Final Academic Presentations Demonstrate Student and Faculty 'Resilience and Resourcefulness'

Students recently presented their final academic projects as the 2019-20 school year reaches completion. This sampling of academic achievements from across RWU schools and departments represents the hard work and accomplishments of every RWU student

By Anna Cohen
​Marine and Natural Sciences students gather over Bridges to present their senior theses. 

Students from across the schools and departments of the University recently presented final projects as the semester came to an end. These final presentations gave students the opportunity to share and reflect on what they accomplished under the unprecedented conditions of a spring semester that rapidly transitioned to remote education in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

"We all know this semester has been a lot different than any other semester," said Jacob Hallgren, a Finance major in his senior year at RWU. "While other academic institutions called it quits, we knew we weren’t like any other academic institution. When RWU opened online, we were hard at work."

Now, the results of this hard work are visible. By sharing a sampling of student final projects and presentations, we celebrate the achievements of every RWU student, whether featured here or not. 

"This was a unique challenge none of us have been through it before, and so many students stepped up and said, 'I want to do this.' I’m just really proud of them for that. They did it and they did a great job," Professor of Biology David Taylor said. 

Congratulations to all RWU students, on the end of the spring semester and the 2019-20 academic year, and for high quality academic work under challenging conditions: You did it, and you did a great job! 


Courses: VARTS 363 - 3D Digital Media & VARTS 491 - Senior Seminar
Professor: Associate Professor of Art Murray McMillan

With customary gallery exhibitions canceled, Visual Arts and Graphic Design students turned to the digital world to share their work. Several RWU Visual Arts and Graphic Design courses are participating in Social Distance Gallery's upcoming multi-institution online thesis exhibition. There, they will be viewable for the public, affording RWU artists a wider audience for their work. 

This piece by Leia Stone, RWU junior, will be exhibited in the Social Distance Gallery. 


Course: Dance 402.01-20/SP - Advance Technique/Improvisation IV
Professor: Kathleen Smith, Adjunct Professor

"Our work during quarantine was investigating space in isolation," said Adjunct Professor Kathleen Smith. "For the final project, the students asked if I would allow them to take the work that we did, combined with the idea of freedom to do what they wanted, with no restrictions. I was somewhat reluctant, but then agreed. No restrictions on time, space, or sound. Freedom to create." 

Some dancers had to adjust their plans due to social distancing, such as shifting a piece for 14 dancers to a solo performance. Not wanting to give up on their art, they channeled their emotions surrounding the global pandemic to create powerful pieces that reflect on confinement, distance, longing, solitude, and other topical themes.

"Every camera placement was carefully planned to capture the immersive experience of dance theater in a site-specific, natural environment, as opposed to its formal setting of a stage area," said senior Dance major Brianna Antaya of her piece "To Speak of Isolation," below. "The concept of the piece grasps my personal experience in our new way of living, in quarantine and social isolation. It is a reflection of my new found peace with isolation."

"While staying sensitive to the individual needs of our students during this time, Professor Smith helped them adapt to the experience of distance learning by balancing technique with creative film projects. Professor Smith is no stranger to dance on film in her own work and saw the opportunity to introduce its effectiveness toward learning, creativity and healing in her technique class," wrote Dance Accompanist/Composer Michael DeQuattro in a blog post, which features more student performances. 

Students practice ballet over Zoom, led by Adjunct Professor Michael Bolger and accompanied by Dance Accompanist/Composer Michael DeQuattro. 


Courses: FNCE 450 - Portfolio Analysis & FNCE 430 - Advance Portfolio Analysis
 Michael Melton, Professor of Finance/Director, Center for Advanced Financial Education
Date: May 9, 2020

Students in the Center for Advanced Financial Education (CAFE) Management Program completed their final presentations after analyzing the recent bull and bear markets experienced since the beginning of the year. These students manage two real-dollar stock portfolios owned by the University (for educational purposes), researching and executing trades without having to report to a board before acting on their decisions.

The team of students, led by Finance major Jacob Hallgren, presented the performance of their funds and recommendations on market trends over Zoom to more than 100 leading professionals in the financial fields, including nearly 30 working and living in Boston and 10 in Providence, as well as New York, London, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

"Whereas many other business schools completely shut down their portfolio management programs because of the circumstances we've been working through, the Center for Advanced Financial Education adapted to keep going," School of Business Dean Susan McTiernan said.

Cafe analysis
Senior Economics major Jacob Sapia shares his team's economic analysis at the start of the semester. 

"This presentation is a clear example of the resilience and the resourcefulness that characterizes the students in the Gabelli School, and especially our student fund managers. A large number of CAFE alumni in attendance is a testament to relationships developed by the students in the program and their devotion to the CAFE Portfolio Management Program, some of them for many many years since its original inception," Gabelli School of Business Dean Susan McTiernan said. 

