Tuesday March 28, 2017

In a Word, Extraordinary

By Eric F. Spina

Like everyone else on campus, my days are packed as we careen toward the end of the academic year, so I was delighted to be able to carve out a few hours last Friday to attend the Honors Student Symposium. 

Winding my way around Kennedy Union, I attended 10 inspiring talks in three hours, and my overwhelming feeling was disappointment — disappointment that I missed the other 50-plus student thesis presentations.

In a word, these students are extraordinary. They're poised and articulate, confident, deeply knowledgeable about their research topics, and able to engage in substantive conversation about their work.

I came away smarter about ways our body fights Listeria and how an author approaches writing a short story cycle. I can now converse about the effects of Catholicism, gender and politics on folk music in the '60s and '70s. I discovered the economic impact of family leave laws. I learned how executive functioning skills vary for autistic children, why it's important to challenge the narrative of dominant art movements, and the ways engineers are helping doctors improve shoulder implants, and so much more. 

Based on the breadth and diversity of topics, it's clear we have talented, motivated — extraordinary — students in every corner of the University.

As someone who once mentored undergraduate students in research projects, I understand the time and energy faculty advisers invest. Walking from one engaging presentation to another, I saw in action the Marianist philosophy of “education in the family spirit” as I witnessed faculty coaching, encouraging and, ultimately, beaming with pride over the quality of their students' work. John McCombe, Nancy Miller and other Honors Program leaders, like proud fathers and mothers, observed the students share the fruit of long hours spent in the library, classrooms, and labs. I felt the warm embrace of the UD community around these young emerging scholars and researchers.

I also felt the promise of the future — our students poised to make a difference, whether in graduate school or their professions. They are ambassadors for our highly effective brand of Catholic, Marianist education that promises students a transformative experience.

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