3/3/2014 5:04 PM
Students in Millikin University's International Marketing course were given a rare opportunity during the fall semester, to create a marketing strategy for Volx, a rock climbing equipment company based in Lyon, France. The goal of the project was to offer recommendations regarding entrance into the United States business market. In January, the business undergrads traveled to France to present their recommendations to Volx officials.
As part of the project, the students performed extensive research on the United States rock climbing industry and developed an executive report. The report was divided into five sections: Current Market Situation, Competition, Distribution Analysis, Critical Risk Factors, and Recommendations. Each section led to a conclusion that the students believed would benefit Volx the most.
Dennis Schwieger, Millikin instructor of marketing, who led the course, says, "Normally, people think of export when they think of international business, but this was an import project. The company wants to export from France and import their product into the United States, and they wanted to know how to go about doing it. We researched the industry, analyzed the competitors, and then made a recommendation."
The executive report highlighted key U.S. rock climbing trends in the industry and safety regulations, as well as updates on walls, holds, and types of climbing that are currently popular.
"We were able to tour their facility, meet their CEO and CFO, see the development of their product, and then we made our presentation," said James Vavak, a senior business management major from Fenton, Mo. "The representatives from the company were very engaged throughout our presentation. They asked many questions and they were very intrigued with some of the trends as far as how and where rock climbing facilities are expanding."
The students' executive report recommended that the U.S. market for rock climbing equipment, more specifically rock climbing holds, is at a lucrative juncture. Based on their research, the students determined that the current customer base is expanding and that rock climbing is a safe fitness alternative and recreational activity.
Vavak added, "Having the opportunity to not only present to the company, but to communicate with their CEO and CFO, gave me the confidence to know that I can do this in the professional world. Working with an international company really opened my eyes to the way they do business and helped me understand their priorities."
The students believed that Volx's product would be ideal for consumers aged 25 and under. The students also recommended, when trying to enter the United States market, that the company should go through a distributor that operates on an international level.
"An experience like this changes students' horizons tremendously and changes their perceptions on parts of the world," said Schwieger. "As an instructor, to have such a motivated group of students was great. This type of trip is vital for the students because many companies today deal with global business."
The Volx officials expressed interest in implementing the student's recommendations as well as having Millikin pursue further research on this subject in the future.
When asked about developing the marketing strategy, Jacob Hazelton, a senior marketing major from Wilmington, Ill., said, "It was a living document; the more research we did and the more we learned about the product then the more we could provide in terms of recommendations. Being able to go over to another country, present information, and see how excited and enthusiastic they were was great."
In addition to the presentation, the students visited Paris as well as the Centre d'Études Franco-Américain de Management (CEFAM), an international business school located in Lyon that specializes in marketing, management and finance.
Schwieger added, "I think the company really appreciated their work. The students were outstanding during the presentation and they did a great job with follow-up questions. They were very professional."
2/27/2014 12:12 PM
Dr. Mark Samples, first-year assistant professor of music and coordinator of musicology at Millikin University, is gaining attention for his ground breaking research efforts on commercialism in 20th and 21st century music. In his first academic year, Samples has presented his research at one national conference and will be presenting at two more national music conferences this spring. His research efforts will also be highlighted in an upcoming national publication.
Samples currently researches the role of commercialism in music after 1800, from Jenny Lind to Joan Baez, Tom Waits and Sufjan Stevens. Samples teaches music history with an emphasis on western classical music as well as ethnomusicology.
"My goal for the academic year was to get one major publication in the pipeline and to share my research at one major national conference," said Samples. "It's become a busy year, and having the opportunity to present my research at three national conferences is very exciting."
Samples' work titled "Timbre and Legal Likeness: The Case of Tom Waits," was met with great interest and discussion during the American Musicological Society (AMS) National Conference, held November 2013, in Pittsburgh, Pa. The paper explores Samples' view on how musicians should consider timbre or tone quality, both vocal and instrumental, to be a core part of their commercial brands. His expanded research will be published in a book on timbre called "The Relentless Pursuit of Tone: Timbre and Popular Music" (Oxford University Press).
