Maxwell Mensinger ’13 wants more people to start talking about the ethical implications of drone warfare — and at Willamette University’s Student Scholarship Recognition Day his wish came true.
“The notion of open and honest speech is pivotal to my project’s message,” he says. “Presenting at SSRD allowed me to bring my research full circle; it allowed me to start a conversation."
Mensinger was one of more than 200 students who shared their research findings at the 13th annual SSRD on April 17.
Throughout the day students presented their senior capstone research projects or independent research, while others displayed original works in fine and performing arts.
Regular classes were canceled — allowing students to explore the wide variety of talks, performances and posters.
“For more than a decade, SSRD has allowed the campus to join together in a diverse ritual of sharing our research and creative work with each other and increasingly with our Salem community,” says David Craig, who serves on the SSRD faculty committee.
“We don’t really ‘cancel’ classes so much as we liberally and artfully abandon our regular schedule to let curiosity, friendship and commitment determine where we spend our time.”
With so many fascinating options — including, “The Criminalization of Latinos Under the ‘War on Terrorism,’” “Bicycle Physics: Dynamic Lateral Displacement and Analysis of Bicycle Wheels,” and “Tweens, Teenagers and Songs of a Generation: Music as an Alternative Religion for Modern Youth” — choosing which talks to attend wasn’t easy.
In one presentation, Meagan Hash ’13 — an environmental science major — discussed her thesis research on improving the tracking efficiency of wolves. Most of the audience probably didn’t know that when wolf researchers howl, wolf pups will howl back. Hash says the howling pups helped her research team locate wolf pack homesites, allowing them to collect data.
Mensinger — the 2013 Presidential Scholar— also captivated his audience with surprising facts and figures. Despite controversies surrounding targeted strikes, a recent poll found that 83% of Americans approve the use of drones. With drone warfare on the rise, he asked the audience to consider the moral issues surrounding the ability to kill from halfway around the globe.
By allowing students to pose challenging questions and share original research with the campus community, Hash says both the presenters and the audience benefit from SSRD.
“Having a program like SSRD at Willamette allows students to be exposed to various student research and thesis projects that otherwise go unrecognized,” she says. “It gave me a chance to share my research with a wider audience than just the environmental science department and inspire underclassmen for their future research.”
This year, SSRD also attracted high school students to campus as part of the Salem-Keizer School District’s Science Expo Darwin Discovery Days Program.
At the TOPX session, four outstanding scholars presented their diverse works and discoveries to an audience that included 400 high school students from the Salem area.
Students also organized a “Breaking the Bubble” event, which promoted conversations between Willamette students and Salem professionals who work to serve the broader community.
“SSRD is a day in which we manifest our motto, 'Not unto ourselves alone are we born,'" Craig says.
“We pause in our personal and sometimes isolating aspect of scholarship to explicitly engage an audience greater than ourselves.”