Bridgewater Celebrates ASPIRE

May 14, 2015

Throughout the year, Bridgewater College faculty and students produce an impressive array of research and other scholarly projects that cut across academic disciplines. From the labs in McKinney to the band room in the Carter Center—and beyond—the Bridgewater community embraces scholarship and achievement in countless ways.

Seeking to publicly enumerate and showcase these achievers and their work, the College in April initiated its first Arts, Scholarship, Performance, Innovation and Research Excellence (ASPIRE) program. From April 26 to May 4, Bridgewater featured 83 faculty and student exhibitions, presentations and performances that highlighted and celebrated scholarship.

“Commitment to the liberal arts at Bridgewater College means more than just a diverse curriculum,” said President David W. Bushman. “It means a commitment to the very best in the teacher-scholar model for our faculty, who maintain their excellence in the classroom by continuing to engage their disciplines in scholarly work outside the classroom. And they model this intellectual curiosity for students,

“As mentors and colleagues,” he continued, “our faculty invite students to engage in that work as well—resulting in the exceptional quality and diversity of activity on display during our first ASPIRE week.”

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Jackie McCabe ’15, a French and biology double major from Alexandria, Va., was one of the students participating in ASPIRE. Her presentation—a cultural panel exploring illegal immigration in France as seen through her film and cultural class with Dr. Christopher James—was centered on the film “Welcome.” She discussed how camera technique and various shots demonstrated the changes in the relationship of the movie’s two main characters: Simon and Bilal, who migrate from an impersonal teacher/paying student relationship to a father-son relationship.  

“I find that presenting on films can be difficult when the majority of the audience hasn’t seen the film, so I wasn’t sure about how the presentation would go over,” she said. “Fortunately, I think my approach to the presentation worked well. I chose my topic so that I could both discuss an aspect of the film and give the audience an idea of what it was about. I also used still shots rather than clips so that the audience could focus on the placement and angles of the shot, rather than the action or plot minutiae itself. “

McCabe, who also presented her honors research project at a poster session during the week, said she enjoyed seeing other students present and discuss their scholarship. She said the process of doing so went beyond just sharing and discussing work with the Bridgewater community; it gave participants real-life practice for presenting at conferences and other public forums.

“The liberal arts curriculum is all about integration of the different disciplines, and I saw a lot of interdisciplinary discussion and conversation during ASPIRE, which I believe indicates that it is an event going in the right direction for Bridgewater,” she said.

Charlotte McIntyre ’17, of Street, Md., presented “Institutionalizing Childhood: Child Labor and Its Reform in Victorian England,” basing her presentation on a term paper she wrote for Dr. Brandon Marsh’s History of Modern Britain class.

“The tricky part was turning a 25-page paper into a 10- to 15-minute presentation,” she said. “I had to cut the paper down to 10 ½ pages. This meant that I really had to reconsider my thesis and the most effective way to focus the main points.”

McIntyre said the process included meeting with Marsh several times to discuss how to refocus and condense without losing the sense of the research. She said she also had to convert the language into a more straightforward and colloquial style for the presentation.

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“It was a pleasure to stand up in Cole Hall and share a semester’s worth of research with members of the Bridgewater College community,” said McIntyre, who also participated in the ASPIRE poster session with her group from Survey of Business. “I thoroughly enjoyed being able to contribute to the research convocation and to ASPIRE, and I am very excited about the success of Bridgewater College’s first ASPIRE week.

“ASPIRE,” she concluded, “is an outstanding exhibition of Bridgewater College’s dedication to professionalism and liberal arts excellence.”

Dr. Stephen Longenecker, the Edwin L. Turner Distinguished Professor of History, was one of a number of faculty members who presented during the week. His topic—“Serving Two Kingdoms: A Former Confederate Chaplain, Church and the Confederate Lost Cause”—focused on Lachlan C. Vass, who managed to balance his service to the Confederacy and his racial views with service to God. Vass, who served as chaplain of the famous Stonewall Brigade, went on to become a Presbyterian pastor after the war.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to present at the ASPIRE celebration,” said Longenecker. “I love my work, and it’s always fun to share it with others. Higher education is increasingly competitive, and Bridgewater needs to do everything reasonably possible to promote faculty scholarship. If we fall behind in scholarship, our rivals benefit.”

Performances during ASPIRE included a concert by the Bridgewater College Symphonic Band, under the direction of Dr. Christine Carrillo, assistant professor of music and director of instrumental music. Two student conductors—Miranda Fitzgerald ’15 of Verona, Va., and Jordan Haugh ’16 of Frederick, Md.—were featured, as was the premiere of the band arrangement of “Bridgewater Fair” by Ephraim T. Hildebrand.

Also on tap was a concert by the Bridgewater College Concert Choir and Chorale, under the direction of Dr. John McCarty, assistant professor of music. The choir was accompanied by Lacey Johnson, an adjunct instructor of music. Miranda Fitzgerald conducted a second time, and the concert also featured several student vocal and instrumental solos.

Gallery talks, research convocations, poster sessions and a Senior Art Thesis exhibition rounded out a week packed with scholarship, creativity and innovation.

“There exists a depth and breadth of engagement with research, creative endeavors and scholarly work here at Bridgewater that will continue to blossom,” said President Bushman. “I am eager to see what ASPIRE might look like in the years ahead.”