Commencement Ceremony: May 2023

Academic Symposium

The Academic Symposium is a signature Virginia Wesleyan event that celebrates the academic achievement of students completing a variety of academic experiences, including research, internships, performance, and global engagement.

The Academic Symposium is a conference-style event held on the Virginia Wesleyan campus. Students share their work with a professional oral, poster, or panel presentation. As part of the discussions following these presentations, students are encouraged to reflect upon their experiences and offer advice to other students who are preparing to undertake their own experiences.

Student presenters should refer to The Lighthouse’s Student Resources page for deadline information, presentation suggestions, and poster design tips.

Academic Symposium Schedule

9:00 - 10:15 a.m.

Premier Speaker Session
Student Presentations of Notable Merit
Location: Blocker Hall Auditorium

This 4 person panel of students will present model engagement with the intellectual environment at Virginia Wesleyan University. Their presentations will address high-impact academic endeavors. These individuals were nominated by their faculty mentors and selected as “Premier Speakers” for their outstanding work. Prizes will be awarded to the Premier Speakers at the Academic Fair and Paster Session (4pm).

Featured Speakers:

Hannah Carmona
Mentor: Dr. Kathy Merlock-Jackson
Topic:  “Boyhood:  A Shared Fascination between Truffaut and Linklater”

Alison Coutu
Mentor: Prof. John Rudel
Topic: “On Becoming a Studio Artist - Reflections on the Academic and Material Process”

Criofan Shaw
Mentor: Ms. Mandy Reinig
Topic: “A Course Abroad - How Analyzing Sexuality in Media Culture Reframed the Way I Absorb Media”

Abigail Peterson
Mentor: Dr. Soraya Bartol
Topic: “Aquatic and Aerial Hearing Capabilities of Lake Taylor Turtles”

10:30 a.m. - 11:45 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Deliberative Dialog - (10:30am - 12:00pm)
Brock Commons
Mentors: Dr. Craig Wansink and Kelly Jackson
Sponsored by the Robert Nusbaum Center

Topic: A House Divided: What Would We Have to Give Up to Get the Political System We Want?
Student moderators – trained by the Robert Nusbaum Center - will engage participants in a deliberative discussion that considers what we should do to get the political system we want.  Moderators will present several options for action, and facilitate discussion on how each option could help to revive Americans’ ability to work together to solve our  most urgent problems. Each option offers advantages as well as trade-offs or risks. And each option reflects different ways of understanding what is at stake, forcing us to think about what matters most to us. Faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to join the discussion, but space is limited and registration is requested.


Student Facilitators: Samantha Silva, Connor Merk, Brooke Morris, Abigail Peterson, Christian Palmisano, Rowan Stuart, Kainaat Trehan

Study Away and Internship Spotlight Presentations
Location: Greer 155
Mentors: Mandy Reinig and Alice Jones
Sponsored by the Lighthouse Center for Exploration and Discovery

Melina Cabral - "Adulting Abroad"
Breana Mahoney - "A Chrysler Museum Internship: Fostering
Community and Connections in Support of the Arts”
Andrew Glass - "Murcia: Entierro de la Sardina"  
Abigail Peterson - “Beyond a Semester Abroad”

Senior English Presentations
Greer 255
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Slivka

Ryan Abraham - "What Makes a Hero: The Use of the Uncanny in Batman: The Court of Owls Saga"
Kayla Bissette - "Interpellation and Identity in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette"
Robin Pearson - "Writing from the Margins: Queering Poetry in Danez Smith's Don't Call Us Dead"
Mary-Catherine Rigg - "Finding Common Ground Through Trauma: Owen McCafferty's

12:00 - 1:00 p.m.

