Mentored undergraduate research has long been a staple of the summer for UMW students in science and mathematical fields. Now arts, humanities and social sciences students are reaping the benefits as well.
The first Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Summer Institute (AHSSSI) concludes tomorrow with a symposium during which five teams will present the results of their monthlong research projects. The event, beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, in the Digital Auditorium of the Hurley Convergence Center, is open to the public.
The program is modeled on UMW’s Summer Science Institute, now in its 23rd year. Like the science institute, the AHSSSI provides a framework for intense scholarly inquiry into a specific topic proposed by a faculty mentor.
Sixteen student participants lived on campus and worked daily with one another and their mentoring professors. They received room, board and a small stipend while they conducted their research, analyzed their findings and developed the conclusions they’ll present at the symposium.
The students also met weekly with Professor of Spanish Betsy Lewis, who is assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and AHSSSI director. (Lewis will share a summary of the research later this month at the Council on Undergraduate Research URConnect conference in Washington, D.C.)
Lewis credits Keith Mellinger, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, for supporting the summer institute and working to extend the opportunity to as many students as possible.
At a recent meeting with Lewis, several students discussed their work in progress and reflected on how their summer experiences might enhance future academic and professional endeavors.
For Ben Lechtman ’22, creating a tabletop puppet performance with fellow students and Associate Professor of Theatre Kevin McCluskey meant sticking to a strict production schedule – something he sees as transferrable to any class or profession.
Isabella Cunningham ’23 saw value in “learning how to execute someone else’s vision and making that work.” She was on a student team that created an inventory and database of writing systems under the direction of Associate Professor of Linguistics Paul Fallon.
And for Cunningham’s fellow writing systems researcher Ezra Hanning ’25, a big takeaway was developing the intellectual stamina for sustained research. “Hours and hours of research,” he said to laughter from the group.
Others noted that they’d become proficient in working through data problems, sharpened their ability to advocate for and defend their work, gained a new appreciation of how multiple disciplines interconnect, and built working relationships with one another and their faculty mentors.
Tomorrow’s symposium presentation times, projects, mentors and teams are:
2:30 p.m. Puppets as Performance Object: Creation of a Devised, Table Top Puppet Performance, led by Associate Professor of Theatre Kevin McCluskey. Student researchers are Benjamin Lechtman, Alex Anthes Rojas, Matthew Monaghan and Cameron Hovey.
3 p.m. Writing Systems Inventory Database, led by Associate Professor of Linguistics Paul Fallon. Student researchers are Isabella Cunningham, Matias Esquivel and Ezra Hanning.
3:30 p.m.: Effects of Mindful Attention on Memory: An Eye-tracking Investigation, led by Assistant Professor of Psychological Science Marcus Leppanen. Student researchers are Juls Buyaki, Sana Aftav, Rob Oehler and Ally Holden.
4 p.m. Growing Community Gardens in Fredericksburg and in the College Curriculum, led by Associate Professor of Sociology Eric Bonds. Student researchers are Teresa Guzman, Vaishnavi Visveswaran and Maren Raposo.
4:30 p.m. Pink, Blue, and Red Waves in Old Dominion: Women in the Virginia General Assembly, 2001 – 2021, led by Professor of Political Science Rosalyn Cooperman. Student researchers are Katheryn Gonzalez and Mary-Elise Alworth.