Jewell cancels Colloquium presentations in response to COVID-19

Due to COVID-19, William Jewell College canceled its annual David Nelson Duke Colloquium Day – at which students present original research to their peers and the public. When Jewell moved courses online, it became clear Colloquium – scheduled for April 24 –  would not occur in its typical format. The Duke Colloquium planning committee considered hosting the event in a virtual format before ultimately deciding to cancel. A book of abstracts – highlighting the student research set to be presented – will be published in lieu of a formal Duke Colloquium Day.

Rose Reynolds, chair of the Duke Colloquium planning committee and professor of biology, described the process of ultimately deciding not to host a virtual Colloquium. 

“Although we did not have an in-person [Colloquium] this year, we did consider virtual [Colloquium] options,” said Reynolds. “Our primary goal is to celebrate the critical work of our students, without adding significantly to the stress or workloads of those students. Therefore, we needed to determine whether students whose abstracts had been accepted would still wish to participate in Colloquium, given the alternative format and their quarantine circumstances. We also needed to ensure that students who wished to participate would have the ability to do so with respect to equipment and internet access. We couldn’t make this decision without the students who would be involved.”

The committee contacted students who were to present research at Colloquium to gauge interest. In order to host the event, the Committee required that a minimum of 15 students express interest in and commit to presenting in the virtual format. The options for virtual presentation included a video recording of an oral presentation, a video communicating information from a poster presentation, a video recording of a live creative performance and a video recording introducing an artwork or written piece which would be made available via online link. 

Only eight students expressed interest in participating in the virtual format, so the Duke Colloquium planning committee decided to cancel the event. A book of Colloquium abstracts will subsequently be published.

“We are currently working with Susan Arbo [director of ceremonies and signature events] and Cara Dahlor [director of marketing and public relations] to determine when and where a booklet of abstracts can be posted. It is the goal of the Colloquium committee to provide a physical booklet to those students whose abstracts were accepted, and to post the abstract booklet online for public access as well,” said Reynolds.

Students whose abstracts were accepted for the 2020 Duke Colloquium will be offered presentation slots at the 2021 Duke Colloquium – without the need for reevaluation of abstracts.

“While we’re disappointed that we won’t get to celebrate our students’ work with an in-person or virtual Duke Colloquium this year, we look forward to celebrating their critical contributions via the abstract booklet… At the end of the day, we’re here to support the students and their endeavors in any and every way that we can. Sometimes support means creating a venue for student presentations, and other times support means giving students room to breathe,” Reynolds said in summation.

Student Participants in Colloquium

Although students will be offered presentation slots at next year’s Colloquium, graduating seniors will not get the chance to present their research. Among these students are Sara Hempleman, public relations, Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry and nonprofit leadership major; Kaitlyn O’Neal, Oxbridge: Literature and Theory major; Kendall Gammon, history major and classical humanities minor; Alexis Nelson, biology major and classical humanities minor; and, Riley Martin, psychological sciences and Oxbridge: Music major.

The seniors suspected Colloquium would likely not occur in its traditional format when on-campus classes were canceled. On the whole, they express gratitude for the communication they received from the Colloquium planning committee. 

Hempleman was set to present public relations research entitled Uncovering the Secret to Keeping Up: A Content Analysis of the Kardashian Family and Crisis Communication – a case study of the Kardashian family’s response to Caitlyn Jenner’s 2015 transition. She initially was intrigued by the potential for virtual presentation and was grateful to the committee for attempting to find ways for students to present their research.

“Being a senior, I am definitely bummed that I will not get an opportunity to present my research at Colloquium. I was excited to share my research with the Jewell community and to just be part of Colloquium because it is such a cool thing about Jewell. I would say that overall though, I am thankful for the opportunity to submit my research and be selected to present even though I won’t be able to,” Hempleman said. 

O’Neal was to present on her Hall Grant research project conducted in Dublin, Ireland, while taking courses on Irish literature and creative writing. She was to discuss writing techniques she learned, discuss how being in Dublin impacted her creative process and present one of the short stories she wrote during her time in Dublin. O’Neal too expressed interest in virtual presentation and excitement at the potential to still see other students’ projects. 

