Inside USD

Creative Collaborations Looks Closely at Undergraduate Research

Friday, April 16, 2010

CC-foto1At first glance, the painting displays a couple together in bed with the blue sheets revealing little more than their heads and arms. The woman is awake, looking at the man, who appears to be asleep. Seems normal, right? Sarah De Los Santos ‘10, the artist, says look again.

“It’s done on a nicely painted surface and it’s meant to attract you. It’s sensual and beautiful,” says the double major in art and psychology. “But there’s this layer underneath. There’s the skeleton. It forces you to take a step back. It starts to mess with how people approach it. I want people to have a conversation with the work. See it at first, but then learn something deeper, get to know it better.”

Titled “The Painted Surface: Approach-Avoidance and the Conversation” (pictured, at right) De Los Santos’ artwork was one of more than 150 unique displays of art, research results and internship information at the fifth annual Creative Collaborations event Thursday in the Hahn University Center Forums.

This event, held each spring, provided an opportunity for the campus community to check out the work of more than 240 undergraduate students and 80 faculty and to hear the students present their findings.

Research-oriented posters comprised the bulk of the displays, everything from chemistry, biology and physics to engineering, finance and several social science offerings. Mary Boyd, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said 15 of 19 college departments were represented. Provost Julie Sullivan pointed out a 25 percent increase in the number of research projects displayed this year.

“What stands out to me is the overall quality of the posters,” said Debbie Tahmassebi, a key member of the Creative Collaborations organizing committee and chemistry and biochemistry department chair. “Students have spent a lot more time thinking about the projects they’re engaged in and how to present the material to others.”

CC-foto2Artwork ranged from De Los Santos’ display to Noe Olives “Body of Christ” street art with Jesus’ portrait on top of spray paint bottles. Internship posters gave a glimpse into what students learned while working at a variety of organizations. These included non-profit organizations such as Invisible Children and Vista Hill, a Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Task Force, local politicians’ offices and, for student Ron Rezek, a summer internship as a political reporter for KNBC-TV in Los Angeles.

“I think it’s great because it’s an opportunity for me to see what other people are doing across the campus,” Tahmassebi said. “I never get to see that. Students, too, get to see what their peers are doing in all other areas.”

Take, for instance, senior communication studies major Michelle Kaunang’s project titled, “Sesame Street for Social Change.” It examined the popular children’s television show and recent efforts to partner with 18 countries and co-produce international versions of “Sesame Street.” Kaunang (above, with poster) specifically focused on Indonesia, her home country before she moved to the United States at age 4. The Indonesia version, called “Jalan Sesama,” began running in 2007.

“I see this being very beneficial,” she said, mentioning that the characters on the show can “reinforce the idea that girls should have just as much opportunity as boys do. Girls should be able to go to school like boys. It helps educate all children and it brings up things like diversity, being health conscious and developing social skills.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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