In March, Samples will be attending the Society for American Music (SAM) National Conference in Lancaster, Pa., to present research on the 1960s American folk music scene and artists such as Joan Baez. He will also be traveling to the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum in Seattle, Wash., to present at the 2014 Pop Conference this April. The Pop Conference brings together a rare mix of academics, recording artists, music journalists, and industry executives to share ideas about popular music.
"All three of these opportunities have linked to my overall research plan which is the commercial branding of music and musicians," said Samples. "How musicians brand themselves and how they present their commercial identity to the public are key aspects of my research. This is an area that is cutting edge because people have been reluctant to talk about branding in music. Art has been seen as set apart from commerce."
Samples also emphasizes how artists must understand how to communicate with the broader public in certain strategic ways. In terms of branding, Sample uses the term "commercial identity" to explain how artists must find ways to form, articulate, and distribute their art, but also to retain a distinction between their public and private lives. Samples says, "Through my research, I hope that my students gain a better understanding of how to navigate this fine line in their own careers."
"Mark loves teaching, first and foremost, and has established an impressive resume in that important area of faculty work in the first stages of his career," said Dr. Stephen Widenhofer, director of the Millikin School of Music and professor of music. "His research focus, music and branding, is ground breaking in many ways. There just aren't that many people doing scholarship in that area, thus, we are excited to see what kind of results will emerge from his efforts."
Samples added, "I've been very pleased with the success that this research is getting. It's more than what I've expected, and what it tells me is that we are ready to talk about these topics."
Samples is also looking forward to sharing his research with the Millikin community. "One of the reasons why Millikin was so appealing to me is because Millikin is light years ahead of other institutions on this subject. Millikin's curriculum allows students to develop the artistry of their craft. It also teaches students the strategies and skills needed to succeed professionally, which goes to the heart of the mission, and that is performance learning."
1/31/2014 4:47 PM
Millikin University's January Immersion courses are designed to provide great experiences for undergrads who want to develop new skills or learn about rare topics. This January, several Millikin theatre students received a semester's worth of acting techniques by learning about the Margolis Method, an approach taught by award-winning director and teacher Kari Margolis that merges all the skill sets of acting, directing and playwriting.
Margolis is the director and lead faculty at the Margolis Method Center in Highland Lake, N.Y. She has developed and oversees the Center's Summer Program, Professional Certification, University Professor Certification and Long Distance Learning Programs.
"This is Kari's fifth year of leading this immersion experience and the students spent about five hours a day studying the method," said Denise Myers, Millikin associate professor of theatre and dance. "When Kari first came to Millikin, she worked on a project that was performed on campus. This year she taught technique and developed another original show."
The course merges vocal and physical expression through daily exercises that focus on the actor as central to the creative process. Margolis has been developing this method through daily studio research over the last 30 years, and it has grown into an internationally recognized methodology.
"My goal, after the short period of time, is to have the students leave here much stronger and much more empowered," said Margolis. "The method is about taking all the mystery and the magic out of acting and to give the actors concrete skill sets."
Meghan Bryan, a sophomore theatre major from Broadlands, Va., says the method is "new and it took my initial thought of theatre and turned it around completely. When going through the class every day, you think about ways of applying this method to theatre and how to further develop your craft."
Margolis says she worked with the students on the very basics of storytelling, communication, and inspiring the audience's imagination. Throughout the residency the students used these lessons to imaginarily create a show.
"Every single day the students were creating characters and developing a play about a group of actors all showing up to an audition," said Margolis. "Each day I created structures for them and they would take the skill sets and start adding context, and at the end of the day we were working on scenes created by the students."
Peter Kattner, a senior theatre major from Chicago added, "I think this class shows the importance of learning your craft especially in terms of theatre. There is so much more than memorizing lines or saying things with a certain inflection. This class inspires actors to go beyond their limitations, it's empowering."
This year's course culminated with a public performance of the show on Millikin University's campus on Jan. 18 highlighting the students' scholarly training. The show was simply titled "The Audition."
"In the end it's about learning cause and effect, and how to absorb a cause before you express an effect," said Travis Neese, a senior theatre major from Story City, Iowa. "It's very physics-based and it can be a dynamic approach to acting. Now that I took this course the method makes so much sense and this approach can be used in so many different ways."
