Allegheny College and the Meadville community came together Tuesday to celebrate student research and accomplishments across the sciences and humanities, an event that showcased Allegheny’s commitment to undergraduate research, hands-on experiences outside the classroom, and the programs that help make both possible.
The college’s first-ever Celebration Day was an opportunity for students to receive recognition beyond a good grade or fulfilling the requirements of a class, said Allegheny junior Stella Goodworth, one of the students who helped organize the day.
“For (students) to see not only does the institution appreciate you but we all appreciate each other for the hard work we each do mutually, that’s more inspiring than getting an A on something,” said Goodworth, a psychology major from Frewsburg, New York.
Student presentations took center stage at a senior poster session in Pelletier Library. The event featured 63 posters that highlighted scholarship from students nominated from all academic programs as well as experiences that students pursued through the Allegheny Gateway, such as internship, civic engagement and international opportunities.
Noelle Lemons, a biochemistry major and psychology minor from Kittanning, Pennsylvania, shared a poster on her senior comprehensive project at the session. “I just feel very prepared to take on my future,” she said. “The comp process taught me how to work hard … The rewards at the end are worth the hard work you put in.”
Earlier in the day, first- and second-year students met with seniors, professors and representatives of the Allegheny Gateway during a mentor breakfast to talk about how to become involved in research, civic engagement, internships and other opportunities on and off campus. The breakfast was followed by several student sessions spotlighting research in the humanities, in the social sciences, and in the natural sciences, as well as sessions highlighting a New York arts program and the work of the Community Wellness Initiative to increase food security in Meadville.
Allegheny junior Sarah Nathan spoke about her work with the Community Wellness Initiative, interviewing community members about one CWI project: the MARC Community Garden. Established in 2015, the goal of the garden is to make healthy food accessible and affordable for local residents. Residents can rent gardening plots on a sliding scale.
Nathan told a group gathered in Carnegie Hall that one of the recurring themes she heard from community gardeners was “the importance of having a communal space to garden, from a practical standpoint.”
“Having communal space was essential for them to garden and have access to food,” Nathan said.
The ultimate goal is for residents to cultivate healthy, lifelong habits along with healthy food, for themselves and their families. But beyond that, the communal space connected novice and experienced gardeners, exposed residents to new foods, and served as a social space where people could meet, talk and interact, she said.
“I learned firsthand the benefits that come from a community garden,” and the structure of a good community garden, Nathan said.
Several late-morning sessions focused on the work of the Allegheny Gateway, which helps students connect classroom learning with real-world experience through résumé and career services, pre-professional and graduate school advising, research funding and fellowships, internship opportunities, and more.
Tolossa Hassan, speaking in a Gateway session about study-abroad opportunities, recounted how he learned to ride a motorcycle — and a camel — during a summer trip to Morocco through America’s Unofficial Ambassadors. When the junior economics major from Seattle wasn’t teaching English at a local school, he explored, traveling to Rabat, Chefchaouen, Fez and Marrakesh.
He lived in a small village, Zaouiat Sidi Abdeslam, where, he said, everyone knows everyone else.
“It was a very interesting experience for us because in the U.S. we don’t even know who is next to us,” Hassan said.
There were similarities to be found, though, too: One of the ways he connected with students was through a shared love of soccer.
“We spent a lot of time playing soccer once they realized I liked to play soccer,” he said and smiled.
Allegheny President Emeritus Richard J. Cook returned to campus for a keynote event in the Tippie Alumni Center.
“Allegheny’s faculty are extraordinary … The combination here of the academic prowess, the intellectual drive in the fields that the faculty have, with the passion for undergraduate education, is truly unique,” said Cook, who served as the college’s president from 1996 to 2008.
Fittingly, the day ended with an Honors Convocation during which students and faculty members were recognized for their work
— Josh Tysiachney contributed to this story.