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Trinity Students Showcase Talents During Spring Family Weekend
By Susie P. Gonzalez

Trinity University students do not shy away from studying controversial and complex topics. That was apparent at the Showcase of Student Academic Talent held in late March during Spring Family Weekend, when dozens of students shared details of their research projects, case studies, papers, and artwork assembled on two floors of Northrup Hall.

Among the subjects that were analyzed were sexual content in film, euthanasia, and acceptance of Middle Eastern music by elementary school students. In addition, art and art history scholars displayed their works and students from the International Programs Office offered prints taken during Study Abroad trips in the 2006-2007 academic year. Business administration majors dazzled all with the results of the million-dollar portfolio they control as part of the Student Managed Fund.

Trinity student Jessica Koppe discusses her project, “An Introduction to Middle Eastern Music and Culture: Connecting Cultures through Song and Dance.

Two computer science students have spent the last two years involved with an interdisciplinary project focusing on artificial intelligence as it relates to the fields of intelligent agent design, distributed multi-agent systems, uncertainty in artificial intelligence, and decision theory. Working with Yu Zhang, assistant professor of computer science, the students – Michael Pellon of Kingwood, Texas, and Phillip Coleman of Albuquerque, N.M. – have presented five papers in professional conferences around the world. Their most recent work, titled “Toward Human Decision-Making in Multi-Agent Systems,” seeks to understand and attempt to model complex human behavior and social phenomena through large computational models and computer simulations. This work was conducted through the computer science department with Zhang and Mark Lewis, also an assistant professor of computer science. They have collaborated with Dante Suarez, assistant professor of  business administration; Christine Drennon and Claudia Scholz, assistant professors of sociology and anthropology; Aaron Delwiche, assistant professor of communication; and Luis Schettino, assistant professor of psychology. Grant funding was provided by the American Colleges of the South.

Among the other showcase presenters were:

  • Lauren Akers of Metairie, La., whose faculty sponsor was Harry Haines, associate professor of communication, and whose project was titled, “Audience Attitudes toward Sexual versus Violent Content in Film: A Reception Analysis.” For her senior seminar capstone project, Akers surveyed Trinity students to determine their comfort level in watching movies with sexual or violent content. She also asked which type of film content they would rather watch with their parents, as well as which they would prefer their children to see and why. Her overwhelming conclusion is that students were more uncomfortable watching sexual content than violent content. She also learned that most students would rather watch violent content than sexual content with their parents.

  • Working with music professor Diane Persellin, student Jessica Koppe of San Antonio researched “An Introduction to Middle Eastern Music and Culture: Connecting Cultures through Song and Dance.” Koppe said the interdisciplinary unit involving singing, dancing, playing instruments, and listening skills was developed and presented to fifth grade students at a suburban elementary school in San Antonio.  She wanted to introduce children to something they had never heard, although the idea was for the students to experience something familiar (music) from a new perspective.  By sending a message of peace and unity through music, Koppe said her project strengthened the understanding by students of multiculturalism and creative possibilities provided by different musical cultures.

  • Rebecca Orsini of Sachse, Texas, worked with Amy Stone, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, to examine “Euthanasia: Individual Attitudes and the Politically Biased Media.” Using two previous research papers as springboards for a more general discussion, this project illustrated ways that euthanasia is connected to political ideology in America.  Both qualitative and quantitative data, which was gleaned from multiple sources including the General Social Survey, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, was used to display the different political leanings surrounding the idea of euthanasia.  In sum, the project discussed which variables most greatly influence individual beliefs and how the media reflects politically biased attitudes concerning euthanasia.



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