After five years of teaching the method to Millikin undergrads Margolis continues to be impressed with the work of the students. "I look forward to this course as one of my favorite residencies. I travel all over the world and I truly look forward to this as one of the highlights of my year. I continue to keep up-to-date on Millikin students who I've worked with over the last five years."
Denise Myers added, "We are learning technique and applying it constantly. It's interesting because some of the students might have an inkling towards playwriting or directing, and even though it is an acting class the students are also able to walk out of here as better directors or writers."
1/27/2014 4:44 PM
Millikin University faculty members Dr. Stephen Frech, associate professor of English, and Dr. Chung-Ha Kim, adjunct faculty member in the Millikin School of Music, have released a CD featuring a dual performance of poetry and music titled "A Palace of Strangers Is No City." The CD is currently available through Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby as well as other sites.
"A Palace of Strangers Is No City," features 22 poems from a chapbook published by Dr. Frech in 2011. The poems tell the story of two lovers on opposite sides of an occupied city. The arrangement alternates with musical excerpts from Czech composer Leoš Janáček's "On An Overgrown Path."
"The project started out as a publication of mine in 2011 and it's a sequence of 22 poems and flash fiction that tells the story," said Frech. "The main character goes on a journey across a mythic place to meet the lover. In September 2011, Chung-Ha and I did a dual performance in Kaeuper Hall of the readings along with music pieces by Leoš Janáček."
The male character of the story, having narrowly escaped the random police arrests, is now officially a fugitive and flees to his fiancée's house by going through Old Town. That medieval city center becomes the primary setting of the story and the meditative landscape of the character's flight. Full of questions about whom to trust, what to believe, and making use of a highly unusual second-person narrator, the sequence feels dreamlike and surreal.
"Working on this project with Chung-Ha was wonderful and working with music specifically for this project was new," said Frech. "I had not collaborated musically with anyone as a writer before and for me it seemed surprising because I've held the opinion that poetry is first and foremost song. I had this sense that the sound quality of a poem is a vital importance to the life of that poem."
Janáček's "On An Overgrown Path," a collection of 15 piano pieces, was composed during the first decade of the 20th century. It displays influences of Moravian folk songs and is programmatic. The first 10 pieces have titles that describe a place, a state of mind, or an action.
"These pieces are very beautiful and intimate," said Kim. "They deserve to be heard more often and I'm glad that we were able to use selections from this particular set for our project. It's wonderful to see how giving them a new context ends up redefining their meaning."
Frech added, "I collaborated with primarily visual artists before this project and in that respect this project highlighted the mood for me which I had treated primarily as imaginative and cityscape. The city, which was loosely modeled on Prague, becomes an imaginative landscape for the sequence. For me, the musical pieces highlighted everything in a different way."
Written in the traditions of fabulist literature and prose poetry, Dr. Frech says prose poetry can "often read like a dream moving along like a story in which strange, unexpected things can happen, and feel quite natural."
John Dalton, author of "Heaven Lake," says "'A Palace of Strangers Is No City' is a one-of-a-kind experience. In just 22 elegant pages it contains an epic journey across an imagined city. The happenings in this city are surreal, ominous, funny and vivid. The circumstances may be dreamlike, but the longing and the wisdom are entirely real."
When asked about the possibility of pursuing future projects of poetry and music, Frech said, "It was the first experience I've had with poetry and music, and on rare occasions I've seen dual performances. I think there is an opportunity to make, at least in my field, poetry readings a little more interesting by doing dual performances which appeal to a wider audience. This project has been so gratifying and I would love to do it again."
12/20/2013 12:43 PM
A professional recording experience is nothing new to students who study in Millikin University's School of Music in the College of Fine Arts. With Millitrax, Millikin's own recording studio, Millikin provides this type of opportunity for aspiring musicians on a regular basis. Recently, however, the professional recording experience for several Millikin undergrads became new again as students went back in time and recorded original music using 1950s technology at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tenn., a studio regarded as "The Birthplace of Rock n' Roll."
