Willamette students share interests, accomplishments at SSRD April 16

by University Communications,

More than 300 students will present their projects — ranging from jazz performances to cutting edge research — during Student Scholarship Recognition Day (SSRD) at Willamette University.

This year, SSRD is taking place April 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. throughout the Willamette campus. For more information and a schedule of the presentations — subject to change — click here.

Jonneke Koomen, chairwoman of the SSRD committee, says the event offers Willamette and Salem community members the chance to learn more about students’ interests and accomplishments.

SSRD is an important opportunity for student-scholars to give back to the families, mentors, friends, coworkers and communities who support and encourage their education by presenting their work in a public space,” Koomen says.

Among the various students presenting are Megan Manion ’14 and Delia Olmos-Garcia ’14. Manion will present her thesis research on various aspects of the conflict in Sierra Leon and Olmos-Garcia will discuss her research on immigration policy for mixed-status families.

“SSRD allows for many of us to show the rest of the community what we are interested and passionate about in a safe and comfortable environment,” Olmos-Garcia says. “I appreciate that SSRD extends and welcomes the larger community.”

Shedding Light on Conflict

Since taking an introductory course on African history her freshman year, history and politics major Manion has devoted much of her time to researching questions of justice and reconciliation to those made vulnerable by conflict and mass violence.

In her final semester, her interest in these topics resulted in the writing of two theses on the civil war in Sierra Leone. The first evaluates how the war shapes and changes identities, and the second evaluates the process of reconciliation.

“Understanding how to provide reconciliation to survivors of mass violence allows us to challenge systemic and structural violence and dehumanization that happens in small but significant ways every day,” she says.

Manion believes SSRD gives students a chance to step back and look at their project as a whole, an opportunity, which she says is invaluable.

“There is something special about standing in front of a group of people who likely know little to nothing about what you are discussing and sharing how your project could fit into their lives and the way they understand the world,” she says.

Taking Research Further

In the summer of 2012, sociology major Olmos-Garcia participated in the Liberal Arts Research Collaborative (LARC), allowing her to interview families throughout Oregon to understand the effects of immigration policy on mixed-status families.

She was especially interested in learning how these families were affected by their ability to obtain driver’s licenses.

“My topic is a sensitive one that hits home on many levels,” Olmos-Garcia says. “Immigration and its negative effects have been visible in my own life and of those in my community. It is really difficult to read and basically relive experiences of trauma and then put myself in a place where I can write an academic paper.”

Olmos-Garcia hopes her work contributes to a larger discussion of social justice and change. By attending SSRD presentations, she also hopes her peers will be inspired to research a topic of personal importance to them.

“I think the undergraduate experience, in terms of academics, should be one where we build off something each year,” she says. “I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to work on my research over the last two years and ending it as my thesis and SSRD presentation.”

• Article by Natalie Pate ’15, politics and French/Francophone studies major