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Student Research & Creativity Enjoy End-of-Term Spotlight

Scores of John Jay freshmen stood proudly alongside poster presentations in the Haaren Hall Auxiliary Gymnasium on December 6, showing off their research projects as part of the fifth annual FYE (First Year Experience) Student Showcase.

“It really is amazing that first-year students are doing such original research,” said Kate Szur, Senior Director of Student Academic Success Programs. Entering freshmen at John Jay can choose from 18 Learning Communities or 26 First-Year Seminars, presented their research at the showcase.

Beginning with the fall 2013 semester, Szur noted, the First-Year Seminar will be part of John Jay’s new General Education curriculum.

Provost Jane Bowers proclaimed the showcase “absolutely amazing,” and said the student research demonstrates that “problems can’t be solved by individuals alone – it takes groups and collaboration.”

The students in each Learning Community are taught by two professors from different disciplines. In many cases, students work together on research and presentations in teams of two, three or more, either by design or at the suggestion of their professors.

Devon Dawkins, a Law and Society major from Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School in Brooklyn, worked with Giselle Sagastume, a Forensic Psychology major from Brandeis High School, on the project “President of the People: Art in Politics.” They began their work independently, with Dawkins examining George Washington and the nation’s first presidential campaign, and Sagastume looking at the 2008 Obama campaign, but came together under the guidance of Professors Frank Gimpaya and Pat Licklider.

Their research, Dawkins said, “allowed me to look at political campaigns and posters in a whole different way.” The classic image of Washington “makes him look almost holy,” he observed. Sagastume said that in both the Washington and Obama images, they seen looking into the distance, “as if they’re looking to the future, or in Obama’s case, looking for hope.”

Josh Meltzer, a freshman from Florida who has yet to declare a major, took a poignant look at “What Is It Like to Be a Republican on a Campus Full of Democrats?” In a Learning Community led by Professors Maria Grewe and Anthony Marcus, he sampled 500 students at both John Jay and Columbia University and found that just 10 percent on each campus identified themselves as Republicans. He then conducted follow-up interviews to amplify the survey findings.

The presentations ran a gamut from self-defense to serial killers, from politics to police practices. One wall of the auxiliary gym was festooned with art works, while in the opposite corner, a group of freshmen displayed an interactive video journalism project that they have posted on the Wordpress website.

Among the attendees at the showcase were 21 CUNY Justice Academy students, many of whom had participated in an FYE essay contest centered on the theme of “Justice and the Individual.” First prize was awarded to Arturo Urena, a student at Bronx Community College.