The Columns

A genuine General: Jordan LaPointe ‘17 LaPointe, who says his personal motto is “being genuine goes a long way,” is a world traveler, professional debater, and Johnson Scholar.

— by on April 14th, 2017

“Many Johnson scholars, including me, have grown in ways that we couldn’t have even imagined when we first came to W&L.”

Jordan LaPointe ’17


Q: How did you first hear about the Johnson Scholarship?

I heard about the W&L Johnson Scholarship from one of my close friends in high school who had applied. If it wasn’t for that friend, I probably wouldn’t have given the school a closer look and applied for the scholarship, despite being a Virginia resident.

Q: Were you considering any other colleges when you applied for the scholarship?

Like most students in my area, I was deeply invested in going to the University of Virginia, but I was also considering UCLA and Berkeley.

Q: Why did you ultimately choose W&L?

I had to weigh my practical and personal interests in coming to my decision, and it just so happened that W&L struck the right balance for me.

Q: How has Johnson affected your views on leadership and integrity — or on academics?

The Johnson has shown me how much excellence must come from within if one wishes to maximize the positive influence that they exert upon their environment. The Johnson Program does an excellent job of giving its scholars enough personal space to develop on their own and figure out what areas they excel in, then offers them the tools to hone those interests to their heart’s content. Because of that, many Johnson scholars, including me, have grown in ways that we couldn’t have even imagined when we first came to W&L.

Q: What is your favorite story about your W&L experience, if you had to pick one?

One of my favorite experiences was interning with Professor Kuettner and the foreign language department during the summer after my sophomore year. It was interesting to experience Lexington without all of the students from W&L and VMI. The town was quieter than usual, with good weather and an abundance of outdoor activities. It was a lot of fun interacting with the local residents as well as with the other W&L summer scholars, each engaged in their own unique research or project.

Q: Do you have a mentor on campus?

Professor Ikeda has been guiding me since I was a first-year student, showing me all the opportunities available through the East Asian Languages and Literatures department if I decided to test my limits and put myself out there. Because of her, I’ve done incredible things like taking part in an international student conference representing W&L and studying abroad in Japan for an entire year.

Q: What extracurricular are you involved in right now that you are extra-passionate about?

Since I’ve been at W&L, I’ve been involved with the Mock Trial team. I didn’t have the opportunity to do Mock Trial in high school, so when I came to Washington and Lee, I thought it would be a good chance for me to explore and develop new skills. After three years of active involvement, from all of the weekends traveling across the East Coast to the sleepless nights going over case materials, I haven’t regretted it once.

Q: What is your favorite campus tradition or piece of history?

The Honor System

Q: If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to “first day on campus” you?

Pack enough clothes for your App-Adventure pre-O trip; it’s five days, not two….

Q: If someone asked you “why choose W&L,” what is the one reason you would tell them?

The opportunity for immense personal growth

Do you know an exceptional student? Someone passionate?
Someone involved? Do you want to see their face on a My W&L profile? Why not nominate them?

Eleni Timas ‘17: Swept up in Science Meet Eleni Timas ‘17, a chemical engineering major who has been swept up studying tornadoes.

— by on April 12th, 2017

“I saw the opportunity to synthesize the material I was learning in both classes, and thought analyzing weather conditions with fluid mechanics techniques was an interesting application.”     

Meet Eleni Timas ‘17, a chemical engineering major who has been swept up studying tornados!Meet Eleni Timas ‘17, a chemical engineering major who has been swept up in studying tornadoes.

 

Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, or various other methods.

Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances presented by the students.

Tornado Analysis with Fluid Mechanic Techniques

Q. Can you describe your project?

The way humans approach a particular day or a particular series of days is based on several different factors, one of which is the weather. It may influence our mood, our planned activities and even our choice of clothing. When the weather becomes extreme, like in the case of tornadoes, its influence on these circumstances becomes increasingly greater. Tornadoes can affect the state of one’s home, the safety of loved ones and, in some cases, an entire community’s future. For this reason, the ability to understand, analyze and predict a tornado is vitally important. Fluid mechanics allows scientists to investigate conditions that indicate a tornado’s formation, while also predicting its path and the damage it will likely cause. My analysis will look in particular at the Mulhall, Oklahoma tornado of May 3, 1999. I investigated the event using concepts of vorticity, deformation, streamline functions and pressure fields used in fluid mechanics research.

Q. What about the topic made you explore it?

At the time, I was taking both fluid mechanics and math methods for physics and engineering. In math methods we were discussing how vector fields could be used to describe wind patterns in tornadoes, while in fluid mechanics we were learning how vector fields can be used to understand pressure gradients, and how a differential fluid element may be deformed in a particular vector field. I saw the opportunity to synthesize the material I was learning in both classes, and thought analyzing weather conditions with fluid mechanics techniques was an interesting application.      

Q. What was the most interesting thing you learned while working on this project?

Prior to this investigation, I did not know the underlying driving mechanisms of a tornado. The pressure changes, just as much as the temperature changes, produce the violent winds we associate with tornadoes. Learning about these different features shaped the analysis techniques I applied to the system in both a macro scale, looking at the bulk rotation of the tornado, and a micro scale, in quantifying the rotation of a differential fluid element within the tornado.

Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced?

I decided to analyze a particular tornado, the Mulhall, Oklahoma tornado, rather than examine tornadoes in a general way. I wanted the parameters of the model for example, the height, width and wind speed of the tornado at different elevations to be as realistic as possible. It took several iterations to achieve this while maintaining the properties that govern the structure of a tornado.

Q. What insight or insights did you gain during the research period?

In many science classes, we are working with a model that closely describes what we observe in real life, but may not be exactly accurate. To account for these inconsistencies, we make assumptions about the system to make the model more applicable. Applying these assumptions out of the classroom to a real-world example really indicated their influence in a tangible way.  

Q. What is your favorite part of creating, researching, or developing this project?

I plan to attend graduate school after W&L and become an engineer. By nature, I enjoy mathematical problem solving, and applying what I know to systems I have not considered before. This project challenged me to do that, and it was a process I enjoyed very much!   

Q. What does SSA mean to you?

This is my second time presenting at SSA, and I felt the same about it then as I do now excited! This excitement is caused by the flow of interesting topics, experiments and overall knowledge that is passed from person to person in each of these SSA session. Personally, I like hearing and learning about topics that have required a lot of time, research and interest on behalf of the presenters. It gives a glimpse into a world that I’m unfamiliar with and allows me to share in their excitement, their research, and their interests that I previously would not have experienced.

Q. Why is SSA considering science, society, and arts together important to this campus?

Washington and Lee prides itself on giving students a liberal arts foundation while also challenging students in their field of study. I think SSA is a celebration of that. We get to showcase topics that we care about and dedicated a lot of time to perfecting. Through sharing this work we are stimulating conversation and building bridges across interests and different departments.

Do you know an exceptional student? Someone passionate?
Someone involved? Do you want to see their face on a My W&L profile? Why not nominate them?

Thriving at Home and Abroad Karishma Patel ’18 loves finding the intersections of technology and business – while studying abroad in Madrid.

— by on March 24th, 2017

“I knew I couldn’t go wrong choosing a school that invests so much in its students and does its best to shape students to be intellectual, passionate and well-rounded.”

Meet Karishma Patel ’18, who loves finding the intersections of technology and business – while studying abroad in Madrid.

 

Q. Where are you right now and what are you doing?

Right now, I am studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. I’m taking five classes, most of which are outside of my usual coursework: two art classes, one cinema class, one Spanish language class and one business class. I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity, and I really encourage everyone to study abroad if they have the chance. Studying abroad has pushed me out of my comfort zone and given me experiences that range from awe-inspiring (skiing in the Swiss Alps) to slightly tragic (cancelling an expensive train ticket to Barcelona without a full refund) to downright confusing (traveling for five hours in a car with only native Spanish speakers). Living in Madrid has taught me a lot about myself and my capabilities. It has helped me to improve my Spanish (though it’s still a work in progress), and has allowed me to gain amazing cultural experiences in Spain, as well as in other European countries. I’m already dreading the thought of having to say goodbye to this beautiful city in just two months.

Q. How did you first hear about the Johnson Scholarship?

I wish I had a more interesting story to tell, but I first heard about the Johnson Scholarship through a pamphlet I received in the mail. I owe a lot of gratitude to my dad, who encouraged me to apply!

Q. Were you considering any other colleges when you applied for the scholarship?

By the time I applied for the Johnson, I already had started the process of applying to 12 other colleges. I realize how ridiculous this sounds, but I honestly wasn’t sure what I wanted my ideal college to look like. As a result, I applied to all sorts of schools, varying in size, location, majors and so on. By the time it came down to actually choosing a college, I was deciding between Boston College, University of Denver and Washington and Lee.

Q. Why did you ultimately choose W&L?

Visiting the campus during Johnson Weekend helped me realize how much I liked having a small campus and small class sizes. I was also impressed with the students I met, who all seemed to be lively and welcoming, but also independent and passionate about their respective areas of study. I knew after that weekend that attending Washington and Lee would be challenging, but rewarding.

When I received my Johnson letter in the mail, I recall being stunned. I honestly did not expect to receive the scholarship and I was so shocked to realize that Washington and Lee was suddenly a serious contender. In addition to the financial advantage of being a Johnson Scholar, I honestly saw myself being able to thrive at a school like Washington and Lee.

Q. How has Johnson affected your views on leadership and integrity — or on academics?

Being awarded a Johnson has been such an honor. Knowing how powerful the Johnson Scholarship is motivates me daily to continue to work hard and follow my passions. That being said, my views on leadership and integrity come more from the W&L community than directly from the Johnson. My peers are the ones that inspire me to be a leader, to be intellectual, and to maintain my values. I see students on campus embodying these important characteristics regardless of their scholarship status. For me, the Johnson just serves as an extra reminder to be the best that I can be.

Q. What is your favorite story about your W&L experience — if you had to pick one?

My favorite W&L experience was hiking Sharp Top Mountain for a sunrise hike. As a Coloradoan, I love to hike, but I had never done a sunrise hike before! The whole experience was so incredible. From getting lost on the drive up, to hiking in the dark using our phone flashlights, to sitting at the top during the sunrise, I felt so happy and stress-free. There is something magical about watching the sunrise with great friends surrounding you. That experience taught me to really appreciate the small moments in life and to be present in the moment, because no matter how stressful life gets, there are always things to smile about!

Q. Do you have a mentor on campus?

I admire my Business Administration advisor, Dr. Shay. There have been many times that I have gone to his office for a quick visit and left over two hours later! I am grateful to have an advisor that makes time to talk to me, even though he has countless other responsibilities. Aside from being comfortable going to Dr. Shay with my questions and concerns, I also appreciate that he is constantly challenging me to be better. Often, I leave Dr. Shay’s office with a list of tasks that I need to accomplish. Once, Dr. Shay even gave me a list of alumni and challenged me to introduce myself to as many of them as possible at the Entrepreneurship Summit. Having an advisor that cares enough to understand my passions and my interests has been an invaluable addition to my undergraduate career at Washington and Lee.

Q. What extra-curricular activity are you involved in right now that you are extra passionate about?

Just last term, I started working as a teaching assistant for the Computer Science department. When Dr. Lambert first asked me to take on the position, I was honored, but also extremely nervous! I was unsure of my ability to help other students understand key concepts and write successful code. Every Tuesday, I would run from my last class of the day to the lab. Though I always left the lab exhausted, being a TA helped me to renew my passion for computer science, improve my ability to explain difficult ideas, and grow as a programmer. By the last class of the term, I realized that although I wasn’t always able to figure out how to help students, I was completely capable of taking on the role of a TA. When I return to Lexington after my term abroad, I hope to resume working as a TA!

Q. If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to “first day on campus” you?

Get involved! Don’t be afraid to apply for extracurricular activities and don’t be afraid to explore your interests!

As a freshman, I was only involved in one extracurricular activity. I spent far too much time focusing on my classes, and not enough time doing other things that made me happy. I think college is a delicate balance between exploring your passions in class and exploring the things that make you happy outside of class. Since adding more extracurriculars to my schedule, I have found myself busier, but also happier! For example, volunteering at Campus Kitchen or Habitat for Humanity is my way of letting go of the stresses that come with classes. Joining more clubs hasn’t made my workload easier, but it helps me remember that life is about more than just my studies in the classroom.

Q. If someone asked you “why choose W&L,” what is the one reason you would give them?

Opportunities. Washington and Lee is incredible at providing its students with a wealth of resources and opportunities to explore their passions. Regardless of whether you are a Johnson Scholar, I feel that Washington and Lee does a really good job of helping students achieve their goals. Advisors, professors, the Career Development Center, and even peers are constantly working to help you follow your passions. For me, being a student at Washington and Lee has given me a means to attend conferences, secure internships, and pursue projects that are meaningful to me.

Do you know an exceptional student? Someone passionate?
Someone involved? Do you want to see their face on a My W&L profile? Why not nominate them?

My W&L: MK Moran ‘19 MK Moran’s work with the LGBTQ Resource Center at Washington and Lee is impacting student perspectives.

— by on March 24th, 2017

“I want to make sure that all students feel welcome here, no matter their identity. We want to ensure that they feel welcome and that they feel that they will be heard and represented on campus.”

Meet MK Moran ‘19, whose work with the LGBTQ Resource Center is impacting student perspectives

 

When I first toured W&L, as a recently out-and-proud baby queer, I had reservations about my ability to fit into the community.  I set a specific goal for that day: I had to identify at least one sign of an LGBTQ+ presence on campus.  While I admit I had some degree of doubt that I would encounter anything that would fulfill that goal, I was optimistic, because I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated so many other aspects of W&L.  I thought that W&L had potential to be my home for the next four years, but I was still worried that this important part of my life would not be welcome here.  However, that afternoon, when I walked into the psychology class that I was sitting in on, I saw a student with rainbow pins on their backpack, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  If in this single class I could find LGBTQ+ representation, there must be a community of some sort here, I figured.  This one encounter, and the old LGBTQ+ resource center, the Hill House, gave me faith enough that I could make myself – my whole self – home here.

That following fall, when I arrived at W&L, I was surprised to find that, while that community did exist, it was very small and very quiet.  I got to know everyone involved and the LGBTQ+ coordinator, Rallie Snowden, very well, very quickly, as the community was just that small.  Starting the second semester of my first year, I began to actively work to help vocalize the LGBTQ+ presence in an effort not only to educate, but to try to reach any and all students who may benefit from it.  

The first project that I became very involved with was the Equality Gala in March, in which I debuted my interest in visual marketing and design.  Suddenly, my art appeared around campus, advertising this queer event that not only emphasized our presence as a community, but this notion of “Come as you are” that we try to preach on campus.

Later that semester, Rallie offered me a marketing position for my sophomore year, and I excitedly accepted.  Since the beginning of this year, I have been able to produce many pieces of visual advertisement for LGBTQ+ events and activities on campus in order to not only reach students who may benefit from them, but to also give a persistent public voice on campus for my LGBTQ+ peers.  I am so thankful for this opportunity as a chance to use my passion for art in a way that benefits the LGBTQ+ community as a whole and challenges the notion of homogeneity on our campus.

In my work for Rallie and with Generals’ Unity, I continue to come back to my first day on this campus.  I, as do the other LGBTQ+ peer counselors and members of Generals’ Unity, want to make sure that all students feel welcome here, no matter their identity. We want to ensure that they feel welcome and that they feel that they will be heard and represented on campus.  Every time one of my flyers or posters go up in Commons or online, I think back to two of my past selves – the self that was scared to come here and the self that was unhappy with the initial state of the LGBTQ+ community here – and, while I wish the community that we have developed now could have been available for both of them, I am so pleased with and proud of where we are now and the trajectory we have set for years to come.

Do you know an exceptional student? Someone passionate?
Someone involved? Do you want to see their face on a My W&L profile? Why not nominate them?

Science, Society and the Arts Presents: Batsheva Honig ‘17 A passion for asking questions has led Batsheva Honig ‘17 from America to Argentina to study women’s health in both countries.

— by on March 17th, 2017

“SSA fabulously blends the liberal arts tradition by allowing students to attend a talk in biology, then history, then arts and back again.”

Meet Batsheva Honig ‘17, whose passion for asking questions has led her from America to Argentina to study women’s health in both countries

Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, or various other methods.

Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances being presented by the students.

Motivations to Use Psychological Therapies: A Cross Cultural Comparison

Q. Can you describe your project?

For this study, I looked at the motivations for young women to use psychological therapies in both the U.S. and in Argentina. I am interested in analyzing the personal and norm-based motivations to use therapy. I am proposing a model wherein stigma acts as a moderator between the relationship of motivation and openness to psychological therapies as seen cross-culturally.

Q. What about the topic made you explore it?

During Winter Term of 2016, I studied abroad in Argentina. While there, I was given the incredible opportunity to conduct my own research on a topic of my choice. After living in Buenos Aires for three months, I became fascinated with the common use and language surrounding psychological therapies there. Interestingly enough, Argentina is the world leader in the number of psychologists per habitants. This number is heavily concentrated in the city of Buenos Aires, where there are 83 people per one psychologist. The study I conducted in Argentina was an exploratory study that was qualitative in nature. When I returned to the U.S., I wanted to continue my work to better understand the role of culture in the acceptance of mental health services such as 
psychological therapy.

Q. What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?

It is very interesting how culture colors our understanding of the world. Even in creating the survey for this project, I had to be mindful of the wording I chose because some words take on very different significance in different cultures.

For example, in Argentina, the language of mental health and illness is very different as compared to the U.S. Even in legal government documents, the word “mental disorder” is not used, but rather “mental illness.” This language signifies that a person is more than their pathology and that mental health is in a constant state of change and we should not define people with labels that can be limiting and stigmatizing. This is done to place emphasis on providing people with the help they need while also respecting their rights as individuals.

I also was fascinated by the notion that therapy, in Argentina, is not seen as a service exclusively for individuals with a diagnosed mental illness. Rather, therapy is seen as tool of reflection and introspection to enhance one’s quality of life.

Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Surprisingly, getting participants from Argentina. In the previous study I conducted there, I was able to get 70 participants in two weeks. It has been a much slower process this time around.

Q. What insight – or insights – did you gain during the research period?

It was incredibly rewarding to take ownership of an idea that was my own, develop a research question, execute a plan and carry out the assignment objectives. I am thankful for the help and support of W&L, my professors and my contacts here and in Argentina.

Q. What is your favorite part of creating, researching, or developing this project?
The research possibilities are truly endless. There is so much yet to be explored and so much research to be expounded upon. My favorite part is understanding what research is currently being conducted and where the field could benefit from more work.

Q. What does SSA mean to you?
To me, SAA is a forum where my peers and I have the opportunity to present our work and engage with one another. Ultimately, this is a time to be proud of the fruits of our hard work, take pride in our accomplishments and be enriched by sharing our knowledge with one another.

Q. Why is SSA – considering science, society, and arts together – important to this campus?
SSA embodies the value of a liberal arts education. It is a forum that fabulously blends the liberal arts tradition by allowing students to attend a talk in biology, then history, then arts and back again. My experience at W&L has definitely been enhanced by the presence of SSA. It is uplifting to attend a conference with so much diversity of topics and student engagement.

Do you know an exceptional student? Someone passionate?
Someone involved? Do you want to see their face on a My W&L profile? Why not nominate them?

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Hannah Falchuk and ‘the Power of Conversation’ Hannah Falchuk’s passion for journalism has her reporting both in New York City and local Rockbridge.

— by on March 17th, 2017

“SSA gives students a chance to become the professors. It gives us the opportunity to choose our favorite projects or endeavors and share them with the campus in a very public, professional way.”

Meet Hannah Falchuk ‘18, whose passion for journalism has her reporting both in New York City and local Rockbridge

Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, or various other methods.

Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances being presented by the students.

 

Dignity in Housing: Lessons from NYC to Natural Bridge

Q. Can you describe your project?

My presentation will blend two of my biggest experiences in college so far: working as a Shepherd intern in homeless outreach in New York City and volunteering at the Manor at Natural Bridge through Campus Kitchen. I have learned in both places that figuring out the best way to address homelessness sometimes begins with addressing poverty and mental illness.

I use some of the writers I’ve studied in my Poverty, Dignity, and Human Rights class with Professor Pickett to help explain some of my biggest points. In talking about human rights, our class has realized that one of the only ways to appropriately or effectively be helpful is to first have conversations with those affected by a situation. While talking about a problem doesn’t give you its solution, it’s the best way we can start to find one.

Q. What about the topic made you explore it?

My Shepherd internship in New York threw me into an environment that was so obviously different from what I had known before, but I could say the same thing about Natural Bridge, where the poverty rate is significantly higher than that of Lexington.

Q. What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?

When we are pressed in certain ways, we will all respond similarly. I had the rare opportunity in New York to hear people talk about how tired they were of being homeless or of living someplace where they didn’t want to be. In Natural Bridge, the voices of some residents sometimes sound like echoes from the summer.

Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Conveying the conditions of the assisted living center is tough. First-time volunteers are usually surprised by the conditions of the facility, and it’s something that I’m not able to share through photographs.

Q. What insight – or insights – did you gain during the research period?

The internship in homeless outreach during the summer of 2016 was bookended by my volunteering during the school years before and after. That gave me the opportunity to have some “ah-ha” moments both then and now. One of those was recognizing the power of conversation, whether it comes through a motivational interviewing formula that encourages a person to quickly feel comfortable or through casual conversations that stretch across a year.

Both here and in New York, I continually remind myself that the purpose of engaging in conversation should not be to expand my repertoire of stories. Even after I have heard the story, it’s still not about me. I have learned to be more aware of how I am listening and why a person is sharing with me.

Q. What is your favorite part of creating, researching, or developing this project?

I’m not living in Natural Bridge in the same way that I was in New York, but I have become a regular volunteer at the assisted living center to the degree that both the residents and the staff members know I will return. Establishing that level of credibility takes time, but it has made me realize some of my bigger commitments in college.

Q. What does SSA mean to you?

SSA gives students a chance to become the professors. We don’t send our research papers to our friends after we’ve handed them in to professors, but SSA gives us the opportunity to choose our favorite projects or endeavors and share them with the campus in a very public, professional way.

Q. Why is SSA – considering science, society, and arts together – important to this campus?

Even at a liberal arts school, we sometimes get bogged down in what subjects or clubs are “ours.” I found that the farther I’ve gone into studying society, the more I understand the necessity of arts and the insight of science.

Do you know an exceptional student? Someone passionate?
Someone involved? Do you want to see their face on a My W&L profile? Why not nominate them?

Science, Society and the Arts Presents: Matthew Rickert ‘18 Matthew Rickert ‘18: avid outdoorsman by day, corporate fraud analyst by night

— by on March 17th, 2017

“W&L is a campus with a plethora of interests and ideas. We have students interested in everything, and not just their major. This means that people want to share what they know and others want to learn something that they wouldn’t be able to take a class on.”

Meet Matthew Rickert ‘18, an avid outdoorsman by day, corporate fraud analyst by night

Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, or various other methods.

Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances being presented by the students.

Norfolk Southern: Behaviors and Events Related to Fraud Risks

Q. Can you describe your project?

This project came out of “The Anatomy of Fraud” class that I took during Spring Term 2017. The overall goal of the project was to produce a memo in the style of an auditor. One of the first items that auditors look at is the qualitative factors that might lead to fraud; they assess the risks so that they may understand where misstatements are likely to occur. This project does exactly that for Norfolk Southern, a long-term rail company that I worked for during the summer of 2017.

Q. What about the topic made you explore it?

I was interested in learning more about the company that I would be working for. Additionally, I was interested in furthering my understanding of the career that I wish to pursue, as an auditor.

Q. What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?

The Code of Ethics for Norfolk Southern (NS) is rather lengthy. Coming in at 64 pages, this code provides the ethics backbone for NS. That being said, 64 pages was almost too much material. The time and energy it takes to read through the entire code was larger than what a reasonable employee would want or have time to do. A long code seems like a great idea, covering all the bases, but longer codes will not be read as intensely.

Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Understanding the train industry was one of my bigger challenges. Whenever an auditor is looking at a company it is important that they understand how the corporation functions and operates. As a person who had never spent time looking at trains, taking the time to understand the varying expenses as well as taking a more in-depth look at where there sources of revenue came from created challenges.

Q. What insight – or insights – did you gain during the research period?

Anyone can commit fraud. Companies that have been around for over 100 are still at risk. The reality of the world is that pressure and motivation to commit fraud will always exist. It is society’s expectations and the innate goodwill of people that prevents the collapse of the market, and when that fails we developed a profession to catch rule breakers.

Q. What is your favorite part of creating, researching, or developing this project?

Creating the Fraud Heat Map. This three-colored square shows likelihood of fraud on the y-axis and significance of fraud on the x-axis. Creating this added a lot to the paper, giving it a greater degree of readability and bringing the entire paper together.

Q. What does SSA mean to you?

SSA is a look into what it means to be human. Science is how we have built civilization, it is what drives us forward and provides us with the necessary motivations to be more. Society is what makes civilization function, it is the law and order that keeps humanity functioning. Art is what makes civilization unique, it is the beauty and culture present in all cultures.

Q. Why is SSA – considering science, society, and arts together – important to this campus?

W&L is a campus with a plethora of interests and ideas. We have students interested in everything, and not just their major. This means that people want to share what they know and others want to learn something that they wouldn’t be able to take a class on. SSA provides W&L students with an outlet for all of the ideas bouncing around in our heads.

Do you know an exceptional student? Someone passionate?
Someone involved? Do you want to see their face on a My W&L profile? Why not nominate them?

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Science, Society and the Arts Presents: Andrew Mah ‘18 Meet Andrew Mah ‘18, an accomplished mathematician who found an unlikely passion – spiders!

— by on March 17th, 2017

“SSA is important because it brings together everyone from every major and field. This is an amazing opportunity to experience other majors.”

Meet Andrew Mah ‘18, an accomplished mathematician who found an unlikely passion – spiders!

Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, or various other methods.

Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances being presented by the students.

Do RTA-clade spiders possess the same suite of silk genes as orb-web weaving spiders?


Q. Can you describe your project?

We are working to investigate the evolution of web design in spiders. The orb web, the archetypal wagon-wheel web design, was thought to be the pinnacle of web design. However, recent evidence suggests that some spiders are moving away from the orb web, or abandoning web construction altogether. These analyses, though, were based on research that heavily sampled one spider group specifically. We are working to sample more underrepresented groups so that we can add to our knowledge of the silk systems of more understudied spider groups. We hope that this should further our understanding of spider silk systems and how they have evolved over time.

Q. What about the topic made you explore it?

The idea that we can look at gene sequences now to understand events that happened millions of years ago is amazing! And spider silk is so interesting, as well. It has a tensile strength stronger than Kevlar and steel.

Q. What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?

Spiders can produce up to seven functionally distinct types of silk, each of which has unique biochemical and physical properties.

Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Understanding the nuances of this project requires a pretty solid understanding of genetics and evolution. However, I started this project as a First-Year having never taken genetics. So the scramble to learn enough to actually understand the project was a huge struggle.

Q. What insight – or insights – did you gain during the research period?

I’ve learned how to think more scientifically and how to handle setbacks.

Q. What is your favorite part of creating, researching, or developing this project?

This project topic was something I got to choose myself, so I’m really in love with that. Research-wise, I’m so excited to finally have some results to share!

Q. What does SSA mean to you?

It means coming together to share all of our accomplishments, whether in the sciences or humanities. It’s about sharing and even more, celebrating the work that’s been done on campus.

Q. Why is SSA – considering science, society, and arts together – important to this campus?

It’s important because it brings together everyone from every major and field. So often, we get sucked into just our majors and people in similar majors. This is an amazing opportunity to break out of this and experience other majors.

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Science, Society and the Arts Presents: Yolanda Yang ‘18 Meet Yolanda Yang ‘18, who has traveled to China and back to discover the true purpose of cinematic censorship. Yang and study partner Savannah Kimble ’18 conducted research on this project in 2017 under the auspices of a grant from the Endeavor Foundation.

— by on March 16th, 2017

“SSA is a unique class for all of us to learn some interesting knowledge that we haven’t had a chance to learn before.”

Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, or various other methods.

Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances being presented by the students.

Cultures in Transition: Chinese Cinematic Experience

Q: Can you describe your project?

By comparing movies shown in Chinese cinemas and their original versions shown in the U.S., we have proven that several films are censored by the Chinese authorized institution, SARFT. We summarized main types of censorship and tried to discover the possible reasons behind them. Besides, we also interviewed local Chinese people and professors in Beijing, collecting their views of the movie censorship policies; thus, by observing how the policies have influenced people’s lives currently we could possibly predict the changes of the policies in the future.

Q: What about the topic made you explore it?

During our freshman year, Savannah Kimble ’18 and I went to see “Kingsman: The Secret Service” at the Lexington theater. Some time later, I chatted with one of my friends back in China, and he told me that he watched the Kingsman movie in a Chinese theater, but the famous “church massacre” scene was cut (almost four minutes long). I brought it up to Savannah, and both of us thought that this was an interesting point of cultural difference, and months later that conversation inspired us to a good project that combines many of our interests (politics, literature, psychology, culture and film).

Q: What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?

I found it was very interesting that so many Chinese elements were thrown in Hollywood movies. It’s fascinating to think about Chinese economic development leading Hollywood to cater to Chinese audiences. It’s also interesting for me to see how foreign film directors choose to depict Chinese culture in their works

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced?

We planned to study the political reason behind the censorship, but in reality, we found that the movies we chose and had access to limited our ability to look closely at political aspects. What’s more, some Chinese versions of some movies we initially expected to be censored — such as “Titanic” and “Transformers” — were not censored at all. As a result, our findings were less centered around censorship than we expected. However, even the fact that the government does not censor as much as was expected provides interesting insight into political and cultural changes due to globalization.

Q. What insight — or insights — did you gain during the research period?

We proved that film clipping is common; we learned about the shift in Chinese cultural values over the years and censors becoming more lenient; we found the growth of Chinese economy reflected on global film industry; and we realized that film industry has grown into an important business in China by a fast speed.

More details will be provided at my presentation!

Q: What is your favorite part of creating, researching, or developing this project?

Personally, it was very exciting to introduce Savannah to my home and my homeland. It was the first time I brought my American friend back home, and it gave me a chance to consider my cultural identity again with a more comprehensive and mature view. I am so glad that I could have this special experience with my very best friend.

Q: What does SSA mean to you?

It provides me a broad platform to present my project and findings to a larger audience, and it gives me the chance to encounter and communicate with people who share similar interests and ideas with me. I am looking forward to showing my project and sharing my culture with W&L community.

Q. Why is SSA — considering science, society, and arts together — important to this campus?

SSA is a precious opportunity for the W&L community members to interact and share with one another. I think it’s especially eye-opening and inspiring to see our peers’ work. In some respects, SSA is a unique class for all of us to learn some interesting knowledge that we haven’t had a chance to learn before.

Do you know an exceptional student? Someone passionate?
Someone involved? Do you want to see their face on a My W&L profile? Why not nominate them?

Related to:,
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Science, Society and the Arts Presents: Dana Gary ‘18

— by on March 15th, 2017

Scholasticism’s theme of personal growth through a combination of artistic, spiritual, and intellectual discoveries is particularly relevant to the mission of SSA.”

Dana Gary, whose first EP is recorded, produced and publicized by a student-run record label, will present songs at SSA.

Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, or various other methods.

Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances being presented by the students.

FUDG Records Presents: Dana Gary 

Q: Can you describe your project?

With the birth of Friday Underground last year came the birth of Friday Underground Records, an entirely student-run independent record label dedicated to promoting other student artists on campus. I was lucky enough to be chosen by the other members of the FUDG records team to produce our next EP of original songs. Austin Frank and I have produced, recorded, and promoted this album together over the past two months, and we will be presenting songs at Science, Society and the Arts from the EP entitled “Scholasticism.” I can’t wait. 

Q: What about the topic made you explore it?

The subject of the EP is the college experience in all its strangeness, especially here in Lexington. I felt I owed it to this place – and to myself – to remember all that it did both for and against me. In the music, I allude to the incredible intellectual and emotional overhaul I have experienced at the loving hand of all the course texts, mentors, friends and physical spaces. It was important to me to document how this specific place affected my art and my thought processes, and I believe the EP’s theme of personal growth through a combination of artistic, spiritual, and intellectual discoveries is particularly relevant to the mission of SSA.

Q: What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?

I learned how fortunate I am to be a musician in the 21st century where music technology is just mindbogglingly helpful. During our sessions, I’ll sit next to the computer spouting ridiculously vague commentary at Austin, and within 5 to 10 minutes he’s extracted the sound directly from the conceptual music in my head. Watching him work his tech magic amazes me every time.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Recording is a loooong and tedious process, and it doesn’t get any easier when you’re setting up and tearing down equipment for every session as you hop around various practice rooms throughout Wilson Hall. Occasionally we’d get what we thought was a perfect take, only to listen back to it and realize we could faintly hear a pianist practicing down the hall or the soft whirring of Austin’s computer fan. But that’s just part of the fun of learning as you go along.

Q: What insight – or insights – did you gain during the research period?

I learned Lexington is hard to define even through the medium of music, which has limitless potential for ambiguity and mood. It is a slippery place, and it doesn’t like you thinking that you might know something it doesn’t.

Q: What is your favorite part of creating, researching or developing this project?

I cherish the DIY-ness of this project. Austin and I play almost every instrument on every track. We set up makeshift studios in reserved rooms and recorded all of this in our free time. We met up during the day between classes to mix songs. We stayed up until 2 a.m. talking about plans and tiny adjustments to the sound. With Caleigh Well’s help, we produced a Kickstarter page, raising over $3,000 in under a month, $1,000 more than our original goal. We receive the full blow of every frustration, every triumph, every compliment, every criticism. W&L students have complete ownership over FUDG Records’ projects, and I’m beginning to understand just how lucky I am to have so much at stake in something as important as student art.

Q: What does SSA mean to you?

SSA is a celebration of the substantial accomplishments of my peers. This is when we officially applaud the people who unconsciously inspire me every day.

Q: Why is SSA – considering science, society, and arts together – important to this campus?

As a campus that thrives off making connections that illuminate the way the world works, members of our community have the capability and the responsibility to familiarize themselves with everything. In connecting even the most seemingly disparate things, we also connect the most seemingly disparate people. An appreciation for all fields of study leads to an appreciation for all people in all fields of study. Receiving a liberal arts education means developing an empathetic intellect, and compassion-driven academia not only benefits our campus but our global society as well.

Do you know an exceptional student? Someone passionate?
Someone involved? Do you want to see their face on a My W&L profile? Why not nominate them?