Benedictine College Students Present Original Research at Discovery Day 2015

Students Present Original Research at 20th Annual Discovery Day

Published: Thursday, April 16, 2015

Benedictine College students presented the results of their original research on more than 70 topics at the school’s 20th annual Discovery Day on Wednesday, April 15. Each year, the college cancels classes to allow for a day of extra-curricular learning as hundreds of students give presentations on subjects including music, engineering, history, theology, biology, chemistry, nursing, language, sociology, computer programming and philosophy.

“I think it’s really interesting to see what people are researching, to see what they’re passionate about,” said Elizabeth Wasinger, a Benedictine senior who attended several Discovery Day presentations. “It opens up the fields of study we offer here and expands what you have learned in your classes.

The day always includes a keynote speaker and this year the featured presentation was from renowned ethnomusicologist and 1968 alumna Portia Maultsby, Laura Boulton Professor Emeritaof Ethnomusicology and Director Emerita and Research Associate of Archives of African American Music and Culture at Indiana University, Bloomington. She explained that the field of ethnomusicology is relatively new and combines cultural anthropology with musicology.

“We study music as human behavior,” she said. “Music is the story of the people we study.”

Maultsby has enjoyed a very successful career, which has allowed her to travel the world and engage with many diverse cultures. She spoke about her early days as a music student at Mount St. Scholastica College, now Benedictine College, and her performance group in the 1960s, Peaches and Cream. After completing Master’s and Doctoral degrees, she went on to write the book on the subject, “African American Music: An Introduction,” which is now one of the common college textbooks used to study ethnomusicology. She has been featured in Rolling Stone magazine and has served as a researcher, curator, and consulting scholar for museum exhibitions and multimedia productions, most notably for BBC, PBS, and NPR.

In conclusion, she gave the students crowded into O’Malley-McAllister Auditorium some advice on life and careers.

“Develop a vision, go beyond traditions. Push boundaries, take risks. If you believe in your vision, take the leap and go for it,” she said. “Opportunities that you never imagined will follow.”

Her conclusion embodied the spirit of Discovery Day at Benedictine College and many students had taken the leap into research outside of the regular classroom curriculum. Projects included studies of plant and animal life in the area, the story of the stained glass windows in the chapel at Mount St. Scholastica Monastery, tracking basketball skills through a smart sensor basketball, research on academic dishonesty, a comparison of marriage and career expectations at colleges in Kansas and Virginia, the construction of water filtration systems for third-world environments, the perfection of a concrete canoe, teaching evangelization to children, a look at the history of the Fourth Crusade, a linguistic study of “vocal fry” and its impact on perception, how to teach living history, and much, much more.

Lenore Dea, a senior who has enjoyed attending the Discovery Day presentations for four years, and likes to see what her peers are interested in, which doesn’t necessarily line up with their majors.

“The other thing I love (about Discovery Day) is that you’re not in a regular classroom. You’re sitting with and learning from people you’re not usually learning with and about topics you may not learn about in the classroom,” she said. “You get to roam around and discover random things.”

Some projects presented at Discovery Day have even been entered into national competitions and conferences. Some of these projects include a small remote controlled aircraft that was entered into the Society of Automotive Engineers’ annual Aero Design Competition; a concrete canoe that was entered into the National Concrete Canoe Competition at the Mid-Continent Conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers; and a sociology presentation on the pressures and expectations of singlehood in the post sexual revolution era that was presented at the Midwest Sociological Society’s annual conference.

“Discovery Day is a good way to learn outside of the classroom,” said Deanna Ramos, a senior who presented her sociology research to a packed room in the Ferrell Academic Center. “It’s enriching in many ways whether it’s in your discipline or outside of it.”

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.