Each summer, students and faculty members team up for Summer Scholars, an intensive 10-week program that provides an opportunity for professors and undergraduate students from all disciplines to conduct collaborative research together. At the end, students present their research projects to faculty, staff, trustees, family and community members in a closing celebration. This year, we're shining the spotlight on two Summer Scholar projects on opposite ends of the spectrum: our physics team and our studio art team.
Boisterous laughter fills the small room in which Muna Scekomar '18, Ashley Alex '18 and Todd Deutsch are editing their video project. Though associate professor of art Deutsch is the faculty member of this Summer Scholars team, 10 minutes with the group quickly gives one the sense that he's also the subject of some pretty experienced ribbing — all in good fun, and in good company.
Deutsch, Scekomar and Alex are in the thick of their project: a series of multimedia documentary shorts exploring the impact of the liberal arts on students at St. Kate's. The finished product will feature four St. Kate's students relating their stories in their own words, accompanied by animated images.
"There are all these great stories around student experience at the school," says Deutsch. "Our interest is in trying to tell some of these stories — trying to illustrate what it is that happens in a liberal arts environment; how that changes you and the way you think; the way it sets you up for moving through life after college."
Each member of the trio brings skills from their own specialized areas: Deutsch from photography, studio art major Alex from her mixed media art, and Scekomar from her electronic media studies major and her podcast experience at Radio Here — and, of course, the student perspective from which Alex and Scekomar are able to draw.
"They each have these clustered skills that I don't have as much experience in and are very open and invested," Deutsch says. "Muna and Ashley brought a level of connection and understanding to the subject matter that broadened the direction of the project, keying in on some of the experiences that might be more interesting to other students."
Documenting the holistic journey
All three emphasize that the project focuses on the entire liberal arts environment, rather than solely the academic level.
"We wanted to delve into unique stories that popped out to us as St. Kate's students, incorporating the involvement of liberal arts in all aspects — not just in academia," Alex notes. "You look at these people who are well-established in the community, and you wonder how they got there with all of these pressing outside events that directly affect everything in your life."
The four undergraduates selected for interviews are St. Kate's students Alex and Scekomar know personally. They come from a variety of academic disciplines: social work, fashion and apparel design, nursing, and studio art.
Although not done intentionally, the quartet are women of color, and some are non-traditional baccalaureate students. All have experienced substantial obstacles during their college journey — the loss of a family member, mental health, navigating school as a second-generation U.S. citizen — and have both made their mark on St. Kate's and felt the mark that St. Kate's has made on them.
"College is a really interesting, transformative place where you're holding yourself accountable and putting yourself out there in new ways," says Scekomar. "We wanted to capture stories that feature the growth and strength of pushing on throughout that journey, and seeing how the environment you're in changes that experience, too."
Between drafting content, animating, cutting audio and everything else that plays a part in the video production process, the team has taken on an impressive amount of work. They anticipate one eight-minute documentary completed by the end of summer 2017, and Deutsch says their project will continue into the fall.
"The best part of this project," says Scekomar, "is seeing the students themselves reflecting on their story and their journey, and realizing that they've done more than they give themselves credit for."
Attend the Summer Scholars closing celebration
On Wednesday, August 2, 11:45 a.m.–1:15 p.m., St. Kate's students will present their research projects in Rauenhorst Ballroom at Coeur de Catherine. See what they've been up to all summer!
Summer Scholars 2017 teams
Multimedia Documentary Shorts
Muna Scekomar ’18, Ashley Alex ’18, Todd Deutsch
Hox Gene Regulation of Sex-Specific Neurogenesis in Caenorhabditis Elegans
Taylor Olin ’18, Andrea Kalis
Exploring the Effect of Exercise on Mood and Trust
Sara Brakke ’18, Ngozika Ezenagu ’19, John Pellegrini
Synthesis and Characterization of 2D Tin Sulfide Nanosheets
Elizabeth Juarez Diaz ’18, John Dwyer
Nationalism and Populism Abroad: France, Germany, and the United Kingdom
Addison Cross ’20, Rafael Cervantes
A Reading Guide for Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans
Emma Hargreaves ’17, Cecilia Konchar Farr
Exercise and Sports Science
Does Resistance Training Affect Speed of Movement in Older Adults?
Natalie Barron ’18, Michelle Perri ’18, Joshua Guggenheimer
Extended Symmetric Spaces and Theta-Twisted Involution Graphs of the Alternating Symmetric Group
Emma Holzbach ’20, Autumn Mortenson ’20, Jessie Lenarz, Kristy Pelatt
Assessing Consumer Knowledge of Added Sugars
Rose Maniates ’19, Courtney Vanderheiden ’18, Nuala Bobowski
Campus Health and Ideas for the Future
Mary Jane Voss ’18, Holly Willis
Stratospheric Thermal Effects Related to the August 2017 Total Solar Eclipse
Vina Onyango-Robshaw ’18, Ana Taylor ’19, Alynie Walter ’18, Erick Agrimson
Community Response to Police Shootings: An Experimental Exploration
Katelyn Byers-Carter ’18, Gabrielle Filip-Crawford
Summer Scholars spotlight: 2017 Solar Eclipse
An eye for art: Photographer graces the ordinary with the richness of the moment
By Michelle Mullowney '17