Horizons 2013 Celebrates Student Research, Creativity

February 21, 2013

Horizons 2013

Knox College's second annual Horizons: A Celebration of Student Inquiry, Imagination, and Creativity highlighted exemplary achievements by Knox students pursuing independent research projects and creative endeavors.

The February 14 event, featuring more than two dozen exhibits, was organized by the Gerald and Carol Vovis Center for Research and Advanced Study at Knox.

"Horizons is an opportunity to celebrate just what exceptional and talented students can do with a Knox College liberal arts education," said Sandra K. Shumaker, director of the Vovis Center.

"Horizons tells us that Knox is an exceptional place -- made so by a dedicated and expert faculty, a committed staff, a challenging liberal arts program, a supportive and engaged community, and a talented and remarkable student body who can exceed our highest expectations," she added.

The Horizons presentations covered a wide range of topics, including chemistry, elephants, dance, and the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.Horizons 2013

Jamal Nelson, a Knox junior, and senior Alejandro Varela have been developing educational materials that could be used to teach sixth- through 12th-graders about the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.

"History isn't just something that can be looked at or that people read about. It's something that can be done creatively," said Nelson (in photo at right), a Chicago, Illinois, native who is majoring in educational studies and English literature. "We can use whatever we have realistically, holistically, in a creative way for later generations."

Another Horizons presenter, senior Kyla Tully, discussed her intensive study of theatre and dance as she completed a study abroad program in London, England, through Roger Williams University.

"I got to study with professionals and tour several different countries in Europe, something I probably could have never done on my own," said Tully, who self-designed her major in dance studies. A native of Viroqua, Wisconsin, she plans on a career in aerial dance or as a member of a contemporary circus.

Hatim Mustaly, a senior neuroscience major from Mumbai, India, has been researching nerve regeneration in sipunculans, also known as marine peanut worms. (Photo at top of page: Hatim Mustaly describes his research at Horizons.)

"I was curious, and I get to practice some of the techniques we used in a histology class I took," he said, explaining his interest in the work. "It's just fun for me."

Rana Tahir, (in photo at right) a double major in creative writing and political science, presented her Honors project, "Poetry and Paintings Based on Life Under Occupied Kuwait." It focuses on the stories of her family members and other people who lived through the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in 1990. A Knox senior, she is from Mishref, Kuwait.Horizons 2013

One of her goals, she said, is to help people recognize "that when we talk about conflicts and big politics, not to lose sight of the fact that there are people involved. So many people, my family, are all victims of big politics in this case."

Forrest Rackham, a senior environmental studies major from Pagosa Springs, Colorado, has been conducting research at the Green Oaks Biological Field Station, focusing on the impact of fire. Rackham, who has worked as a wildland firefighter, is teaming up with Knox biology Professor Stuart Allison to expand the Green Oaks burning program and make it safer. Separately, he is working with Professor Katie Adelsberger to study fire's effect on prairie soil.

"Fire really changes soil," Rackham said. "I'm trying to establish baselines, especially in the areas we move into that are new, so we can say this is what it was, and we can track change as we go."

In collaboration with Horizons, Knox art students displayed examples of their in-progress work from Open Studio, an independent study course in which students work with a faculty mentor.

Katie Hansen, a senior studio art major from Rochester, Minnesota, created collages and charcoal drawings for the event. She also spent time examining several of the Horizons exhibits and talking with the student presenters.

"I think it's really exciting to see what people have been working on in other fields," she said.

Lotte Vonk, a senior from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, displayed seven photo portraits.

"I got a lot of feedback from people who otherwise wouldn't have seen" the work, she said. "It was really amazing, how many positive comments I got."

In addition, students in Knox's 2013 Repertory Theatre Term exhibited a poster describing the program, which combines academic study in theatre with all of the day-to-day business involved in operating a professional repertory company. Rep Term will culminate in productions of The Green Bird and The Caucasian Chalk Circle February 28-March 2 and March 5-9.

"It's an awesome learning experience," said junior Chloe Luetkemeyer, a theatre major from Hillsboro, Missouri. "As an actress, I also get to learn the technical aspects of a theatre production."

Horizons 2013Visitors to Horizons said they were impressed with what they saw and heard.

Knox senior Kelli Kleitsch, one of the presenters at the inaugural Horizons in 2012, was pleased to see the event return.

"Horizons is a great way to bring students from all disciplines together in one place to showcase all of the incredible work they've been doing," said Kleitsch, an integrated international studies major from West Somerset, Kentucky. "It's a phenomenal opportunity that they might not have had before."

Gerald Vovis '65, a biotechnology executive who heads Vovis Enterprises, stopped to talk with nearly all of the student presenters and view their work. (Photo at left: Gerald Vovis '65 listens to Horizons presenter Jake Hawrylak, whose project is "Compositions for Creative Musicians.")

"The enthusiasm was unbelievable. It's just very impressive," he said. "I enjoy it because it lets me see that Knox is really providing the atmosphere to help prepare students for an ever-changing, very rapidly evolving world."