August 31, 2016
This summer, West Chester students took summer courses on campus and elsewhere, in addition to working, interning, volunteering and squeezing in a little relaxation. Here are a few students’ reflections on their summer educational experiences.
Heat wave? Not for WCU senior Katherine Hood, who spent part of her summer in the Arctic Circle conducting research.
Summer in Alaska is brief and Hood made the most of it, studying an element of climate change: carbon storage in plants. "I am very passionate about climate change and doing what I can to help and to take care of our world."
A biology major with a concentration in ecology and conservation and a minor in nutrition, Hood was a field assistant to Jessica Schedlbauer, associate professor of biology, on a larger WCU project that received NSF funding this year. Schedlbauer is examining photosynthetic temperature responses of a dominant tundra sedge (grass) species.
"My research is just a very small part of a large project being led up here on the species and how the different ecotypes respond to warming (i.e. future climate change)," Hood explains.
She and Schedlbauer joined other researchers on various projects at the Toolik Field Station, which is operated by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Nearly halfway across the world, WCU junior Rachael Marks learned much from digging in the dirt on a remote, wind-swept Irish archaeological site.
Happily mud-stained, this anthropology major with a concentration in archaeology, was excavating the site of Caherconnell cashel under the supervision of Dr. Kate Leonard from the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway through NUI’s Archaeological and Geological Field Schools. Located in the Burren region of Western Ireland, this stone fort dates to the 10th century and sits on an historically rich landscape that helps researchers unravel Gaelic heritage.
Marks says that the project consisted of "finding artifacts as well as reconstructing what the fort would have looked like and been used for at particular times in history."
Through this experience, Marks notes, "I've been able to enjoy doing Irish archaeology a lot more than I anticipated." The experience has inspired her, and she is considering continuing her research in Ireland in the future.
Back in the U.S.A., WCU English major Arden Colleluori launched her summer by attending the Boldface Conference at the University of Houston, Texas, for emerging writers.
Colleluori felt that the supportive learning environment at Boldface "allowed me to call myself a better writer, gain more confidence in my writing, helped me hone my skills and come out of my shell as a writer and editor."
On campus, Colleluori is editor in chief of The Serpentine yearbook and a staff writer for the student newspaper The Quad. The skills she enhanced at the conference will carry over into those activities as well as her classwork, she says. Thoughtfully critiquing others’ writing "allowed me to recalibrate my editing skills for a larger, more diverse community ... [and] helped me flesh out better feedback for each of my group members."
In addition to being able to share constructive criticism from both viewpoints, Colleluori says she got a “confidence boost" and felt less pressured at the conference to read her work. "Instead of being required to participate, I had the opportunity to stay silent. Yet the option of silence felt to me like more of a personal challenge: If I could read in front of people in Houston, Texas, what could stop me from reading in front of a similar crowd at home?"
This was Colleluori's first professional conference, as it is for many of the WCU students who attend, usually on scholarships. The faculty of the creative writing minor organize this and trips to more local readings and presentations by professional writers.