Students Go Virtual for End-of-Semester Presentations

December 8, 2020
With help from the College’s Center for Academic and Career Advising, and the Educational Technology and Information Technology departments, Wells students devised an innovative new way to present what they learned during their fall 2020 internships.
Mollie Walts' poster,

At the end of a typical semester, the Wells community comes together to enjoy presentations from students about their recent internships — but of course, this semester has been anything but typical! Instead, the Center for Academic and Career Advising partnered with staff from the College’s Information Technology and Educational Technology departments to host this semester’s presentations virtually.

During the afternoon of Saturday, Dec. 5, community members could “drop in” on any one of 29 individual presentations; topics included genetic disorders, heat pump technology, how to run a nonprofit, and interning for a U.S. congressman.

Though the virtual presentations were done in a style similar to a traditional session, there was still a bit of a learning curve for all involved. “The hardest thing for students was learning how to host their own meeting and to share their screens [with the viewers],” said Jonathan Gans, the College’s educational technology coordinator.

When planning the event, Jon and his colleagues realized that the best method would be to enable simultaneous individual presentations. They decided to create a separate “meeting” for each presenter using the Microsoft Teams platform, giving the virtual presentations an open-house feel as guests dropped in and out of various presentations.

Jazzmyne Williams ’21, a health sciences major, worked with the Aurora Farmers Market to understand how such markets can not only build a bridge with the greater community but also provide more tangible health benefits compared to shopping at a regular grocery store. “I realized that a farmer’s market isn’t just about providing healthy food, but it’s also about healthy spending, too. We also wanted to show how supportive Wells students are of the Aurora community,” Jazzmyne said.

Jazzmyne’s original plan after graduation was to pursue a physician’s assistant degree, but after her internship she is now considering other options in the area of public health. “I am passionate about making sure that people get access to the resources they need,” she added.

“The poster session allows students to showcase their good work so that the campus community (and beyond — all are welcome!) can learn about the students’ experiences and our valuable community partnerships,” said Linda Galbato, director of academic and career advising. “The experience itself leads to the development of skills that are valued by prospective employers as well as graduate and professional programs,” Linda added.

Mollie Walts ’21 [whose poster appears at the top of this story] presented on LGBTQ individuals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (“STEM”) fields. Mollie, who is majoring in health sciences and minoring in biology, showed how LGBTQ retention in these fields is approximately 7% lower than that of their non-LGBTQ peers. In addition, she analyzed their experiences in each STEM field, showing that their levels of openness differed; for example, she found that engineers were less comfortable revealing their full identity at their workplace versus those working in the life sciences.  

Identifying and celebrating LGBTQ members of the STEM fields is important, Mollie said, because it can help students and burgeoning professionals “see themselves” and thus make these professions more accessible. One aspect of her research involved identifying several professional associations for LGBTQ scientists, including 500 Queer Scientists, Pride in STEM and the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists & Technical Professionals. In fact, Mollie is working on creating a database of scholarships and other academic opportunities specific to LGBTQ scientists, and her goal is to share this resource with the entire Wells community.

Tiffany Miner ’21 took an entrepreneurial approach to her fall 2020 internship, convincing the owner of a local campground in her hometown of Marathon, N.Y., to create an internship position specifically for her. Tiffany, a psychology major, spent part of her internship creating a new reservation system. “The original system was created using Excel, but I was able to use Google Sheets — that way the customer and the campground staff could make updates in a more efficient manner, and it helped cut down on accidental double-bookings,” Tiffany said. She also created a tax ledger, helped with advertising and campsite rentals, and other behind-the-scenes aspects of running a small business.

Janlynn McCoy ’21 spent her internship working at a local not-for-profit wildlife rehabilitation center near Utica, N.Y. There, she learned how to work with a wide variety of species, including herons, ducks, owls, hawks, skunks, raccoons, beavers, rabbits and deer. Meeting new challenges and animals made every day “a new experience and a new form of chaos,” she added. Janlynn, an environmental science major and biology minor, learned that the job is not always a “happy” one (and not all animals can be saved) — and she's now interested in pursuing a career in wildlife rehabilitation.

Staff who were involved in the event were pleased with how things went. “In some ways, the virtual experience was superior to the traditional model. I really liked the opportunity to interact with each student without the distractions of a large, noisy venue,” said Linda Galbato. “One thing I really like about all of our poster sessions is the energy generated during the event — I felt that same energy in the virtual showcase due to the technological orchestration of the event. I will definitely consider virtual presentations in the future,” she said.

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