Inside USD

Undergraduate Research Showcases Creativity

Friday, April 20, 2012

Passersby couldn’t take their eyes off Alison Dressel, even if they wanted to do so. She wouldn’t let them walk by, either, without getting involved — and educated.

Dressed in a shiny green top, black stockings and colorful face make-up, the University of San Diego senior student pranced around the Hahn University Center alcove as an “unidentified sea creature.” There she mimicked what would happen when there’s oil or trash to pollute the sea or she was “caught” in a discarded fish net. She’d wait for someone to release her from the net. Once they did, she’d talk to them about their sustainability awareness and present them with a “seed of change” note tied to some recycled glass or other sustainable memento.

“You have received a seed of change. How that seed will grow depends on the actions you take now. Plant the seed. Change the world. Together we can cultivate a healthy planet,” said the handwritten note by Dressel, a double major in Marine Sciences and Theatre Arts.

Her project, “Planting Seeds of Change: Performance Interactions that Engage, Inspire and Reconnect People to the Environment and Sustainability,” was one of many highlights for Creative Collaborations on Thursday. In all, 175 posters and exhibits showcased 282 undergraduate students’ participation in research, scholarship, internships and creative activities. The collaborative aspect involves advisement and mentoring from USD faculty members.

While it wasn’t the first time Creative Collaborations offered non-poster exhibits, Sarah Kriz, director of USD’s new Office of Undergraduate Research, organized the event for the first time and did have new opportunities to engage the campus community.

“Everything went really well,” Kriz said. “There were more interactive exhibits and that’s great because there’s some work that just doesn’t fit on a poster.”

Other interactive presentations represented Ethnic Studies, Marine Science and Environmental Studies, Theatre Arts, Leadership Studies, Business Marketing and Engineering. The varied disciplines’ visual topics included yoga, a maze-solving robot, an examination of the Performativity of Punk, a student project focused on college women of color transfer students as well as one performance titled, “Color Me White.” One returning exhibit was a three-car showcase of San Diego’s lowrider culture.

New to Creative Collaborations was the inclusion of student-led tours of two current exhibits in the Robert and Karen Hoehn Family Galleries, located in Founders Hall, and a multiple-table UC display for the David W. May American Indian Collection and Gallery, which is housed in Serra Hall’s Anthropology Museum Laboratory.

Undergraduate research, whether it’s in the physical, behavioral or social sciences, arts, humanities, business, engineering or leadership studies, gives students the chance to deepen their knowledge within their major, gain valuable life experiences and engage in critical thinking, problem-solving and, at Creative Collaborations, communication skills as a presenter.

“USD has become one of the leaders in undergraduate education,” Kriz said. “I’ve received phone calls from other universities and I’ve had people come up to me at conferences and say things like ‘USD seems to be about two years ahead of where my institution is in terms of what you’re doing to offer opportunities for your undergraduates.’ We’re very proud of that.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

To see a full list of USD student research projects from Creative Collaborations, click here.

Photos by Nick Abadilla

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