“I had really been looking forward to this year’s Colloquium day, so I was disappointed when it was canceled,” said O’Neal. “I’d been looking forward to sharing the amazing experiences the Hall Grant allowed me to have, and I love seeing all the amazing work that other Jewell students are doing. My family also usually attends Colloquium, so I was sad that what would have been my last chance to be all fancy and academic did not happen. I feel a little bit like I have unfinished business; I had this huge project that I’d worked on for years — applying to the Hall Grant, going abroad, writing the material I was going to present — that now won’t see culmination in my Jewell community.”

O’Neal hopes to publish the short story she was going to read as part of her presentation. In summation, she expressed the difficulty of moving to distance learning but thanked Jewell’s faculty and staff for their support and communication.

Infographic with quotes about Colloquium research made with Courtesy of Catherine Dema.

Gammon was to present two different projects. One of the projects is about the trade relationship between Ford Motors, International Business Machines and Nazi Germany during the 1930s and World War II. The second is a classical humanities project on the Stoic beliefs of Marcus Aurelius and how they were impacted by the loss of most of his children and close friends and family throughout his life, as well as the stress of maintaining the Roman Empire when under threat from Germanic tribes to the north and the Antonine Plague which spread throughout the empire. 

Gammon explained that students who agreed to the virtual presentation format were to upload videos and presentations by April 17 but were only informed April 16 that the virtual format would not take place. He was excited for the chance to present his projects virtually, yet he acknowledged the format would be less than ideal. While he believed the virtual format would work for him, he recognized that that would not be the case for all student presenters. 

“It is really unfortunate that Colloquium had to be canceled. This was going to be [my] first and last time presenting, and I am sure others feel the same,” said Gammon.

Nelson was set to present a discussion of disability in antiquity. The question she was to explore was: to what degree did the Romans classify congenital disabilities based on their origin, their potential for treatment and/or their visible physical characteristics? She expressed her disappointment at the cancelation of Colloquium in its traditional form – describing missing the chance to dress professionally and engage with larger audiences than a virtual Colloquium would allow.

The news of cancelation of virtual Colloquium further disappointed and angered Nelson – as she had really wanted to present her research and make her mentor proud. She expressed the amount of work that went into the presentation and a desire for closure, but she also acknowledged the possibility to present her work in the future.

“This presentation was the culminating event of my classical humanities minor, the last hoorah if you will. Now, there is nothing. It’s just over, and that’s really disheartening,” said Nelson. “Nevertheless, I am proud of myself and of the work that I put forth to complete my research. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot along the way, and ultimately, that’s what matters most… and who knows, maybe I’ll have the opportunity to present my work later once it is hopefully published.”

Martin was to present results of her Oxbridge thesis evaluating whether music encourages prosocial interactions. She expressed mixed feelings about the potential for a virtual Colloquium. Excited to present, Martin looked forward to sharing results with participants in her study and to engaging in the dialogue Colloquium encourages. A virtual Colloquium likely wouldn’t have fostered the same questions and discussions of future work, and making the project virtual represented another item to a list of tedious online work to complete.

“Even if we had presented virtually, my research would have been incomplete,” Martin explained. “Over spring break I was in the lab analyzing participants’ saliva samples, and I was only three days from finishing the work when the stay at home order was implemented. This prevented me from analyzing the results of what I think is the most interesting question of my study: does salivary oxytocin concentration increase more in participants who listen to music while moving in [sync] with a virtual partner than those who do not listen to music while moving? This was the most disappointing thing about the stay at home order for me.”

Upon her partial review of data, Martin did not find evidence that music encouraged prosocial intentions. Those who listened to music while moving were about as likely as those who moved while not listening to music to help a virtual partner. Martin did find evidence that participants with higher empathy scores were more likely to help  the virtual partner. 

“A huge thank you to all of the participants who donated their time and saliva for the sake of psychology! I couldn’t have done this research without you!” concluded Martin.

Catherine Dema

Catherine Dema is the page editor for Features & Investigations on The Hilltop Monitor. She is a senior majoring in Oxbridge: History of Ideas and physics.

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