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At the center of the symposium is the Capstone project.

The Susan Colby Colgate Scholars' Symposium Turns 10

Under the leadership of Professor of Exercise and Sport Sciences Jean Eckrich, the Undergraduate Research Task Force realized a collective vision in April 2003 – the first Susan Colby Colgate Scholars' Symposium. As the culminating demonstration of the depth and breadth of knowledge that students have acquired during their years of study at Colby-Sawyer, the symposium features seniors' interdisciplinary Capstone projects and undergraduate presentations.

Created to bring students, faculty and staff together to celebrate scholarship across all disciplines, the day was named for the legacy of scholarship ingrained in the institution by the school's first female teacher and principal, Susan Colby Colgate.

This year, the Colby-Sawyer College community celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Susan Colby Colgate Scholars Symposium, which is regarded as the highlight of the academic year. In recognition of the milestone, Academic Vice President, Dean of Faculty and Professor of Social Sciences and Education Deborah Taylor described the symposium as “the clearest and most compelling expression of our students' educational accomplishments.”

At the center of the symposium is the Capstone project, which requires students to commit to sustained, high-level research. Associate Professor of Natural Sciences Nick Baer says this academic exercise is essential in developing students' learning. "The Capstone is without a doubt the part of the curriculum where students have the most autonomy, and it forces them to be self-motivated, organized and critical about how they will conceptualize, design, carry out and analyze an independent research project in a discipline," says Baer.

Cory J. Schofield '13 presents his Capstone project.

Exceptional projects and presentations are identified at the symposium and recognized at the annual Scholars and Leaders Awards Ceremony with Capstone awards.

"Going from session to session this year, I was struck by the demonstrated excellence of our students' work which, in turn, reflects the time and attention our faculty give to students to help shape their abilities to understand, analyze, synthesize and apply knowledge," says Vice President Taylor. "It would be hard to imagine a more intellectually stimulating and celebratory showcase for undergraduate student learning."

Mary Moore, the senior who received the 2013 Bachelor of Fine Arts Capstone Award for Graphic Design, created a campaign encouraging the reading and writing of LGBTQ fiction. Moore admits that presenting her work to her peers and professors was difficult but found value in the experience. "I learned a lot about professionalism and presenting myself in the best way possible," says Moore. "That's a great lesson to learn as I am about to go into the world of applications and interviews."

The 2013 recipient of the Environmental Studies Capstone Award, Iraj Khaliqi, explored environmental values and perceptions in his native Afghanistan. "There is almost no research related to the environment of Afghanistan. My Capstone discusses some underlying factors regarding the environment, as well as limitations and suggestions that would help in future studies," says Khaliqi. "I hope it will be used as a foundation for future research related to the environment in Afghanistan." This fall, Khaliqi will begin a graduate degree in energy regulation and law at Vermont Law School.

supporting the seniors
at the symposium.

As an intern with the New Hampshire Department of Children, Youth and Families, Daniel Moir, recipient of the Child Development Capstone Award, researched the peer relationships of children who have been abused or neglected. Moir's research reinforced his commitment to keeping children safe and inspiring others to pursue similar paths. "Developing safety plans with families, seeing a positive result of those plans and helping my supervisor close an assessment meant that the child or children in the home were safe,” says Moir. “I hope I have inspired at least one student to do their internship at DCYF.” Moir will continue his education at Simmons College of Social Work Graduate School this fall.

Professor Eckrich, who is also director of the Teaching Enrichment Center, is pleased by this year's symposium and its evolution. “A big change over the years has been the increased attendance by parents and family members,” she says. “It is a reflection of the central role the Capstone experience is playing in the students senior year.”

The symposium has also left lasting effects on alumni, who remain grateful for the experience. John Bossé 08, senior scientist in product innovation at USANA Health Sciences in Salt Lake City, praises Professor Eckrich for her commitment to her students. “ She always encouraged me to expect more from myself and from my peers,” says Bossé who, with Professor Eckrich's support, presented his Capstone research at a national conference.

As the symposium enters its second decade, Professor Eckrich reflects fondly on its past. “In the early years, the faculty were as nervous as the students. While the students are nervous now, they also feel a sense of pride at what they have accomplished,” she says. “It has been wonderful to watch the progression over the years.”

-Kellie M. Spinney, College Communications