Seventeen Millikin student musicians traveled to Memphis where they recorded music, toured studios and engaged in the history of rock n' roll music. The project was part of a routine fall semester course at Millikin called "Perspectives in Jazz and Rock," led by Dr. David Burdick, associate professor of music. What was not routine was the opportunity to relive music history and create some of their own.
"The project originated following a discussion I had with Sun Studio Chief Recording Engineer Matt Ross-Spang, and Ardent Studios Record Producer Jeff Powell at a conference in Nashville," said Dr. Burdick. "I wanted to bring the students to Memphis to tour Sun Studio. Matt suggested that we go a step further and make a record of our own original music."
The trip, sponsored by Millikin's Center for Entrepreneurship, allowed students firsthand access to iconic Memphis recording facilities, as well as the Stax Museum, an important landmark in the history of rock and soul music. Prior to recording in Sun Studio, the group toured the building and saw a collection of artifacts from Elvis Presley and other great artists including Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Studio.
"After the tour, we went to work," said Dr. Burdick, "and it became a studio session where we recorded our own original music – using 1950s technology – which meant there was no stopping and starting. We only got one shot to record a clean cut from beginning to end. Once the students started playing, the recording didn't stop until the song was over," Dr. Burdick added. "The Sun Studio project was a great opportunity for Millikin students to be produced by a professional engineer and to record music in a different way."
The original pieces of music were recorded using analog techniques instead of digital techniques, a process that is rare in today's production of music. After recording, the group took their mixes to Jeff Powell at Ardent Studios who turned the mixes into lacquer masters, a disc that contains the final mastered sound of a recording.
Millikin students Brenna Pfeifer, a junior commercial music major and vocalist from St. Joseph, Ill., and Matthew Swofford, a junior commercial music major and guitarist from St. Louis, Mo., composed the original music the group recorded.
"We played the songs over and over again because we had to get it right; there are no overdubs," said Swofford. "It's all one take – the difference between analog and digital is that digital is flawless in some sort of way. You can record music part by part. Analog recording captures the imperfection in the group – it's real. It was one moment in time and that's what made it so different."
Pfeifer simply described the experience as "incredible," "Having the opportunity to record the way artists such as Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley did was absolutely surreal. And working with Matt Ross-Spang was great because he definitely wanted the best we could give him," Pfeifer added. "Looking back, I appreciate the experience so much more now than I did while I was in the studio recording because at that time we were all so focused on getting the work done."
Swofford's appreciation of the experience, however, was instantaneous. "Every time that I have recorded a song of my own, I've been the artist singing as well as performing all the instruments," he said. "Having my peers perform a song I wrote helped me gain a new perspective on the recording of music: the process and what it takes to make something good. This experience has definitely shaped how I'm going to pursue my music career," said Swofford. "The recording process is a team effort, and everyone matters. It's a lesson I will definitely carry with me."
Matt Ross-Spang noted the students excitement. "It was a real pleasure recording Dr. Dave's students at Sun Studio. Dr. Dave's enthusiasm and teachings were evident as the students arrived inspired, professional and eager to work," he said. "I think we all learned a lot that night and had a blast doing it."
Because Dr. Burdick's class, "Perspectives in Jazz and Rock," covers the origins of rock n' roll record production and recording technology, the trip to Memphis was "a perfect component," said Dr. Burdick. "The single biggest location for rock n' roll record production and recording technology is Memphis, and in particular Sun Studio. The class decided that rather than making it a small subject we would make it a big subject by going to Memphis and record music using 1950s technology."
"Having these experiences where you get to go out to places like Memphis or Nashville and work with professionals like we did gives us the idea of what the industry is like," Pfeifer added. "Millikin's commercial music program is very dedicated to the recording process, and this is an opportunity I never expected to have coming into the program."
A documentary of the trip is also being produced by Dr. Burdick that will highlight the students and the recording experience at Sun Studio.
"The documentary is about a group of college-trained musicians who go back in time to Memphis to see how they stand up to recording in the birthplace of rock," says Dr. Burdick. "I'm hoping one thing that the students took from this is that nowadays it is common for anyone to be recorded. Back in the day, it was a big deal. I'm really proud of our students – they made music the way they know how to make music."
