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English Instructor William Lombardi delivers the opening speech at FRC’s Nov. 25 Student Research Symposium telling students this experience will be of value to them in any field they pursue. Photo by Roni Java

FRC Student Research Symposium highlights future of education

Feather River College offered its third “Student Research Symposium” on Nov. 25 for an audience of approximately 200 students, instructors and guests.The event featured 30 diverse panel presentations highlighting a range of subjects covering science, humanities, politics and much more.

“Feather River College welcomed 247 new students this fall and 165 of them are participating in this symposium. That’s huge!” said English instructor Will Lombardi, who coordinates the program with his fellow English 101 professors. “I want to thank all of the instructors from the English Department and the other departments who have joined us in supporting this effort.”

He also extended special thanks to staffer Connie Litz for her tireless work creating promotional materials.

Developing critical thinking

Lombardi opened the symposium with comments about the importance of developing critical thinking skills. He reminded the students, staff and guests that the symposium experience is about presenting their research findings, but being able to listen, ask questions and have differences of opinion are equally essential as they work through their education.

“We’re allowed to disagree with each other and do it from a basis of research, analysis and critical thinking,” Lombardi said. “At this symposium, we’re going to create conversations outside of the usual channels and they will happen whether the presenters and listeners agree with you or not.”

FRC biology instructor Michelle Petroelje serves as director of Student Success Programs, and she noted that FRC’s first-year programs support students in making the transition from high school to college and meeting new academic and personal expectations.

Laughter rippled through the crowd when Petroelje joked about the stress of public speaking, encouraging each student to single out someone in the audience to serve as their personal “happy face, someone who, no matter how badly it might be going, will keep smiling and nodding at you to let you know you’re doing great!”

“We’re allowed to disagree with each other and do it from a basis of research, analysis and critical thinking.”
Will Lombardi, English Instructor, FRC

FRC President Kevin Trutna indicated no matter what they are studying, students are developing the skills they need to succeed in the workforce.

“The skills you will see during the symposium demonstrate the outcomes obtained by any FRC graduate,” Trutna said.

College Trustee Guy McNett of Indian Valley was also in the audience. “This is an excellent example of what FRC is all about,” he said.

After the opening, as students made their way to the sessions offered all over the Quincy campus, Petroelje smiled and said, “This is active learning at its best. I still remember giving my first speech and it was terrifying! The symposium experience boosts their confidence and lets them know we’re all in this together.”

Wide range of student research

Many of the panel presentations were full. The topics were wide-ranging, too, from research on immigration to race issues, rap music, horse training, ocean pollution, sports injuries, agriculture, climate change and architecture, among many others.

Students cameto support their friends and learn about the topicsand issues. From the subjects they chose to the presentations they gave, as well as the discussions afterward, FRC students demonstrated that they are invested in issuesthat affect their lives and make way for a promising future.

Promoting thoughtful discussion

Instructors served as moderators and helped encourage discussion.

For example, after a presentation on “Working Class Revolts” by student Alec Nelson, English Instructor Joan Parkin asked the audience what they thought about the topic. Danielle Jackson, a student in the college’s Early Childhood Education program, responded that it helps to enter the discussion if we can see other people’s perspectives in a safe environment.

This can help us “make the change in society,” she said.

Students were able to present on topics that they are passionate about, within their fields, and the symposium provided them with the opportunity to interact with their community for research.

“It was really cool to get the community involved,” said Madeline Williams who displayed a poster on cat coat colors with her classmates Lisa Smith and Hailey Machado for biology instructor Anna Thompson’s class. This group went to the Plumas Animal Welfare Society’s local cat rescue center to get samples of cat fur for their project.

English and other departments

The research symposium initiallystarted in fall 2018 as part of FRC’s first-year experience. At that time, it was focused on the English department so all freshmen who went through English 101, which is required for every student, would learn to engage in an academic setting.

The symposium met with great success, according to Lombardi, and spread to other classes. This year, students from geology, biology, art and political science also participated.

Value of research, discussions

The program ended with a reception and show of posters that included a genetics and science expo. There were many conversations around the room and students talked about what they learned from their research.

As instructors circulated and examined their students’ work, Lombardi’s emphasis on the value of the inter-disciplinary symposium rang true.

And during the day, Lombardi also extended thanks to FRC administrators and his colleagues for supporting the event and encouraging their students to participate. The next student research symposium will take place in spring 2020.

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