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Message from the President: Student Scholarship

Nov. 22, 2011

To our alumni friends:

One recent afternoon, a group of about 60 St. Norbert faculty, staff and students crowded into the Presentation Room of the Mulva Library. In the span of an hour and a half, we were treated to an excellent, and gratifying, overview of the state of student scholarship on our campus today.

The occasion was the presentation of research by seven SNC students, all of whom are participating in the prestigious McNair Scholars program. Named for space shuttle astronaut Ronald McNair, who was killed in the Challenger tragedy in 1986, the McNair Scholars program promotes undergraduate research by students with strong academic potential who are from underrepresented populations or who are first-generation college students with financial need. Each student works with a faculty mentor in his or her selected field.

St. Norbert is proud to partner with our colleagues at Ripon College and Lawrence University in the McNair program. Dr. John Pennington, a member of the English faculty and a prolific scholar himself, was our host in his capacity as SNC’s director of undergraduate research/the St. Norbert Collaborative.

I was taken by both the depth and range of our students’ pursuits. Katy Coutley, for instance, presented some compelling interpretations of how certain women are portrayed in the Old Testament, while Kaela Gedda undertook a more contemporary but related topic — the "new masculinity" and how society is redefining traditional gender roles.

Steven Garza talked about how the life experiences of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have shaped his controversial foreign policy, and Amanda Garcia explained why the DREAM Act has encountered a decade of futility in Congress.

Lauren Senour was fascinating on the subject of how parents view (and often fail to grasp) obesity in their children, and Devan Scherer discussed her research into how a positive mental outlook can affect one’s physical health. Then there was biology major Ashley Erdman, who carefully articulated the identifying characteristics of Sciuravus nitidus — but most of us already knew those, right? (Just kidding, Ashley!)

Such scholarly activity is eloquent testimony to the core mission of a liberal arts college —- the development of critical thinking. The scholarly contributions of these seven students may be just beginning, but there surely is no end in sight.