APRIL 2002

Fifth-year scholar redefines Meeting of the Minds
By Jeannie Choi, The Tartan, April 2002

"I thought it was a cool way for me to be able to help him and also be able to use my own creativity. I then realized that this was a huge vision. At that point, I signed my life away," said Khozeema Hussain, a fifth-year student and head architect of "Speak out Loud."

Two years ago, Jeff Walch, a fifth- year scholar majoring in biology and architecture, had a vision. This year Walch made his vision reality by opening May's Meeting of the Minds to any students wishing to showcase their work instead of only those with undergraduate research grants.

"I decided to propose a kind of symposium in which all students' work could be showcased. I wanted this event to bring together all of the colleges so that you could see what each student is producing from each field," said Walch.

Jeff began to notice some problems while participating in his inter-disciplinary program in biology and architecture.

"I realized that neither of the schools understood or knew of what the other school was doing. I think it is even bordering on a lack of respect for one another's fields," said Walch.

He began to consider ways in which he could create an event for a multi-disciplinary celebration of the colleges. This idea served as the inspiration that would ignite his entire Fifth Year Scholars proposal.

After gaining approval and support from Dean of Student Affairs Michael Murphy and other faculty, Walch was directed to Janet Stocks, the coordinator of Meeting of the Minds.

As the project grew, Walch turned to his friends and contacts to form a Meeting of the Minds team. "It was in line with what I was doing in my studies, so I decided to get involved," said Brandon Weber, a junior information systems and human-computer interaction double major who heard that that they needed someone to start a website for Walch's project. Others, however, felt a more personal need to get involved.

"I was thinking about the culture of our campus and how students do not know about others. There are so many fascinating people that go to school here and it is important to try and understand what others are doing," said Mary Ann Feusner, a senior communication arts and anthropology double major. She holds the position as the project's internal coordinator.

"As a BHA student, I have realized that students sometimes shun what the other schools are doing. They do this because they don't realize what others do," said Joanna Lovering, a sophomore drama and psychology major and project participant.

Thirty-six students in all devoted their time and energy to changing the face of Meeting of the Minds. By taking a diverse cross-section of the various departments at the University, the team created liaisons within each of the schools. The liaisons were given the mission of finding one commonality that ran through each of the schools despite the apparent differences.

"We had to interview people about this topic, ask them what they did, and how they did it. After a lot of discussion, we found out that the universal thread was creative process," said Lovering.

The concept of "creative process" is the idea that no matter what department or field one is working in, every student must undergo a process to develop a finished product. By perfecting this process, one can be assured a good product.

The "creative process" became the central focus of this year's Meeting of the Minds. Instead of only displaying the end results that students produce, the symposium will seek to show the processes involved in each project.

One of the ways to physically reveal the idea of creative process will be through constructing large towers to represent each school. These towers will be placed around the University Center and Wiegand gymnasium during the two days of the Meeting of the Minds.

The team has also decided to have televisions strategically placed around the meeting venue, which will show a video of students talking about their work. These videos will be playing constantly throughout the fair. As the Meeting of the Minds dates of May 7-8 rapidly approach, the team is talking of what they hope to see come from this event.

"I want to increase the awareness of the research and extracurricular activities going on throughout our campus. I want this opportunity to turn Meeting of the Minds into a 365-day-long understanding of the other disciplines," said Weber.

"Understanding other people's work opens up doors to being able to work with them," said Feusner.