Dr. Burdick added, "What's good for the students about a trip like this is two things in particular – they experienced the history which is very important, but the other aspect is that they tested themselves and they took the skills they've worked on at Millikin and applied it to the recording process."
11/21/2013 5:35 PM
It's a rarity for undergraduates to perform original musicals at any academic institution. Millikin University's Department of Theatre & Dance has taken the rarity to new heights this fall with its new performance, "String." Audiences will witness the first full production of this musical that was first developed through Millikin University's New Musicals Workshop in January 2011.
Millikin University's New Musicals Workshop is a program that offers students and faculty opportunities to collaborate with professional writing teams as they develop new musicals intended for commercial production. The collaboration provides students with a valuable first-hand look into the process of developing and rehearsing a new musical from the ground up.
"String" is a myth story about the three Greek Fates in the modern city responsible for measuring the threads of human life. It focuses on a workaholic Greek god, Atropos, the oldest and most severe fate, who gets tangled up with a security guard in the basement of the tallest building in the world. One mistake leads to another – a lost pair of scissors, a kiss, a stolen string - and soon Atropos is breaking her own rules to offer "forever" to an ordinary man. It's a diverse ensemble musical about sisters, offices, and love. "String" music and lyrics are written by Adam Gwon and book by Sarah Hammond. The choreography is led by Millikin alumna Britt-Marie Sivertsen '10.
"In 2010 we contacted playwright Adam Gwon about doing a workshop and he said he had been working on a project with Sarah Hammond," said Lori Bales, director of "String" and Millikin associate professor of theatre and dance. "We received a draft of the story in January 2011 and worked on it as part of Millikin's New Musicals Workshop. The story has had a great trajectory because it's hard for young writers to get this kind of development."
Adam Gwon is an award-winning composer and lyricist. He was named one of "50 to Watch" by The Dramatist magazine. His honors include the Fred Ebb Award for excellence in musical theater songwriting, the ASCAP Harold Adamson Award, and the MAC John Wallowitch Award.
Sarah Hammond is the author of "Green Girl," "Kudzu," "The Extinction of Felix Garden," and "House on Stilts." Her honors include the Heideman Award (Actors Theatre of Louisville), two MacDowell Colony Fellowships, a residency at the Royal National Theatre in London, and commissions from South Coast Repertory Theatre and Broadway Across America.
Gwon came to Millikin in late October to work with the cast on new songs and scenes. Sarah Hammond also worked with the cast in early November.
"Sarah and I came to Millikin in January 2011 for the New Musicals Workshop without a finished draft of the story," said Gwon. "We spent that time writing the rest of the draft and since then we have done two readings. This production at Millikin is our first incarnation in which everything is up on its feet. It's really exciting to see everything come together and musically it's been exciting because I wrote the show with a large ensemble in mind, and the ensemble is used in a number of ways. It's very satisfying to hear the music as I imagined it."
The show features 17 student cast members including Sean Doherty, a senior musical theatre major from Hampshire, Ill., who saw the New Musicals Workshop of "String" as a first year student.
"You have to make your best judgment of what the writers are intending for the show," said Doherty. "The New Musicals program at Millikin is fantastic and being in a workshop environment is so fast and it's great because you learn so much in such a short period of time. One of my favorite parts about 'String' is that everyone takes away something different about the show. It's a universal show that is really funny and can be very moving."
Anastasia Arnold, a senior musical theatre major from Huntley, Ill., says "It's really great that Millikin is able to do this type of production because not many schools can, and it's an incredible opportunity to be a part of the collaborative process. The challenging aspect is that we might have a change in a scene or a song that we have to work on right away – it's good practice. It's an amazing opportunity to be able to work with new and up-and-coming writers, and this is something that will definitely help with our careers."
Bales added, "The story is completely original, but it's really about the fall. The story talks about how life is wiped clean and how the characters have to adjust. The production is very touching and sad, and the story highlights three sisters who together must learn what's important. It's a beautiful show."
For more information on Millikin's Department of Theatre & Dance, visit www.millikin.edu/theatre
11/14/2013 6:39 PM
Millikin University marketing undergrads are currently developing a unique marketing campaign for a local business as part of Millikin's Advertising & Promotional Strategies course. The campaign is being created for Dove, Inc., a coalition of religious organizations and volunteers that coordinate efforts to address unmet human needs and social injustices. The project is led by Dr. Carrie Trimble, Millikin assistant professor of marketing.
