Whalen Symposium Highlights Student Work

By Hannah Fitzpatrick ’21, April 11, 2019
The 22nd annual Whalen Symposium showcased student and faculty collaboration.

The 22nd annual James J. Whalen Academic Symposium gave Ithaca College students the chance to present a diverse array of research. From analyzing streaming trends of local music artists, to analyzing the mechanical and conductive properties of caramel, to a study of female pirates, students from every discipline were able to showcase their work and celebrate collaboration with faculty. This year’s symposium featured nearly 400 student presenters and 100 faculty mentors.

To kick off the event, keynote speakers April Carroll 19 and Belisa Gonzalez, associate professor of sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity, gave a presentation titled “Black Girl Black Girl What is Your Song: and other confessions from centering blackness at a PWI.

The presentation was based off a play that Carroll, who is majoring in writing for film, television and emerging media, began working on during her first year at IC. It focuses on four black women attending a predominantly white institution and their experiences at the college. Eventually, these women find out that not only are they constantly being confused with one another, but everyone at the school thinks that they are one another.

Carroll took one of Gonzalez’s classes during the fall semester in 2017, and approached her next semester with the idea of turning her play into something more. Gonzalez said yes almost immediately.

“I jumped at the chance,” she said. “Not only is April an amazing student I wanted to collaborate with, I rarely get a chance to conduct research that results in creative work.”

More than two dozen students were given awards for their work at the symposium. The winners were chosen by several judges and received plaques commemorating their successes. One award-winning project was created by Zoe Howland ’19 and Avery Santiago ’19. Their project, “Unruly Bodies and Sexual Pleasure: An Exploration of the Relationship Between Body Image and Physical Intimacy in Fat Women,” focused on the relationship between body image and sexual pleasure for fat women. Howland said the two chose this topic because they noticed a lack of representation of fat women in academia.

“We decided to do this project because we weren’t seeing ourselves positively represented in mainstream culture or in discussions about sexuality in academia,” she said. “We’re both seniors, so it was really cool to kind of finish off our time at IC doing a project that we really care about and having that validated and getting to present it felt amazing.”

La Jerne Terry Cornish, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said the symposium showcases the best students at the college. Terry Cornish, who is a co-chair of the strategic planning committee, said a potential goal of the strategic plan would be to expand the symposium to five days.

“I spent most of my day here, and I was just amazed by the type of research students are engaging in,” she said. “This is what makes Ithaca College amazing.”