Lunch Break

Applied Music Recitals
Location: Hofheimer Theatre
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Jason Squinobol and Dr. Bryson Mortensen

Vocalists: Brooke Underwood, Robert Nolin, Daequian Everett, Jacob Underwood, Erin Andrews, Jacob M Barnett, Aidan Foley, Aviana Medina, Landon Rockwell, Taylor Jones, Charles
Pellenberg, Elizabeth O'Shea, Judah King, Briyana Picart, Emily Pritchard

Anna Ossi, Violin
June Richarson, Violin
Charlie Pellenberg, Guitar
Bailey Miller, Trumpet
Isaac Samual, Trumpet
Mat Burnell, Tenor Sax

1:00 - 2:15 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Communications Internship Presentations -
Greer 155
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kathy Merlock-Jackson (Comm 481)

Ethan Labelle--Internship at Old Dominion University Athletic Communication
Annie Phelps--Internship at Studio Center
Saige Smith--Internship at Studio Center
Mikayla Szudera--Internship at Meridian Group
Nicholas Donahoe--Internship at Virginia Wesleyan University AthleticCommunication

Innovative Solutions to Sustainable Global Development
Greer 155
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Travis Malone (Hon 481)

Erin Foreman
Brooke Morris
Celine Maharaj
Abby Mahoney
Devin Calpo
Criofan Shaw

2:30 - 3:45 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Theatre: Collaborative Research in Action - Hofheimer Theatre
Location: Greer 155
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sally Shedd

Tucker Barco - Directing: Collaborative Research in Action
Hannah Carmona - Directing: Collaborative Research in Action
Sophia Kaminaris - Directing: Collaborative Research in Action
Joseph Mueller - Internship at Zeiders American Dream Theatre

Communication Department Senior Seminars
Greer 155
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kathy Merlock-Jackson (Comm 411)

Erness Anne Deseo - "John Hughes' Blueprint for Adolescents: The Portrayal of Youth in His
Popular 1980s Teen Films" 
Bobbi Michael - "Jordan Peele's Use of Humor for Social Commentary"
Grace Rietscha - "Monster High and the Monstrous Consequences of Negative Gossip"
Houda Touchen - "The Role of Public Relations in Showing Nike's Diversity and
Cross-Culturalism:  'One Day We Won't Need This' and 'You Can't Stop Us'"

Brock School Presentations
Location: Greer 255

Felix Bevc -  Internship Experience
Devin Calpo - "A Semester Abroad: The Netherlands and the Environment"
Divinity Richardson - "Estonia is Underrated"

Anatomage Cadaver Table Demonstration
Location: Blocker 104
Dr. Victor Townsend Jr. will host a demonstration of VWU’s new 3D anatomy
and dissection table. This is a drop-in event between 2:30pm - 3:45pm.

4:00 - 5:30 p.m. Academic Fair & Poster Session
Location: C-Mac in the Jane P. Batten Student Center 

45 students from various disciplines across campus present posters on research,  internships, and global engagement experiences. Refreshments will be  served and there will be  an awards ceremony.

Students Presenting Posters:
Josh Heller
Molly Wheeler
Annie Phelps
Jaron Berry
Mikayla Szudera
Evie Trinh
Ethan Labelle
Jordan White
Clair Carter and Shannon Gaffney
Brooke Morris
William Eckard
Kyle Forker
Ash Dobrenen
Dheeraj Koritala
Braxton Downum
Dorothy Yanku-Palmer
Spencer Hall
Grace McGhee
Chris Harrell
Gracie Wenzel
Breana Gilson and Abby Moyers
Amruta Karkare
Devin Calpo
Myannah Stickle
Marco Malino, Gabriella Snowman, and Harrison Smith
Casey Bennet and John Wampler
Katie Baker and Jessica Wilson
Rowan Stuart and Josiah Palma
Damien Kelly
Marcus Smaltz
Evelyn Weaver
Alecia Fischman
Erin Foreman
Sierra Jones
Celine Maharaj
Breanna Wimbush
Jahnya Barner
Joshua Heller

Academic Symposium 2021

Fall 2021 Academic Symposium