"Last fall, a Board representative for Dove, Inc. reached out to me and said Dove realized it needed help with marketing," said Trimble. "Dove needed help with branding because the people in the community know Dove as a place where they have a shelter for victims of domestic violence, but Dove also runs several other programs."
This current project comes at the heels of marketing research Trimble's Marketing Research course completed for Dove last spring. Millikin students developed a survey to see if people knew of the other programs that Dove runs outside the shelter.
"Using that research, students this fall are charged with developing a marketing/communications campaign for Dove," said Trimble. "The project is broken up into five pieces. The first piece is that the students write a client brief that highlights their objectives for the campaign, identifies their target market, identifies why their target market would care about the major benefit of volunteering, and then concludes with a creative strategy statement for the whole campaign."
The Millikin students have also been asked to redesign the front page of Dove's newsletter, develop a social media strategy for Dove, produce a video that can be shared virally, and design a fundraising event that ties into the use of Indiegogo, an international crowdfunding site where anyone can raise money for things such as music, charity, and small businesses.
"It's great that we are getting to work with an actual company," said Ellie Ehrat, a senior accounting major from Shobonier, Ill. "It's also great that we are able to use our imagination and be creative when it comes to developing this campaign. I always wanted the opportunity to work with a company and the fact that we are doing something to help a local business is something that students don't get at another school."
Trimble added, "We are trying to get a lot of social media involved but we are also trying to get Dove to think about ways of communicating with people. It's measureable and the students will be graded on how the client will respond to how well they think these efforts can actually help them reach their objectives if they are implemented."
The class contains 23 students with six individual groups working on the Dove, Inc. project. Dove, Inc. Board of Directors and Marketing representatives will hear project proposals from the Millikin students during finals week and will provide feedback.
Trimble added, "The students are in fact competing against each other and will see each other pitch campaigns to Dove, so all will see the work that they do."
Amanda Podeschi, director of development in the Millikin Alumni & Development Office and member of the Dove, Inc. Board of Directors says, "The project is all about finding a fresh perspective on Dove's marketing needs and it's a great learning opportunity for Millikin students. We're definitely going into this with the idea that one of the group's ideas or a part of the idea could be utilized here in the near future for our marketing efforts."
"Dove is a company that brings people together to help those less fortunate in the community," said Emily Kissel, a senior communication major from Bloomington, Ill. "Dove has so many programs so it's a challenge to come up with a marketing campaign that showcases all of them because they are all equally important. I'm taking away so much from this project and I'll be able to apply these experiences after I graduate."
When asked about the student's learning experiences from this project Trimble says, "In general, I want the students to understand the creative elements that are put together and it's about meeting a specific set of objectives. As always, we want them to be working in groups, working well in groups, and having that hands-on experience of working with a client."
Trimble added, "This class in particular challenges the students in terms of being creative and making connections. It's an excellent stretch for them that I think really mirrors what's going to be part of their job in the professional world. It goes back to being able to really communicate an idea and be persuasive in communication."
10/31/2013 4:31 PM
The opportunity for history undergraduates to present their research in a professional setting is unique. However, three Millikin history students were granted that rare opportunity during the 15th Annual Conference on Illinois History held Sept. 26-27 in Springfield, Ill.
Students Kayla Samuelson, a senior history major from Onarga, Ill., John Billimack, a senior history major from Champaign, Ill., and Maxwell Couch, a senior history major from Bolingbrook, Ill. offered their original research to audiences of scholars and non-professional historians for feedback during the conference.
"It is unique for a history department to take undergraduates to a conference and have them present their work," said Dr. Dan Monroe, Millikin associate professor of history. "If you look at these conferences, typically the people that are presenting are graduate students or professors so this is an exceptional example of performance learning."
The Conference on Illinois History is the state's largest meeting devoted to the history of the Prairie State. This year's conference included 23 paper sessions that featured topics such as politics, Abraham Lincoln, Latino history, and the Civil War; seven workshops; and two roundtable discussions.