CAFE students
Students in the Center for Advanced Financial Education (CAFE) Management Program, in the CAFE, before this time of social distancing. 


Course: MRKT 429 - Community Partnerships Center Marketing Studies
Professor: Kathleen Micken, Professor of Marketing 
Date: April 28, 2020 

In a partnership with Community Partnerships Center and the Town of Bristol, RWU students worked on an aquatics center study. At the end of the semester, they recorded their reflections on what the project meant to them. 

“It felt amazing to be able to have the chance to give back to the town that I called home for four years," said Steven Fern, senior double major in Marketing and Web Development. 

“Finishing this project remotely, although different, was a good learning experience. I learned a lot about being adaptable in real-life situations with clients and projects," senior Public Relations major Carly Egan said.

Course: MRKT 315 - Qualitative Marketing Research
Professor: Kathleen Micken, Professor of Marketing 

Each year in the MRKT 315 class, a small group of students conducts research on behalf of a community partner. This year, the group project was designed to investigate the high school experiences of Multilingual Learners (MLL) and suggest research-based strategies that high schools might use to improve the MLL students’ experiences.

"What interested me in this project is that I grew up not as a Multilingual Leaner but surrounded by them, seeing some struggles they went through, not just as Multilingual Learners. They were my friends," said junior Marketing major Michael Aguilar. "Family members I grew up with were also Multilingual Learners. This was a way to help make it easier for people who aren't completely comfortable with the English language and are still trying to get their education."


Course: AMST 372 - Super/heroines in American Popular Culture
Professor: Laura D'Amore, Associate Professor of Cultural Studies 

Students collected 20 comics about one superheroine that spanned at least three decades and, using race, gender, sexuality, and dis/ability as lenses for interpretation, and using a feminist framework for analysis, applied and answered analytical questions to the comics. 

A slide from sophomore Cultural Studies major Noelle Craveiro's presentation, "Analyzing the Celestial Madonna through the Lenses of Race and Gender." 

"Getting to trace a character’s growth through the decades in a medium that I know very little about, while also developing myself as a critical thinker, was really rewarding. I learned about how to read texts through various critical lenses, that multiple meanings can be made of the same text, and that comic books are actually a really impressionable form of media when it comes to shaping our shared ideologies," said Noelle Craveiro, a sophomore Cultural Studies major.

Junior Cultural Studies major Emily Craig's explains the concept of FemQueer in her presentation, "The Invisible Woman, A FemQueer Reading of Sue Storm." 

"I've always loved comic books, but there was so little positive representation of women or queer folx for me to have as role models. Reading Sue as queer for me meant pushing against the heteropatriarchal norms that tell me that Sue is not mine to see as a role model," said junior Emily Craig, a Cultural Studies major.


Course: Arch 513 - Integrative Design Studio
Professor: Roberto Viola Ochoa, Assistant Professor of Architecture/Director of Advanced Studies in the Architecture Program 
Date: May 9, 2020

Global Review
RWU graduate students in Assistant Professor of Architecture Roberto Violo Ochoa's Integrative Design Studio Class present their work to 63 guest architects from around the world. 

"Roberto Viola Ochoa has a fantastic way of teaching where he brings in leading national and international consultants to his design studio each semester. This semester, given the global health situation, he is hosting a global final review, with leading architects, landscape architects and engineers from around the world participating via Zoom," said Dean of Architecture Stephen White.

Graduate Students in Viola Ochoa's Integrative Design Studio course met in Zoom conference breakout rooms with two to three of the 63 participating professional architects, who reviewed their Architectural Design projects. 

"The terrible virus has closed some doors but has also opened others that perhaps we did not notice as possible before," wrote Viola Ochoa in a blog post.

"One such door is being able to reach out to those professionals doing superlative work beyond our typical boundaries and add them to those who have been kind enough to collaborate with us over the years," Ochoa wrote. 

"I feel very proud to be representing RWU in this studio to over 50 critics from countries across the world, coming together during a time when we would otherwise be living totally different lives. These are professionals at the top of this field, which is surreal considering that they are taking the time to review the work I've had to produce in my living room," said Skyler Moncada '18, a second-year Master's of Architecture student. 

Emily Luna '19 (top,) pursuing her Master's of Architecture degree, presents her plans for review by Jerolim Mladinov,  Professor of Practice at the University of Oregon.


Course: SHS.352.91C – Social and Health Services Policy
Professor: Nancy Kubic, Adjunct Professor 

Lisa Duchesne, Mark Eyssallem, Brenda Turchetta, and Jade Conti, pursuing Bachelor’s degrees in Healthy Communities and Social Science at University College, completed a proposal for a confidential school wellness program focused specifically on the needs of adolescents.

