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  • Writer's pictureHANNA BABEK & MICHAEL CURRAN

Student experiences at the center of Symposium

J.A.I.L.L. group members advocating for their cause on the Boston Common. Photo courtesy of Eftihia Fotos

Symposium was held on April 25 with the theme of “Our Unique Voice.” Students presented what they’ve learned and accomplished this semester throughout de Witt Hall and Winslow academic building.  

While planning the event and theme, the Symposium planning team always ensures the Connected Learning philosophy is at the root of their message. 

Dennis Frey, dean of curricular integration and director of the Rosemary B. Fuss Teaching and Learning Center, explained the meaning behind “Our Unique Voice.” 

“As we were brainstorming earlier this semester, we recognized the recent trends in Generative AI and wanted to highlight the fact that each human has a unique voice that is their own,” Frey said. 

Frey said that Symposium allows students to share their achievements and work from the semester with the community, as well as build their portfolios. Those who attend get to celebrate their peers’ work and explore the university’s other programs through the presentations. 

“If we’re lucky, then we get students participating and presenting for three or four years in a row, but they are always different and at different stages of professional growth. So, while the event, year-to-year, looks very similar on paper, it is constantly evolving.” Frey said.

“Things change between the years, because the students—who are the real superstars of the event—change over time,” Frey said. 

Symposium Project Coordinator Lee Meens said, “The ‘Our Unique Voice’ really talks about every single person's unique viewpoint and what they bring.” 

For Meens and her team, the whole semester builds up to Symposium. 

“All our work just leads up to this one day. And it's just like we go day by day with different projects, especially my work for social media. We receive proposals and share events and activities around campus,” social media manager and senior graphic design major Jaime Kinteris said. 

This year, several students presented projects about current issues they’re passionate about. 

Senior psychology major Eftihia Fotos, senior sociology major Brianna Ruffin and sophomore exercise science major McKenna Ecker presented their project titled Juvenile Advocacy in Legal Learning (J.A.I.L.L.). J.A.I.L.L. was based off a project created by their sociology class. The group is advocating for the state to require that part of the Civics Education funding be spent on legal learning, such as Miranda rights, to prevent youth incarceration. 

“Our motivation behind it is that we don’t want to see young kids being taken advantage of by the system,” Fotos said. 

The group has spoken to attorneys, non-profit organizations, state senators and members of the House of Representatives about their advocacy work. They also recently participated in a demonstration at the State House and presented a petition to the Ways and Means Committee members in the House of Representatives.  

Sophomore history major Cesar Morrel presented “Intent vs. Impact: The Meaning Behind the Message,” which focused on microaggressions and the harm they cause. The project is based on an idea Morrel originally presented to the Student Government Association (SGA). 

“This project is also based on my own experience as a person of color and I address some of the things I have witnessed,” Morrel said. “The reason I decided to do this project is because I feel that I want to bring some light to the issue and share with everyone that words can have an impact.”

Freshman forensic science major Lauren Rudich’s presentation, “Using Narcan (Opioid Overdose Response)” explains what Narcan is and how to use it. Following her presentation, she and Professor Stephen Rice provided a hands-on Narcan training. 

Rudich said that idea for the project came about during an SGA meeting. 

“During that meeting, I discussed my viewpoint on Narcan education on campus and decided to work with Professor Stephen Rice, a certified Narcan trainer, to do a Symposium presentation and training on it,” Rudich said. 

Frey said that days like Symposium exemplify Connected Learning. “Symposium Days are like open classrooms, where any community member can get a close look at how our approach to teaching and learning transforms students.” Frey said. 

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