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Academic Festival

Posted: 05/04/2009

“Celebrating Excellence” was the theme for this year’s Academic Festival, the 11th version of the annual event and its largest yet, with 321 students participating and a record 55 sessions scheduled at various sites around campus.

“The day is a celebratory showcase for our students’ most impressive work this past academic year,” said math Professor David Vella, director of the Honors Forum program that sponsored the April 30th festival. “It’s filled with talks, readings, panel discussions, performances, films, and more—created and delivered by Skidmore students eager to share their best work with friends, classmates, professors, and the public as well as the campus community.”

Topics hailed from all corners of the academic world, from biology (for example, a talk on sexual selection as practiced by a local songbird, the Common Yellowthroat) to classical literature (a treatment of the emotional dynamic in a poignant scene from Homer’s Iliad.) There were sessions on Shakespearean monologues, Japanese television drama, the economics of land-locked African countries, and “transformation geometry” (which approaches the math “from a transformational point of view” that touches on topics like music, the art of M.C. Escher, and integral triangles).

Sessions of practical interest to both campus and community included presentations about Skidmore-Saratoga Entrepreneurial Partnership business projects and local environmental issues, such as a survey of the Loughberry Lake septic system, an examination of the Saratoga Wastewater Treatment Facility, and a study of the local planning process for “smart growth” in the Saratoga Lake watershed. Service-learning presentations also offer applications beyond the academic, such as “Making a Difference: The Hunger Project,” which was presented by students who helped collect data for the national “Hunger in America 2009” project.

Some of the more unusual topics include a pilot episode for a travel show called Lost on Purpose (its cast sails a 37-foot boat around the world); female athletes’ potential as CEOs; a theatrical presentation of the 1969 gay liberation Stonewall Riots; 16th-century sea monsters; exercise for the elderly; Tibetan Buddhist art and architecture in Ladakh, India; and “Music and the North Woods” (one student’s video homage to nature, complete with original hip-hop and chamber music selections).

Asked for his feedback following the event, Vella said that attendance reports collected to date indicated that the sessions “attract people.” Audiences ranged from eight to 90 people, with a number of sessions drawing between 20 and 40 people. “People know about the festival, they are ready to participate, and they are psyched to attend,” he said.