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Tina Hope and a student harvesting herbs.


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Students meet under a tree, outside the Gizmo.

Summer Collaborative Research Projects Provide Real-World Experiences

Tina Hope and a student harvesting herbs.

“When a liberal arts student does the job, it’s more than just coding,” said Jessie Quach ’24, a computer science major who is developing a graphic database for Knox. “I have to think about creating algorithms, how the project is going to work on the screen, and how the user is going to navigate through each thing on the screen. It’s more than just focusing on coding.”

The Knox Graph Database project was just one of a handful of eight-week summer collaborative research projects offered this summer. Sponsored by the Gerald & Carol Vovis Center and the Office of the Dean of the College, the projects provided students with real-world experiences tending herbs, composting, computer programming, and creating and editing Wikipedia pages.

Knox Graph Database

Vera Kazakova, assistant professor of computer science, heard from other new faculty members and students that they sometimes had to visit multiple online sources to find out information about courses, who is teaching them, and where they are located. She tasked six students with locating campus resources, roles, and offices; determining graduation requirements, course offerings, prerequisites, and schedule compatibility; and finding other miscellaneous information that members of the Knox community often need, such as regulations, housing, and tech support. “We are currently testing and patching up our system in-house and hope to release it for testing and feedback to the broader Knox community in the near future,” Kazakova said. “We’re doing this in only eight weeks and with six students!”

Shoichiro (Richie) Ogura’24, has not decided on his major yet, though he’s leaning toward computer science and psychology.

“Last year in spring term, I learned graphing algorithms,” he said. “It’s surprising to me that I can apply that to a real-world situation like this. This project is a real-world example that has a lot of complications, including inconsistencies in how things are written and described. Dealing with real-world cases is a very good experience and one that I will be able to apply in the future.”

Bioregional Herbalism: Cultivating Healthful Relationships and Practices with Plants, People and Community

Tina Hope, director of sustainability and the Knox Farm, worked with students on observing and utilizing edible and medicinal herbs that can be found on the Knox campus and in surrounding areas.

“I’ve learned more about what it means to be here and the plants that are native to this area,” said Teagan Springer ’23. “I’m learning how I can use them to heal myself and others. It’s been a perspective shift for me in terms of appreciating a sense of place. We learned how lots of plants that people deem as weeds are not useless and should not just be eradicated. It’s the idea of appreciating what’s around you and the gifts that nature has to offer that has been really useful.”

“Offering this experience during the summer afforded more time to engage in individual research and work together in small groups to develop a medicinal and edible herb guide for the Knox farm,” Tina Hope said. “We had an opportunity to share some of the learned skills and information with our Galesburg community by inviting campers from a local farm camp for girls in an interactive experience at the Knox farm. At the end of the session, our group expressed interest in cultivating other opportunities for engaging this topic of bioregional herbalism by offering a variety of workshops and medicinal weed walks during this academic year with the Knox community and perhaps other interested groups in our region.”

Community-Scale Compost Systems

Students joined William Hope, associate professor of anthropology-sociology, at the Knox Farm to implement composting systems that diverted food scraps from the Knox Cafeteria as well as a number of local restaurants and homes.

“The students participating in the collaborative summer research project not only learned foundational, hands-on skills for converting food waste into valuable resources in the form of soil amendments, they co-organized a community-based workshop to share these insights with others,” William Hope said. “It was wonderful to watch their cooperation and growing sense of confidence throughout the project.”

Alondra Damian ’24, is from Chicago and had very limited experience with gardening. She took an urban agriculture class with Tina Hope and was interested when composting was discussed.

“People aren’t aware of all the small processes that go on within these systems,” she said. “I’m in awe of those small details that affect how well your compost can come out and how well it can benefit your garden or your community. I want to work on a small-scale farm after Knox, so this composting background is great. I could help implement it on that farm if it’s not already happening. I really love the hands-on experience here.”

Wikipedia: Collaborative Research and Editing

Looking at knowledge gaps in how Wikipedia represents underrepresented populations was just one of the goals of a project directed by Laurie Sauer, associate librarian for digital initiatives and collections, and Joseph Taylor, assistant librarian for special collections and archives.

Students spent many hours doing research in the Knox College Special Collections and Archives to investigate famous and often forgotten alumni and other notables, and saw some of their final resting places in Hope Cemetery, located on the northwest edge of campus. They also created or edited Wikipedia articles to reflect the information they uncovered.

It was gratifying to see such a high degree of collaboration among these students, all working together to add and improve Wikipedia content related to underrepresented people based on sources from our Archives and elsewhere,” Sauer said.

Esme Garcia ’23 created a Wikipedia page on Fannie Hicks Givens, believed to be the first Black woman to graduate from what was then Knox College’s School of Art. “Wikipedia is the first thing that comes up whenever you search anything, so I always read it. Through this project I’ve really learned about the discrepancy in information for underrepresented groups. It’s really cool to understand archives a little more and look at different histories of Galesburg and also to learn about Wikipedia. It’s definitely made me want to write more Wikipedia articles. 


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Printed on Tuesday, May 30, 2023