Scholars Day is an important part of every semester at Newman University. It’s held on the first day of finals week and includes PowerPoint and poster presentations from upperclassmen completing a capstone course.
Seniors and some juniors choose a topic in their field of study and prepare a presentation based on original research for peers and faculty. They use methods found in the Newman Studies Program, which promotes a holistic approach to education.
“Scholars Day is one of the Newman Studies Program requirements,” said Associate Professor of Education Huachan Wen. “The Newman Studies Program is pretty much an interdisciplinary program. So those students do their project using such approaches, and the professors also conduct their courses in a cross-discipline manner. So I think (it’s an) appropriate representation of not only the student’s scholarly work but also our faculty’s approaches.”
The day helps students brush up on their communication skills and presentation skills and leaves them with a lasting skill set for proper research practices and continuing education.
Students who choose to do poster presentations line the halls of Bishop Gerber Science Center and classrooms are used for PowerPoint presentations.
Nursing major Alexia Gonzalez and her partners chose to present a poster on the identification of human trafficking victims in the health-care setting.
“The reason why we chose that, truthfully, is I have a passion for people who are victims and survivors of sexual violence. And I just feel like there are not enough people talking about it,” she said.
The group focused on what they, as nurses, could do to combat the problem. “The nurse has an incredible role to be able to stop it to a degree but at the very minimum, intervene,” she said.
Preparation for the poster began before the semester even started. Gonzalez said it’s best to have a topic decided in order to begin research by week two or three.
Gonzalez has appreciated her Newman experience and is thankful for the skills this project has brought her.
She said, “I’ve enjoyed my time at Newman. I really feel like (that) our courses challenge you, especially comparatively speaking to my friends at other universities or other colleges. I feel like it really pushes you to use your mind in ways that are not just on the surface.
“My biggest takeaway from today would probably be having the ability to speak to people about research topics because that’s probably not something you’ve had a conversation about … before doing this project. The project has also sparked ideas about how to maintain an education after leaving college.”
Nursing student Thor Balavage felt Scholars Day was great preparation for the real world in terms of continuing education.
“We get taught in class about continuing our education even once we leave here, about continually reading journal articles and reading new studies and keeping up with some of the evidence-based practice and other things along those lines. The education doesn’t stop in May.”
He and his group’s poster on the assessment of labor pain and the management of labor and pain and laboring women allowed them to dig deeper into research on a nursing-related topic, investigate old and new practices and make an assessment of their own.
“It taught me how to learn and look for a study and then track it all the way back to when it started and then bring it all the way forward to how they’re implementing it today,” he said.
Jenny Sears, elementary education major, presented a poster based on her Kansas Professional Teachers Portfolio. She’s receiving a middle school science endorsement and chose to create a poster on forces and motion for a sixth-grade science class. Though she has plans to be a teacher, Sears was nervous to present her research on Scholars Day.
“Put me in front of 20-25 little kids and I’m fine but put me in front of two adults and I’m a nervous wreck,” she said.
She will graduate this month and has already been offered a position at Wilbur Middle School in Wichita as a sixth-grade science teacher. Sears has attended five universities in search of her degree and said she is thankful she found Newman, saying it is her favorite.
Wen has acted as a faculty sponsor for Scholars Day over the years, mentoring students and helping them with their projects. This year, he is the Scholars Day chair and has enjoyed the quality of material that students have presented.
He said, “I feel personally very proud of our students … it’s really inspiring and encouraging for me to see.”