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Student Symposium: Celebrating innovation, curious thinking for 20 years

It’s said that good things stand the test of time. The Lake Forest College Steven Galovich Memorial Student Symposium is a case in point. For the past 20 years, the College has suspended classes for one day at the end of the spring term to devote that time to celebrating student achievement and success.

The milestone symposium, held Tuesday, April 11, brought together students, faculty, staff, community members—and the local media—for a day of scholarly and creative presentations, exhibits, debates, performances, demonstrations, and posters that showed off achievements both inside and outside the classroom. The daylong program featured 44 presentations by 54 students and several poster presentations on topics ranging from bat naming to exploring the gender gap in art museums. To be considered for this high honor required nomination by a faculty or staff member.

“Symposium promotes those students who are committed to critical thinking and who represent the values of our liberal arts institution,” Davis Schneiderman, associate dean of the faculty and Chair of the Symposium committee, was quoted in a Chicago Tribune article on the 2017 event. “It provides an opportunity for them to share their work…and is a distinction and an honor.”

That’s exactly how Tracy Koenn ’18, an English and politics double major, felt when asked to present her work on the emergence of American values in Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. “As a student, I’ve always wanted to develop and present my work from classes I had a passion for and I was so thankful to finally have that opportunity at the Student Symposium,” she said. “It’s truly rewarding to have an event where you can share your ideas and findings with so many other innovative and curious thinkers on this campus.”

Jack Hirsch ’18 found the Symposium fed his growing interest: archaeology. The sociology and anthropology major worked with Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Rebecca Graff on his project “Mementoes and Transitional Objects in Lake Forest College Dormitories,” which he was selected to present. “Dr. Graff immersed me in the subfield of archaeology, and the Symposium was the ideal platform to share this passion with fellow students,” Hirsch said. “The positive feedback I received through this process encouraged me to continue further research and exploration in this discipline.”

Assistant Professor of Economics and Business Kent Grote has been a member of faculty from the early years of the Symposium. Over the last six years, he’s worked on the Symposium Committee, comprised of faculty and staff who steer the signature event.

“Reaching the 20-year milestone shows we value the idea of student research and working collaboratively with faculty,” he said. “But it’s more than research. Musical and artistic presentations are typically offered during the Symposium, as well. We’re giving students opportunities to share what their interests and passions are.”

Twenty years ago, then Dean of Faculty, Provost, and Professor of Mathematics Steven Galovich proposed the idea of the Symposium to highlight the academic work of students. He believed that Lake Forest College should devote a day during the academic year to showcase students and their research. So committed was Galovich to the idea that he recommended the cancellation of classes so students could freely attend and participate in all the events. The First Annual Student Symposium was held April 7, 1998. In 2007, after his death, the Student Symposium was designated as the Steven Galovich Memorial Student Symposium.