Andrews University Hosts Statewide Research Event

   Campus News | Posted on April 7, 2023

On March 13, 2023, Andrews University hosted the annual conference of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters (MASAL). Approximately 400 participants across 32 disciplines attended the first-ever hybrid on-site and Zoom meeting in the Academy’s history. The conference was held on the first Friday of spring break and utilized classrooms across campus for the oral breakout sessions, with the keynote address held in the Howard Performing Arts Center, followed by a poster session and reception in the Howard Center lobby.

MASAL was founded in 1984 by a small group of scientists with the mission to “disseminate research and diffuse knowledge.” Today, the Academy is headquartered at Alma College, and its annual call for papers and presentations continues with an expanded range of disciplines. The conference, held in March each year, rotates in location between different institutional members. Andrews University hosted the conference for the first time in March 2016 and co-hosted the virtual conference in 2021. This year marks the second time Andrews University has had the privilege of hosting the meeting on-site.

Irina Gagiu, a senior psychology major, relates, “Last year the conference had more restrictions due to COVID-19, so it was great to be able to attend various presentations and the poster session in person. I think the conference is a great opportunity for students to get first-hand presentation experience in a welcoming environment. The majority of attendees in the psychology section were Andrews faculty or students, but it was great to be able to meet and hear from individuals from other institutions as well.”

This year, Andrews University faculty and students gave a total of 71 presentations, with Andrews faculty members chairing or co-chairing four of the conference sections. Gary Burdick, dean of Research, notes, “The Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters includes several higher-education institutions across the state of Michigan. Andrews University always sends a significant number of faculty and students to the annual conference.” When the event is held at other schools across the state, the Office of Research & Creative Scholarship provides transportation, typically for 50–100 Andrews students and faculty. “This is a great opportunity for our students to participate in an interdisciplinary conference with students from other Michigan institutions,” says Burdick. 

Alexander Hess, a senior English major, affirms, “I found my experience at MASAL particularly enriching within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of my fellow scholars who are graduating this May, we have had few, if any, opportunities to travel to conferences and share our research. MASAL provided us with an ideal space to not only celebrate and discuss our research with like-minded individuals, but to form connections with other students our age from institutions throughout the state of Michigan.” 

Lily Burke, a senior studying anthropology, English and Spanish, enjoyed multiple opportunities to exhibit her work at MASAL. She shares, “It was such a pleasure to present my work at MASAL this year. This was my third time being accepted into the conference, my second time presenting, but my first time presenting in person. My presentation was in the anthropology section, and I got to share my progress and future plans for our work in site custody activism at Tall Hisban, Jordan. I really enjoyed the question and answer section and was so excited to experience the community aspect of the conference.”

In addition to the individual research sessions, the conference included a keynote presentation by Daniel Gonzalez-Socoloske, professor of biology. His presentation was titled “Ghosts in the Darkness: A National Geographic Explorer’s Quest to Study the Elusive Amazonian Manatee.” Gonzalez-Socoloske spoke about his recent eight-month research experience in the Amazon basin, where he was supported by a Fulbright Fellowship and National Geographic Explorer grant. 

Burke affirms the value of participating in MASAL, “Understanding the larger context of the academic work we do is integral for students and researchers. Often, research work can be an isolating experience, and can feel pointless. To experience a conference, meet other academics in my area, and see other people get excited about my project was so gratifying and motivating for me. I hope all young researchers at Andrews, like myself, are able to experience this community and synergy that research conferences provide.”

   Jeff Boyd