"The students wrote history papers in our classes using original sources such as newspapers, letters, diaries and standard works of history such as biographies," said Monroe. "The papers were at such a level that we took them to this regional conference and had them presented. They worked in the class and took that work out into the wider world to present."
Kayla Samuelson presented her paper titled "The Experiences of One 1960s-Era Decatur Minister." The paper is based on the controversy surrounding Westminster Church's Reverend Emil Hattoon and his efforts to register African-Americans to vote in Hattiesburg, Miss. in 1964. Kayla's presentation was part of the "Civil Rights Stories" concurrent session during the conference.
"The questions I received during the conference were very interesting because the audience wanted me to explain about the trends and how they fit with the times," said Samuelson. "My experience presenting at this conference says a lot about how Millikin professors are willing to work with students who are interested in presenting. Going to a conference that brings out questions about one's research helps any undergraduate prepare for graduate school or grow in terms of becoming a researcher."
Samuelson is currently working with Dr. Brian Mullgardt, Millikin assistant professor of history, to try to get her research published in the Illinois Herald-Journal by December 2013. She will be attending graduate school following graduation from Millikin.
Samuelson added, "I think any research experience given to an undergrad is a great opportunity. The fact that Millikin faculty took me under its wing when I had this interest my freshman year is outstanding."
John Billimack and Maxwell Couch presented their research as part of the "Illinois Civil War Generals" concurrent session. Billimack's paper was titled "Grierson's Raid," a project based on 1863 Union colonel Benjamin H. Grierson who was chosen for a mission to lead three regiments of horsemen and a battery of artillery through the state of Mississippi. Couch's paper was titled "General John A. Logan," a paper based on the Civil War General who became one of Illinois' most powerful Senators.
"I enjoyed performing the research – the thesis on my paper was how General Logan changed from a democrat to a republican during the Civil War," said Couch. "It was interesting to be a part of the conference because we were the only undergrads there. It was great because we received feedback on how we could improve our research."
John Billimack added, "It was a fantastic experience, and I was very privileged to have been given such an opportunity through Millikin's history department."
Couch will look to acquire an internship at a museum after graduating from Millikin and then attend graduate school. Billimack will also be attending graduate school following graduation from Millikin.
Monroe added, "The fact that they went out into the professional world and got validation from other professors and historians for their research is huge. It gives them a sense of confidence and it's important for them especially for getting into graduate school. This experience gives them an introduction to the profession – you do research, write papers, and then you present them to your colleagues in a conference forum and they respond to your findings. It's a process where everyone learns."
10/28/2013 5:16 PM
Emanuel Paz-Pérez, a Millikin University senior biology major from Miami, Fla., was granted an extraordinary opportunity this summer as he was chosen to participate in the New Biology Fellows Program held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The program offers undergraduate students, especially those in underrepresented minority groups, academic and experiential opportunities in quantitative biology and informatics. The program is supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.
"Primarily, I was able to do graduate-level research even though I'm currently an undergraduate,” said Paz-Pérez. "Having the opportunity to perform the research and to include this experience on my resume will definitely help in terms of my future."
The National Science Foundation funds a large number of research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU Sites program. An REU Site consists of a group of approximately 10 undergraduates who work in the research programs of the host institution. Each student is associated with a specific research project, where he/she works closely with the faculty and other researchers. The title of Emanuel's research project was "Discovering the SbGl15 gene sequence within juvenile leaves expressing Glossiness in Sorghum bicolor." Emanuel worked under the supervision of Dr. Patrick Brown, assistant professor of plant genetics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"I learned a lot about sequencing, genes, and looking for a specific gene within a genome of sorghum bicolor," said Paz-Pérez. "Being able to do my own research was quite the experience and now I can take that experience and show other doctors what I can do as well as what I want to do."
The objectives of Emanuel's research included designing overlapping primer pairs to amplify an entire specific gene sequence, amplify and sequence the products of the primers, and to learn to use genetic tools, protocols, and software to find sequences within a genome.
At the end of the summer, participants of the New Biology Fellows Program presented their research results in the form of posters and oral presentations at the Illinois Summer Research Symposium in Champaign, Ill., held July 25-26. Among the 150 participants that participated, Emanuel was selected as an Honorable Mention for Young Researcher of the Year.
