Student research in the spotlight during annual RICE Celebration
Michelle Chan had seen many performances throughout her time at Centre College as a member of the class of 2023.
But it wasn’t until a professional performance one year ago that she could see herself in a one-woman show — and it was the RICE Symposium that gave her the platform
RICE, which stands for Research, Internships and Creative Endeavors, not only helps students hone their research skills, it helps develop presentation chops sure to be useful during postgraduate studies or in the workplace. More than 150 students across academic disciplines were involved in this year’s symposium.
“I would encourage any student to participate in RICE, either through presentations or posters or the exhibition,” said Amy Frederick, associate professor of art history and coordinator of the RICE visual art gallery. “An important part of scholarship is the dissemination of it. It’s a way for students to put their work out there in the world and then get feedback on it.
“I love that we celebrate research that way here,” she continued, “and that we define research broadly: It's research and creative endeavors. It represents the hard work over many semesters for students.”
A convocation with Centre alumni kicked off RICE festivities, during which recent Centre graduates returned to speak on how RICE impacted their careers after college. RICE co-chair and Associate Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience Karin Gill mentioned the convocation as an important part of the weeklong event because it demonstrated the real-world application of RICE lessons.
“These alumni can speak to the fact that these are transformative experiences that our students are going through,” Gill said. “Many students might do research to check a box and it ends up being an experience where you gain these skills that you can't gain in other ways. Even if you're not going to graduate school, these skills are so useful in any job field.”
Motivated by a performance she saw on campus last year by playwright Dipti Bramhandkar, Chan presented samples of her own one-woman show during the RICE Symposium.
“I was just really moved seeing a similar character on stage,” Chan said. “In my four years at Centre, I’ve always tried to find plays of color or plays with Filipino descent. There has been conversation about women of color in the industry writing their own roles — if it's not there, do it yourself.”
The visual and performing arts are equal parts of RICE, where students like Chan can share their art with the community. Visual artists are featured in a two-week exhibition in the AEGON Gallery of the Jones Visual Arts Center. It’s an opportunity, Chan said, for students to challenge themselves and step out of their comfort zones.
“I decided to take that agency and try my shot at writing my own play, even though I never considered myself a writer,” she said. “It was a lot of fun, it was hard — but it was also a healing process for me. It allowed me to reflect on things about my family [and] my relationship with certain family members that I haven't had the time to conceptualize and put on paper.”
RICE provided the stage for Chan to perform and also opened the door for fellow senior Nellie Ellis to present on a tumultuous time in Kentucky history: “Women Soldiers in the Bloody Harlan Labor War.”
“I never really knew what it meant to be an ‘Appalachian’ till I came to Centre,” Ellis said. “I never learned my history. I had learned there was a history of oppression there, there was an exploitation of economy there and all these different things, but I took it at face value.”
It wasn’t until a prompt by Claude D. Pottinger Associate Professor of History Sara Egge that Ellis was motivated to take the topic and run with it.
“I learned a lot about the history, but also my history — my family's history. My great grandpa was in Harlan during that time,” Ellis said. “To read that he could've faced tear gas or machine guns, that was surreal. I come from that history of resilience.”
Both Chan and Ellis recognized that RICE provided an opportunity to share what they had learned — and hope that they motivated others to do the same.
“When students can go to a presentation or see a poster session, they think, ‘wait a second, that is research that I'm interested in.' All of a sudden, they shift into thinking of themselves as scholarly,” Frederick said. “I think that's important … to break down the idea that being a scholar only looks one way. To make it more accessible and have more students think of themselves as scholars is really an important consequence of RICE.”
Centre’s 16th annual RICE Week celebrated Research, Internships and Creative Endeavors. The showcase had nearly 80 student presentations from across academic disciplines, showcasing outstanding research achievements, creative endeavors and independent projects completed by Centre students throughout the academic year. Students who participated in studio art classes will host an exhibit of their work in the Jones Visual Arts Center, which continues through May 5.
16th Annual RICE Symposium Winners:
In Studio Arts:
In the Arts and Humanities Division:
Mentor: Dr. Genny Ballard, Spanish
In the Social Science Studies Division:
Athletes’ Political Voices Within the Media
Mentor: Dr. Chelsea Cutright, International Studies & Anthropology
In the Science and Mathematics Division:
Exploiting the Warburg Effect using transition metal complexes
Mentor: Dr. Erin Wachter, Chemistry
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