Every spring, Curry College students have the opportunity to present their academic research, creative portfolios, and other culminating projects to the College community including faculty, staff, and fellow students at the annual Academic Forum. This year, the event took place virtually on April 21 and featured nearly 40 student presentations across all majors and stages in the iterative process of discovery and academic inquiry.
“The Academic Forum is one of the highlights of the year for me,” said Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Carrie Cokely. “It’s a chance for students to highlight what they have learned in their courses and programs of study. I learn something new each year when I attend.”
Topics varied widely, from “Disability Representation in Children's Books,” by Education student Jessica Allard ’21, M.Ed ’22, to “The Study of How Arts, Police, and the Community Work Together,” by Criminal Justice student Jilliane Noons ’21. Communication senior Michelle Ricci ’21 created, edited, and published her own podcast series for her project titled “The Communication Program at Curry: A Podcast.”
Working in the science lab this year, Ismae Bailey '21, Alyssa Rocha '21, and Mackenzie Vieira '23 worked together to study how insects interact with decomposing remains, to learn how their behavior and biology can help forensic investigators ascertain valuable information from a crime scene. "The insect activity tells you a lot about the body," says Bailey, a double major in forensic science and biology. "The hands-on work is my favorite. I love that I can see everything with my own two eyes. It's different than seeing it in a textbook. We were doing the fieldwork that a forensic entomologist would do, and that's exciting."
The virtual forum and presentations were all well-received by students, faculty and staff, and parents in attendance. “While we have historically held this event in person which allows students to present poster sessions in a conference format, the virtual platform this year allowed us to closely mimic that experience with tables for each of the presenters and interactions through video conferencing with the attendees,” said Cokely.
“The virtual experience was a great opportunity for everyone to get together and see each other’s projects,” said Noons. “I was able to meet and talk to people that I didn’t know from Curry which was a great experience.” An aspiring police officer, Noons’ work this year analyzed how local police communities are now connecting with young students through art, in an effort to establish trust between the two groups at an early stage.
In a topic that’s near to her heart, Allard researched disability representation in children’s books which was inspired by her cousin who has Down syndrome. “I have always had difficulty finding books that actively depict her disability in a respectful, accurate way that does not show the disability as defining and limiting,” she says. “As a 5th Year Master’s Program candidate for Special Education, I’m passionate about helping those with disabilities and believe that there should be books where they can see themselves as the character.”
In her research, Allard identified a gap in the representation of types of disabilities in children’s books and collected data on various books that were published between 2000 and 2021 under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). “In my findings, I identified that the category with the least number of children's books was Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). With this information, I set off into writing my own children's book representing a character with TBI. I hope to have the book finished and will either send it to a publisher or self-publish it by the end of the summer.”
Influenced by her experience as an Admissions tour guide, Ricci created a podcast series to give prospective students the inside scoop on the Communication program at Curry. “I wanted to be able to give students a preview of amazing spots they have not been able to see on campus because of the pandemic, such as WMLN 91.5 and our Hirsch Communication Center.” Ricci will continue to create and edit these podcasts throughout the semester, and hopes to have them published to Apple, Spotify, and podcast outlets alike before graduating in May.
Many of the presentations were culminating projects led by upperclassmen across several semesters. Other student presentations included new research findings, literature reviews, art and design portfolios, and web design and rebranding projects.