This week, 33 students are polishing their presentations for Mary Baldwin’s annual Capstone Festival, the college’s premier showcase of academic work.

Capstone Fest 2010

From Wikileaks to post-traumatic stress disorder to literary orphans, the variety of subjects that will be featured at the May 12 event befits the wide range of educational options at a liberal arts college. Undergraduate research is a hallmark of scholarship at Mary Baldwin and required of all students. At Capstone, nominated students share senior projects, honors theses, or special undergraduate research projects with faculty, students, staff and alumnae/i.

The festival is also open to the surrounding community, offering local residents a unique enrichment opportunity. Students will present posters; research papers; and multimedia, video, or audio/visual presentations on campus all afternoon.

Senior Jennifer Leedom of Souderton, Pennsylvania, will deliver her paper “From Orphan to ‘Other’: An Examination of 19th-Century Literary Orphans.”

“Characters Pip, Jane, and Heathcliff represent more than orphanhood, they are examples of how literature can expand the scope of human empathy,” Leedom said, summarizing her work. “There are many orphan characters in literature; my project proposes a new way of looking at some of these characters, in which they can be used to examine society as a whole.”

The Capstone Festival begins at 1 p.m. in Lyda B. Hunt Dining Hall with a keynote address from Dava Sobel, author of the book Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love and 2010–11 Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Doenges scholar-in-residence at Mary Baldwin. Simultaneous student presentations will follow in Hunt West, Hunt Gallery, the Nuthouse, and Miller Chapel. The festival will conclude with a reception and awards ceremony in the dining hall.

A similar recognition of student research was held in the early days of Mary Baldwin Seminary but vanished in the late 1800s. According to Mary Baldwin’s history To Live in Time, “all final examinations were held in public and members of the board of trustees and the townspeople attended to view students parse sentences, do intricate math problems, and recite soliloquies.” Mary Baldwin resurrected the tradition in 2006 by creating the modern-day Capstone Festival.

The Festival web page includes brief descriptions of each project to be presented and a detailed schedule of events for the day.

Participating students are: Caroline C. Bowles, Kelly Brose, Carrie Butler, Caitlin Combs, Quinesha R. Cruz, La’Keisha Daughtry, Logan Dill, Selma Elsarrag, Samantha Engstler, Amanda K. Figueroa, Rebecca Frost, Melissa Haislop, Miranda Hynes, Kara Randolph Jenkins, Sharon Kemmerer, Cynthia Kirkland, April Lao, Jennifer Leedom, Shaahida J. Lewis, Elisabeth Maddrell, Barbara May, Dave Melvin, Erika Mikhailova, Amy Montoya, Ada Sue Myers, Kimberly Parker, Rachael Ann Phillips, Meg Pitts, Austen Rawle, Kathleen Hunter Lea Todd, Joanna Torres, Perri Weldy, and Garika T. Williams.