The Power of Research

By Marisa Thomas ’22, April 28, 2021
Whalen Symposium provides IC students the opportunity to demonstrate academic work.

Last week, the college held its 24th annual James Whalen Academic Symposium, and although it was held virtually, the breadth and depth of the Ithaca College undergraduate academic experience was still on display in full force. The Whalen Symposium, named after former president James J. Whalen, highlights research produced by undergraduate students under the guidance of faculty mentors.

In a pre-recorded message, President Shirley M. Collado thanked the students and faculty mentors for their hard work and dedication.

“To our students, thank you for asking the hard questions and for being so curious and for so boldly pursuing the answers,” she said. “To our faculty and staff who serve as mentors and volunteers and coconspirators, thank you for investing in our students and for contributing your knowledge and expertise to the creation of this learning and thriving community.”

President Shirley M. Collado kicked off the three-day symposium with a thank you to students and faculty.

Students from all five schools presented nearly 50 research projects, with topics ranging from early 1900s feminist militant groups, to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on substance abuse and mental health, to college students’ attitudes towards the flu shot.

This year, 19 presentations were named award finalists. One presentation, “Short Skirts and Revolvers: Cumann na mBan and Irish Republican Feminism” from writing and history major Samantha Brandal ’21, focused on the Cumann na mBan, a feminist militant group that was founded in 1914 with the goal of achieving Irish liberty.

Brandal worked on the project for more than two years, conducting much of her research during a semester abroad in Dublin, and gathering information from the archives in the National Library of Ireland. Her goal was to complete the narrative of the Irish Revolution and restore agency to a group of women fighters who were erased from history.

“I've been working on this for a very long time now, and it's basically consumed my life for that time,” said Brandal. “I was incredibly proud to be able to share it.

“I am so grateful to have been able to work with Professor Breuer. She really challenged me to do my best work, and I couldn't have done this without her.”

Samantha Brandal ’21

Brandal also commented on the impact her mentor, associate professor of history Karin Breuer, had on her work.

“I am so grateful to have been able to work with Professor Breuer,” Brandal said. “She really challenged me to do my best work, and I couldn't have done this without her. I definitely recommend students take part in the symposium if they have the opportunity.”

Another award finalist was “Changes in Anxiety, Depression, Stress, Social Support, Substance Use, Social Media Use and Eating Disorders During The 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic” by Kasey Charron 21, Brianne Cooley 21, Jessica Mobbs 21, Parise Ricks 22 and Bleue Silensen 22. 

The group’s research focus shifted after the college moved to virtual learning in the spring 2020 semester. Instead of taking a general look at student mental health, the group broke the study into three phases: pre-COVID, the spring 2020 remote semester, and the fall 2021 remote semester. Ultimately, the group found that the pandemic did not significantly influence the mental health of individuals.

“The opportunity to present at symposiums like this and have your name on a poster and have some work that you’re proud of, it’s why I chose Ithaca College and its psychology department.”

Kasey Charron ‘21

“The opportunity to present at symposiums like this and have your name on a poster and have some work that you’re proud of, it’s why I chose Ithaca College and its psychology department,” she said. “Provost La Jerne Terry Cornish asked us a question about our research, and things like that make my education feel like I’m working toward something that can have a positive impact on people’s lives and help us learn more about the world.”

Grace Collins ’22 and Ava Giaquinto’s award-winning presentation “Shots! Shots! Shots!: Exploring College Students’ Attitudes Towards the Flu Shot,” examined why less than half of college students get the flu shot each year and created a campaign to attempt to increase that number.

“It’s amazing that IC has such exciting opportunities for undergrad students to present their research and being a part of it was definitely a highlight of my semester.”

Grace Collins ’22

“I never thought that I would be able to win awards for research I did as a strategic communications student,” said Collins. “I’m so grateful that associate professor of strategic communications Lisa Farman made us aware of the opportunity after we completed our research for the class. It’s amazing that IC has such exciting opportunities for undergrad students to present their research and being a part of it was definitely a highlight of my semester.”

The symposium was a highlight for people across the campus, and despite the challenges inherent in moving an in-person event online, the event was a success.

“This transition required a monumental effort to translate our usual in-person symposium to an accessible online format,” said Rowan Larkin, academic coordinator in the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs. “With the help of the Whalen steering committee and many staff and faculty volunteers, Whalen’s three virtual nights were a huge success. We are very proud of all our students who presented.”