"I was able to attend Emanuel's poster and slide presentations at the symposium in Champaign in late July, and he did an excellent job of explaining his research to me and many others," said Dr. Ray Boehmer, Millikin associate professor of education. "Attending the symposium gave me an opportunity to see and meet some of the other participants in this excellent undergraduate summer research program. Most of the participants were of underrepresented groups in the sciences. The organizers and funders of the program obviously saw a need to focus on these students in an effort to encourage and support them in their career paths."
Boehmer added, "The selection of Emanuel as Honorable Mention Young Researcher of the Year is a huge tribute to his dedication and work, as well as being a big plus for Millikin University."
Paz-Pérez says he will look at selective graduate schools to attend after graduating from Millikin and that his educational experiences at Millikin have played an important role in terms of his research. In terms of his career, he hopes to become a researcher as well as a professor of biology.
"The faculty at Millikin have been very helpful and supportive with all of my research and work," said Paz-Pérez. "The learning opportunities at Millikin have also been very important in terms of my work leading up to this year."
10/18/2013 4:19 PM
Millikin University welcomed 20 visitors to campus this September from Northeast Normal University High School (NENU) based in northern China. The Chinese visitors included 15 high school students, four teachers and the High School's Principal Mr. Shi, Liang. The two-day visit was part of a partnership between the high school and Millikin University's School of Education. The visit allowed students to explore Millikin and learn about campus experiences.
"The School of Education has had this partnership with the high school since 2005," said Dr. Nancy Gaylen, director of the School of Education and associate professor of education. "We see great potential for having the students coming into college go to Millikin or to have more Millikin students who are not necessarily part of the School of Education go there. During the two-day visit we brainstormed about all the things we could do beyond what we have been doing in the School of Education."
Throughout their visit, the students went on a campus tour, listened to presentations from two NENU professors who are spending the semester at Millikin – Jessica Zhang and Nina Xuan – and enjoyed Millikin's International Month Festival in Richards Treat University Center. The students also experienced Millikin's English Language Center (ELC).
"I think it was very important for the students and teachers to come to Millikin's campus because it helps everyone understand how special this partnership is," said Florence Galy, Millikin's director of International Recruitment and Global Strategy. "This partnership has given our students and graduates plenty of opportunities to not only go abroad but have a real experience as professionals. It's not very common to have this type of partnership."
Gaylen added, "I think the principal realized during the visit that Millikin is a place where students are cared for, and he especially saw that when he visited the English Language Center. He saw that the Center has a comfortable place for the students to read books, work with computers, and he saw his students integrating right away with other international students. The principal was also very interested in the fact that we have a bridge program – meaning that if your TOEFL score isn't high enough you can use the English Language Center to improve in that area. That made an impression on him."
Along with their experiences throughout campus, the students learned all the aspects of Millikin's educational opportunities. Principal Shi also met with Millikin University President Dr. Patrick E. White and Millikin's Director of the Center for International Education Carmen Aravena.
When asked about how the partnership will continue to grow Gaylen said, "One idea that we are working on is having a culture course in the summer time at Millikin, that way the students from China can see what Millikin is like for a two or three-week span and understand the college experience. Another idea would be having Millikin faculty go to NENU for a semester to teach."
"Each year since 2005 two teachers from NENU come to Millikin for approximately two months," said Gaylen. "About every other summer, I take an immersion class of Millikin students to China and my goal with that immersion is to help the education students see that they could go there as a job after graduation. The students that have gone to China in the past have absolutely loved it."
Gaylen added, "The students were very happy to participate in the English Language Center and not just tour the campus. They were able to participate in many things."
The visit concluded with a trip to Dennis Elementary School in Decatur, Ill., as the teachers and Principal Shi observed the Chinese guest teachers in their classrooms. The Chinese students wrapped up their visit by observing Millikin fine arts classes and music ensembles.
Galy added, "There are many ways to further explore and expand this partnership. I think the students left with many things to remember about an American campus, and I think they left with a great impression about how Millikin's educational system works and what people are like on campus."
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