Barry McNamara  |  Published April 25, 2023

‘I’ve Never Learned So Much, So Fast’

Scholars Day showcases student research projects, premieres original music, celebrates students’ successes.

Karen Fredrick '23 of St. Charles, Illinois, discusses her research – Women Soldiers in the Amer... Karen Fredrick ’23 of St. Charles, Illinois, discusses her research – ”Women Soldiers in the American Civil War” – with music professor Justin Swearinger during the research presentations in the Huff Athletic Center on Scholars Day 2023.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Proud parents and faculty, curious peers and friends, and even an emeritus professor were among those who came away highly impressed by the research poster presentations that made up a major element of Monmouth College’s Scholars Day celebration.

The concourse of the Huff Athletic Center was buzzing with activity Tuesday afternoon as students explained their research and scholarly work, with the sounds of the Monmouth College Wind Ensemble in the background and the smell of fresh popcorn in the air.

Dean of the Faculty Mark Willhardt made his way through the corridor full of posters and displays and came away enlightened.

“I walked up and down talking to people for an hour,” he said. “I’ve never learned so much, so fast.”

Check out more than 1,200 photos from Scholars Day activities and events.

An English professor at Monmouth before becoming dean, Willhardt could’ve brushed up on his discipline by stopping to chat with Gabriela Madu ’23, who had a poster titled “A Survey of the Statistical Techniques Used to Determine Shakespearean Authorship.” Further down the concourse, he could’ve learned more about “Women Soldiers in the American Civil War” from Karen Fredrick ’23 or “Mental Health in the Ancient World” from Kayle Heumann ’23.

The dean even imparted some of his own knowledge during an exchange with Brendan Jones ’24 about his poster, titled “Chaotic Motion of a Double Pendulum” (the dean knows more than just English).

OFF TO A GREAT START: Just a freshman, Andrea Castaneda is displaying strong talent in the art de... OFF TO A GREAT START: Just a freshman, Andrea Castaneda is displaying strong talent in the art department, including this life-like drawing of Wallace Hall.Willhardt’s office is in Wallace Hall, and one of the more popular displays of the afternoon was a pen and marker drawing of the College’s signature building by Andrea Castenada ’26. Last semester, she spent 35 hours on the piece, which has to be looked at a second time to discern that it’s not a photograph.

“I told her I wish I had her as a student,” said Emeritus Professor of Art Harlow Blum while viewing the piece, along with his wife, Lila Blum ’61. “It’s splendid work. I see big things in her future.”

Thinking intelligently about AI

Theatre education major Reese Hill '24 displays the Scholars Day 2023 logo that she designed. Theatre education major Reese Hill ’24 displays the Scholars Day 2023 logo that she designed.Another hot spot was the “Scot Bot” – the artificial intelligence bot that Wyatt Mayor ’23 created during his senior year.

“The goal of it was to make life easier for students,” by bringing course syllabi information into one easily accessible platform, said Mayor. “I think it turned out well. It took a lot of work, but by the end, it worked like I wanted it to work.”

One of its goals was “generality,” which Mayor said was achieved, meaning it could easily be replicated at other colleges.

“But I’m not looking to market it – I just wanted to see if I could do it,” said Mayor, who will be attending the University of Illinois and pursuing a master’s degree in computer science. His goal is to get into machine learning in the space industry.

A recent lead story in The Economist was titled “How to Worry Wisely about Artificial Intelligence, and David Hofmann ’23 touched on that subject in his project.

Titled “Custom Remix Auto Generator: Can AI Replace Artists?” Hofmann’s project noted it can already be a challenge to make a living in the field – hence the term “starving artist.” Now artists, he said, have to worry about AI that can create art “almost identical to what humans produce” and do so quicker and cheaper.

Another hot topic was mental health. Grant Hall ’23 tackled that topic in his psychology research, which was titled “What Is the Relationship between Social Media and Mental Wellness in College Students.”

“My hypothesis was that too much social media is a negative,” said Hall, who plans to go into social work. “It was partially supported. Where it was most strongly supported was in the area of self-esteem, and where the effect was least seen was social wellness. One reason for that is some people do feel more connected through social media. But it definitely has adverse effects when it’s used too much and impacts sleep and exercise.”

In and around the M Club Hall of Fame Room, posters displaying the “TARTANS Vision for Rural Education” could be found, right across from a wheel-thrown ceramics demonstration by Eli Douglass ’24.

New music, new MJUR

Closer to the Huff Center’s south entrance was a virtual reality demonstration and the Wind Ensemble.

“I think it went pretty well,” said music professor Justin Swearinger of the ensemble’s “soft” world premiere of Paideia Fanfare, which will officially premiere during an April 28 concert at Dahl Chapel and Auditorium. “I’m looking forward to Friday. That’s when we’ll blow Dahl Chapel’s doors off – in a positive way, of course.”

Also making its premiere was the College’s 14th edition of the Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research.

“It’s hot off the press,” said MJUR adviser and educational studies professor Michelle Holschuh Simmons. “We had submissions from all over the world, and we’re particularly pleased that this edition has papers from chemistry and mathematics, as well as from a student at the National University of Singapore.”

Honors Convocation

Earlier in the day, the College recognized outstanding students in all of its disciplines during the traditional Honors Convocation.

At the close of the ceremony, representatives from the Blue Key and Mortar Board honor societies announced the Freshman and Senior Men and Women of the Year Awards. The recipients were, respectively, Michael Andal ’26, Todd Fowler ’23, Kailyn Gore ’26 and Kaitlyn Fox ’23.

Scholars Day Highlights

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Did you know?

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