Whalen Symposium Highlights Student-Faculty Research

By Breana Cacciotti, April 18, 2018
Hundreds of students presented research at the annual academic symposium.

With hundreds of presentations on topics ranging from portrayals of mental health on television to harvesting energy from Bitcoin, the 21st annual James J. Whalen Academic Symposium showcased the diverse array of research done by students at Ithaca College.

Three presenters in front of a screen showing a baby on a robot

Professor Carole Dennis, Margaret Crowell ’19 and Hannah Shade ’19 deliver the keynote address on their project, Tots on Bots.

(Photo by Breana Cacciotti)

The Whalen Symposium celebrates the tradition of student and faculty collaboration in research at Ithaca College while also providing students an opportunity to showcase their work. This year’s symposium featured over 350 student presenters and 150 faculty mentors.

The day started with a keynote presentation by Carole Dennis, professor of occupational therapy, and two graduate students, Margaret Crowell ’19 and Hannah Shade ’19. The trio presented on a long-running interdisciplinary project, Tots on Bots.

A collaboration between the occupational therapy, physical therapy and computer science departments, Tots on Bots aims to develop robotic devices to increase mobility for infants with disabilities. Almost 80 students have worked on the project since it began in 2008, and Tots on Bots has received more than half a million dollars in external funding.

Throughout the symposium, undergraduate and graduate students presented their research through poster, creative or oral presentation. At the end of the day, 30 awards were presented to the winning presentations in each academic category.

Senior Hannah Robison won two awards in the athletic training category, one for an individual oral presentation — “The Risk of Nonmedical Prescription Opioid Use in High School Athletes: A Critically Appraised Topic” — and another for her poster display with junior Natalie Sharpe, titled “The Relationship Between Balance and Dorsiflexion.”

“Winning felt wonderful, but the best thing about participating in the Whalen Symposium was seeing the fantastic research my peers put forward and being a part of that.”

Hannah Robison ’18

Robison said she began working on the research for her oral presentation at the beginning of this academic year. She had previously presented a poster on the research at the Eastern Athletic Trainers Association conference in Boston in January, and will present it again at the National Athletic Trainers Association conference in June. Robison said part of the reason why her research has been successful was the guidance she received from her faculty sponsor, assistant professor of exercise and sport sciences Jennifer McKeon, as well as her classmates, who were completing their own research.

“I think that the most incredible thing was the caliber and diversity of research that was presented during our sessions and the fact that we are all students who decided to go above and beyond in our academics,” Robison said. “Winning felt wonderful, but the best thing about participating in the Whalen Symposium was seeing the fantastic research my peers put forward and being a part of that.”

Senior Molly DeLorenzo won an award in the education category for her oral presentation, titled “The Role of Empathy, Dignity and Evolution in Effective Classroom Management.”

Students talking in front of a research poster

In addition to oral presentations of research, the Whalen Symposium also features poster presentations.

(Photo by Breana Cacciotti)

She said she started working on the research about two years ago, creating an independent study with her faculty sponsor, associate professor of music education Susan Avery, to gain information on the latest practices, policies and procedures of effective classroom management. DeLorenzo interviewed 20 local teachers and school administrators about classroom management strategies and put together her findings to present at the symposium.

“I am so humbled to have received the award because I know that everyone who was at that symposium had worked so hard to get there, and I was honestly very intimidated by the level of competition,” DeLorenzo said. “Earning an award from the Whalen Symposium was really a momentous thing for me, and I couldn't think of a more perfect way to summarize what has been a work in the making here at IC.”