks that finding out what is rewarding for other participants is what makes events like these so important.

“This type of passionate, intellectual involvement creates empathy,” said Laracuente, referring to the particular interests illustrated by the different participants.

The Celebration of Learning was punctuated by the Spring Honors Convocation, where Laracuente won the Presidential Scholarship and the Martin Luther King Jr. award.

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