“Our group collectively agreed that mental health care for adolescents is more important than ever in our country, yet there is a limitation to accessing services for this age group,” they wrote. “Adolescents may not feel comfortable reaching out for someone to talk to, not wanting to embarrass themselves or their families while also not knowing how to locate services, how they would pay for the treatment, and logistics for transportation to the clinician.  The policy we developed taught us not only about the history and status of mental health services today, but provided a thorough, deep-dive into the many facets that must be considered when developing policy.”

Their proposed program provides adolescents with a resource from within the comfort of their schools with established guidelines for confidentiality, contacting a clinician, payment options (at no direct cost to the student), and accessibility via telehealth. 


Course: MUSIC 311 - Music of Latin America & Caribbean
Professor: Joseph Amante y Zapata, Adjunct Professor 
Date: May 5, 2020

Students presented their research on a variety of forms of Caribbean and Latin American music, including Latin American Protest Songs, Peruvian Psychedelic Rock, Haitian Vodou Music, and more. 

"These presentations made me quite happy, which is often needed these days," said Amante y Zapata. 


Engineering and Computer Science majors worked in teams throughout the 2019-20 school year to design and, when possible, fabricate solutions to real-world problems in their Senior Design Projects. This year-long project culminated in live virtual presentations, attended by community stakeholders as well as SECCM students and faculty. 


Course: ENGR 492 - Engineering Design II
Professor: Janet Baldwin, Professor of Engineering 
Date: May 1, 2020

"We weren't required to watch everyone's presentation, but there were more than 50 people in the meeting for the entire three-hour time slot. I think all my classmates were excited to hear from each other and see how the projects finished up," said senior Olivia Ryan, an Engineering major. 

Small boat stability
Senior Engineering majors (Left to right) Andrew Metz, Christian D'Amico, Daniel Hingston, Michael Contente, and Shannon Roy present their Senior Design Project, in which they developed a Small Boat Stability System. 

"It was not the ending we all wanted, but it was awesome to see the culmination of everyone’s hard work. Having this opportunity to present was a great way to wrap up the work we have done for the project and also over these past four years," said senior Cole Foster, a double major in Engineering and Applied Mathematics. 

Computer Science

Course: COMSC 492 - Integrated Senior Design II
Professor: Anthony Ruocco, Professor of Computer Science 
Date: May 5, 2020

“We were able to create a product we were really proud of,” said senior Abigail Small, who is double majoring in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. 

Comp sci
Professor of Computer Science Anthony Ruocco observes as Computer Science majors (left to right) Connor Humason, Darrell Valenti, Dhaval Patel, and Richard Holden present their Senior Design Project on the creation of a system to track dangerous algal blooms. 

"There were a lot of obstacles along the way with the global pandemic, but we were able to work around those issues and produce something that was worth showing. It was extremely satisfying to show others what my team has been working on for months. I am so proud of the work that my teammates put together to produce a final product that has the potential to be used for future projects and users," said senior Lauren Ramirez, a Computer Science major.


Course: BIO/CHEM/MATH/NATSC 451 - Senior Thesis
Professor: David Taylor, Professor of Biology
Date: April 24 and 25, 2020 

This spring, 14 Marine and Natural Science majors submitted theses, which they presented on Bridges. Viewing invitations were sent to faculty, students, and student presenters' family and friends.

"It’s been nine years that I’ve overseen the senior thesis program and without question, this is the group I’m most proud of. Not just the quality of work, but what they did under the circumstances as well," Taylor said. "When you’re involved in research, 99 percent of the time it doesn’t work out or you're confronted with a challenge. Do you quit, or try to do something about it? This was a unique challenge, none of us have been through it before, and students stepped up and said, 'I want to do this.' I’m just really proud of them for that."

Gabbie Baillargeon's research, presented below, has already been accepted for publication in Marine Ecology Publish Series, a respected journal. 

"The journal that you're about ready to publish in is probably my favorite journal," Taylor said to Baillargeon. "Your reviews were about as kind and as gentle reviews as you could ever receive. If those are the types of reviews you're going to receive in your first publication, you're going to have a long, prosperous career." 


Course: CW 310 - Poetry Studio: Poetry, Desire, & Loss: Writing Our Stories Line by Line
Professor: Renee Soto, Associate Professor of Creative Writing 

Students wrote and shared their poetry, written as explorations of the forces of desire and loss, through video recordings. 

"The videos were our way of creating a sort of publication and also a public reading that stayed with us beyond a Zoom meeting and tried to compensate for not having an in-class, formal reading, to which students might have invited guests," Soto said.