LEAP Highlights Student Internships

Posted: October 21, 2009

Meet seven MHC students who presented at the LEAP Symposium.

Throughout the afternoon of October 16, Kendade Science Center was host to a world of discoveries as Mount Holyoke College students described their summer research and internships at the annual LEAP (Learning from Application) Symposium. Before the presentations began, Dean of the College Penny Gill greeted the crowd of students, faculty, staff, and friends at a reception in Kendade Atrium. “This is one of my favorite Mount Holyoke events,” she said. “I love the energy. I love what happens here.”

Then LEAP began: five concurrent panels where 57 students described their work—accompanied by PowerPoint presentations and other visuals—and fielded questions from appreciative audiences. In Kendade 203, Ashley Nichols ’10, a psychology and education major, summarized her research on visuoperceptual processing in children with autism; she had designed the study to combine her interests in cognition and autism. Meanwhile, on the first floor, Mary Hansen ’10 spoke about the politics of HIV/AIDS prevention in East Africa, drawing upon her research at an NGO and school clinic in Tanzania and a youth center in Uganda. Nearby, in a Cleveland lecture hall, Rashmi Gunaratne ’10 and Rebekah Wieland ’12 discussed their work on the role of pectoral and forelimb muscles during jumping in toads.

“LEAP highlights the rich and varied summer internship and research experiences that Mount Holyoke students pursue,” said Jale Okay, director of international experiential learning at the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, and a moderator for one of the event's panels. “Whether they were working here on campus or on another continent, all are applying their liberal arts education to address the challenges of our complex world. This event offers a forum for students to reflect critically on their summer project and share their extraordinary learning experiences with the MHC community.”

Having just that type of forum is what attracted Amalia Culiuc ’11 to LEAP. A math major, Culiuc spent her summer at Central Michigan University where she participated in graduate-level research on the energy of graphs and matrices. “At an academic conference, the only topic would be math,” Culiuc said. “Here, I can talk about how much I enjoyed the research and how it is shaping my plans for graduate school.”

Elisabeth Malin ’10, a politics major who presented at LEAP last year, echoed Culiuc’s sentiment. “I loved having the chance to share what I’d done and learned during my summer at MIT,” she said. “What’s also great is that LEAP encourages other students to do research.”

Among the many first-year students being inspired by the possibilities was Khady Ndiaye ’13. She’d come to the event out of curiosity and was impressed by the many topics being explored by MHC students.

That range is precisely what makes LEAP so exciting, said Jenny Pyke, dean of the junior class and a moderator for one of the panels. “I love listening to the students and hearing their passion about their work. Sometimes a student will seem a bit nervous beforehand and then explode in the moment with confidence. It’s wonderful to see that.”

Though scheduled during the event’s final slot, Consuelo Nelson FP’10--a politics major and English minor--found the room still full for her presentation about the sentencing of juveniles and juvenile recidivism. “I appreciate that you have stayed,” Nelson said. “And I appreciate that Mount Holyoke offered me the opportunity to pursue research about something near and dear to my heart. Earlier today, I submitted a prospectus for an honors thesis to continue my work.”

As the symposium concluded, conversations continued out in the hallways and across campus--about everything from the international community’s response to Darfur to the market for solar household appliances to late fifteenth-century print culture.

“It was a stunning afternoon,” Gill said. “I was struck by the presenters’ nuanced understanding of their own positions as students and researchers, of how their ‘social position’ might influence data collection, for example, or interviews. They seemed very self aware, confident, and full of gratitude for these extraordinary opportunities. In turn, we’re grateful for how they’ve enriched our collective intellectual life here at Mount Holyoke.”

The 2009 LEAP Symposium was supported by the Career Development Center, the Department of Biological Sciences, the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, the Office of the Academic Deans, the Office of the Associate Dean of Faculty for Sciences, the Office of the Dean of the College, the Office of the Dean of Faculty, and the Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Program.

Related Links:

Photo Gallery

"Epic Internship" Video

2009 LEAP Student Profiles

Career Development Center

McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives