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Science, Society, and the Arts Conference Returns to W&L March 17-18 Irish Musician and Activist Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich to give keynote speech at conference showcasing original student research.

SSA23_banner_2 Science, Society, and the Arts Conference Returns to W&L March 17-18

Washington and Lee University’s Science, Society, and the Arts (SSA) Conference will take place Friday, March 17, and Saturday, March 18. The two-day event will showcase original research from undergraduate and law students and feature a keynote address from Irish musician and activist Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich.

The SSA conference provides W&L students with a unique opportunity to present their academic work to the broader campus community through research posters, presentations, performance and visual arts showcases, and small-group discussions of books, music and film. Back fully in-person this year for the first time since 2019, SSA is a hallmark of the rigorous, creative and interdisciplinary work that is essential to a W&L education.

“Any program that allows for interdisciplinary engagement through high-impact practices is vital to a liberal arts education,” said Chris Dobbins, conference chair and associate professor of music. “With SSA, students are driving the research, creating their presentations, presenting, and then answering questions about their work that they might not have anticipated. All these attributes help students create connections, both personal and academic, that they might not have been able to make otherwise.”

The conference opens March 17 with a law symposium and music department convocation. Programming continues on March 18 with a robust lineup of student presentations, panel discussions, colloquium sessions and the keynote address. The conference’s panel discussions will focus on community-based learning, community engagement and service learning. Presentations will cover a variety of topics, including literature, history, poverty studies, and the history and culture of W&L. The colloquium portion of the conference is a series of small group discussions focusing on films, books and music. Colloquium topics range from Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower,” to Led Zeppelin’s debut album “Led Zeppelin,” to the Chanoyu Tea Society at W&L. A full schedule of events is available here.

“I’m excited to get to see all of the excellent work our students engage in showcased for the entire campus community,” Dobbins said. “SSA gives our students valuable experience in presenting at conferences, plus it gives them the opportunity to talk about their work with members of the W&L community that they might not interact with very much.”

The 2023 SSA Conference will close with the keynote address, delivered by Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich on March 18 at 3:30 p.m. in Wilson Hall. Ó Beaglaoich is a traditional Irish musician, writer, and activist from Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland. An accomplished accordion player, he has produced four successful solo albums, as well as several recordings with Boys of the Lough and Beginish.

Ó Beaglaoich recently pursued a campaign to protest the planning laws that he blames for the depopulation of rural and Gaeltacht (Gaelic-speaking) areas in Ireland. Through art installations accompanied by his own musical performances, he hoped to draw attention to how the planning laws are threatening the sustainability of Gaelic language and culture by making it nearly impossible for young Irish people to build on local Gaeltacht land where their families have lived for generations. In his keynote remarks, Ó Beaglaoich will share his love for traditional Irish music, as well as talk about his grassroots activism in Gaeltacht Ireland and the importance of using art to communicate.

Learn more about SSA 2023 and find a full schedule and description of events here.