Horizons is not a research symposium. Rather, “it’s a celebration,” according to Sandra Shumaker ’95, director of the Vovis Center for Research & Advanced Study.
And though Thursday’s event in the Ford Center for the Fine Arts was technically the second Horizons exhibition, “it’s our first in a lot of ways,” Shumaker said.
The first Horizons was scheduled as part of President Teresa Amott’s installation activities and was held in the library.
“I think it might have gotten lost a bit … but it was a great event,” Shumaker said.
In planning Horizons, Shumaker noted that the goal of the event had to be kept in mind — its purpose not being to attempt to replace the various conferences and critiques, performances and presentations in which many Knox students already participate.
“There’s so much that goes on here that truly shows the product of student work. What we wanted to do was take a moment to celebrate the students, the faculty, the opportunities they’ve had — and not replace what our departments do so well already,” Shumaker said.
One charge of the Vovis Center is to provide the Knox community with a broader look at the goings-on at Knox, in addition to managing the research and creative programs that are available to students, such as Richter grants, Ford fellowships and the Honors program.
“We do a lot of amazing things on campus, but by nature of the different disciplinary areas that we have, they’re a bit siloed. So, you know, what happens in the fine arts stays in the fine arts. What happens in the sciences stays in the sciences. And so we’re not often aware what’s happening on the other side of campus,” Shumaker said. Horizons hopes to change this.
The event’s title honors Amott’s installation theme.
“She wanted Knox to take time, to stop … looking in on ourselves and seeing what we’re doing right now, today — and she charged us with looking up, to see the broader horizon of what Knox can be,” Shumaker said.
The student presenters are helping Knox to make that goal a reality.
“When we create a Horizons presentation, we talk about the project — but that’s only half of what’s on that poster … the other half, we talk about how they came to find their specialty, what opportunities they’ve had to present, to travel, to do research that’s way beyond a student budget, to mentor with a faculty member … and then also to talk about where that project’s going to take them next,” Shumaker said. For presenters, it’s “an excellent time to take a good, reflective look at what all this means to them.”
The student presenters were nominated by faculty members for having accomplished exemplary independent or original work.
They are students who faculty felt were “really taking full advantage of their Knox education,” according to Shumaker.
Junior Honor Beeler, for example, volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand and organized the thousands of photos she took there into a photographic documentary that the park is now using.
Shumaker cited Beeler as an example of the kind of participants for which looks Horizons looks because “she’s definitely using her Knox education and supplementing it with these experiences so that she can do exactly what she wants to do.”
This year’s event was well attended, with several people clustered around each presentation for most of the evening.
Senior Joshua Tatro, who was presenting his senior research on the life of the college partygoer, said that the event was “much more chill” than a presentation he attended at a research symposium at Ohio State University.
Junior Ajoura Gwinn, a second-time Horizons presenter of her examination of the female hero in Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” Quartet, said that Horizons is “helping me to articulate myself.”
Meanwhile, Repertory Term members were able to get the word out about new developments in theater and costuming.
Among those in attendance was Gerald Vovis ‘65, who, along with his wife Carol Vovis, donated the funds to found the center.
Carol Vovis believes that opportunities for independent study, such as those on display at Horizons, are very important for students.
“If you want to go on to do anything, what they’re going to look for in your resume is what you did independently … and that’s what [Horizons] is all about. And it’s exciting because of this, because this is the development of our future,” she said.
Carol Vovis supports the event because “the more we do [things like this], the better we get.”
Shumaker saw Thursday’s event as “just the beginning — this is intended to become a hallmark event in Knox’s future. We will continue to grow it, [and] we will be seeking feedback.”