“Going into 2020, it was pure chaos.”
Third-year Chauncey Gummere, the public relations specialist for the Scholars Week Organizing Committee, recounts how the committee moved the originally in-person Scholars Week online during the March 2020 lockdowns at Western Washington University.
“I think they had two weeks or something like that,” Gummere said. “It was a ridiculously small amount of time to cancel the in-person [event] and turn everything online.”
Prior to the pandemic, Scholars Week was an annual event where students were able to showcase their research and creative endeavors to an audience of other students, faculty and family.
It, unfortunately, had to be entirely online for two years, and while the online events were a success relative to the circumstances of the time, those who had gone to previous showings said it wasn’t the same.
“It didn't attract an audience the way a large event in the middle of Carver Gym does,” said Scott Linneman, director of the Honors Program at Western.
And with that loss of audience, the engagement that comes with having a group of passionate individuals ready to talk about their research was also lost to a large extent.
The community was unsure whether or not Scholars Week could even return to in-person events this year, but thanks to the hard work of the Scholars Week Organizing Committee, it’s back.
“Coming back from being remote has turned out to be much, much harder than it was to close down,” Linneman said. “Everything went remote in a matter of hours, and it’s taken quarters and quarters to get back.”
Now that it is back in person, there is a new event in the Faculty/Student Group Collaborations in addition to some classic events featured in prior years.
The Poster Session, a returning event taking place May 18 in the Carver Gym, is a gathering where students present their research in poster form, ready to explain and engage with other participants.
The Three-Minute Thesis, taking place May 19 in the SMATE Library, is an event exclusive to graduate students where they encapsulate their research into a brief presentation.
“You can think of [the Three-Minute Thesis] as describing the essence of your research in a long elevator ride,” Linneman said.
According to the Scholars Week 2022 Webpage, the new Faculty/Student Group Collaborations feature “research, creative work, or other academic projects resulting from collaborative participation between students and their instructors.”
Biology grad student and Graduate Student Advocacy Council Representative, Benjamin Haagen, said, “[The faculty wouldn’t be seen] as a mentor or a research advisor or a teacher. Now they're working with their faculty as a collaborator and somebody that they're trying to riff off of, which I think is going to be a really valuable experience.”
Another new addition is the plan to incorporate students from the music department into the events.
While not listed on the website as an event, it is planned for there to be musical performances to go along with presentations. Gummere called it test piloting for further inclusion of students and faculty from the music department.
He said, “We’d love to be able to offer more avenues of expression. [Music students are] doing scholarly things too. They’re doing creative things too.”
Scholars week is, above all, a celebration of students’ research and creative endeavors, but is an opportunity for much more.
“It gives [students] the scaffolding to be able to develop, not only as communicators but as teachers and leaders in their fields,” Haagen said.
It can also be used to bolster the portfolio of the participants.
“Scholars Week is a great opportunity for students to get their scholarly work out there,” Gummere said. “It really is an achievement.”
There is a Scholars Showcase virtual gallery from May 18-20. The poster session, in Carver Gym, is on Wednesday, May 18. The Three-Minute Thesis event takes place in the SMATE library on Thursday, May 19. For more information, you can visit the Scholars Week Webpage.
Will Frantz (he/him) is a campus news reporter for The Front. He is currently a sophomore and will be majoring in Journalism with a Public Relations focus. His writing interests are fashion, music and food. In his free time, he can be found listening to niche dream pop and working out at the rec center, often at the same time.
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @willfrantzvevo.