UB's Celebration of Student Academic Excellence highlights student achievement

Celebration offers a time to shine

Thursday morning I gathered with about 400 other undergraduate students as we tacked posters to just-unstable-enough-to-be-nerve-wracking display boards. Men in dark suits and colorful ties and women in heels, dresses and pantsuits crowded into the Center for the Arts Atrium, mingling and asking questions about each other’s posters.

It was the 11th annual Celebration of Student Academic Excellence, put on by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCA), and we were all there to show off our hard work.

About 160 posters were put up in rows in the Atrium, with students from a variety of majors intermingled: Mechanical engineering students mixed with environmental sciences majors who stood next to anthropology majors who looked at posters by psychology students.

From “Liquid Light” to “Restoring and Analyzing Ceramics at Seyitömer Höyük” to the “Impact of Music Therapy Agitation and Cognitive Impairment in People with Dementia,” what students presented was, simply, diverse.

My poster was about the writings and readings I’ve been doing for the past year on the works of French author Marguerite Duras.

But it felt odd to be standing next to a poster about radioactivity and facing another poster about upward flame speed. Students in my row, put together because we’re members of the Honors College, had spent their time using data, experiments, graphs and algorithms to come up with interesting results while I poured through books, literary journals and forced myself to enjoy some of Duras’ more avant-garde films.

The only two other literature-based posters were far from where I stood, and I felt that impacted how others – and I – perceived my work. Although the Celebration was for all of us, I couldn’t help but feel like “the odd man out.”

With hard science flanking me on either side and crowds of people gathering to hear about experiments I never heard of, it definitely felt like the work done in the humanities isn’t really all that important.

It didn’t help that I watched President Satish K. Tripathi walk right by my poster without so much as a glance before stopping at one of the posters next to me.

But I can’t understate how inspiring it was to see so many of my fellow students pursuing their academic passions, regardless of what they were studying. The Celebration is a testament to the academic challenges UB students embrace and looks toward the future of what we’re all going on to do in graduate school, internships and jobs.

The Celebration is not just great PR for the university; it’s proof that undergraduate students do work that can and will make a difference.

There are students studying how to recover and reuse wastewater, working on three-dimensional cement printing, figuring out if the scanning of microvessal density can be used to estimate the degree of dysplasia in a tumor sample and examining the nostalgia of paternalism in the South.

All of this work is important and all of it deserves praise and recognition.

Regardless of whether students are studying literature or history or conducting research in the STEM fields, the Celebration lets everyone proudly stand by their work.

But it would be nice if those of us in the humanities were less overwhelmed by the STEM fields so our work can stand out as equally legitimate, challenging and worthwhile.

Emma Janicki is an assistant managing editor and can be reached at emma.janicki@ubspectrum.com