Second annual humanities research symposium promotes senior work

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Seniors at Townsend Harris presented their research papers at Queens College this past May at the second annual Humanities Symposium. The Humanities Symposium has set a yearly stage on which seniors, as a part of the Bridge Year Humanities Colloquium present papers written throughout the year, culminating in an awards reception. Throughout the day, there was a total of twelve presentations with themes emphasizing feminist lenses on classic texts and research regarding dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature.

During the second semester, Mr. Rafal Olechowski, Assistant Principal of Humanities, and Professor Robin Hizme, Director of the College Preparatory Program at Queens College, sent out the call for papers.

Students from all grades were invited to watch the symposium during their humanities classes. Sophomore Angela Gao stated, “I thought it was going to be boring in the beginning, and I watched two and I thought it was kind of interesting.” The diverse topics represented in the symposium showed how humanities is not only literature, but can directly be associated with history and modern culture. Freshmen Christopher Thomas added he “looked through the pamphlet and wished [he] was able to watch more presentations.”

However, conflicts arose as seniors were rushed from their AP Calculus exam to the symposium.  Freshman Alexandra Rosca commented, “Especially for those who have AP exams, [it’s important] to make sure that they’re going to finish their exam and have time for their presentations rather than having to come late or not present at all.” This issue was also recognized by Mr. Olechowski who next year hopes to “do this (the symposium) earlier so we don’t have the AP exams in conflict.”

Seniors who presented at the symposium seemed to cherish the experience as well. Jason Lalljee, who presented “The Camusian Crusaders: The Absurdist Commentary and Qualification of Alan Moore’s Watchmen” along with Noah Silversmith, added, “I loved the symposium, it was great, especially for someone whose favorite subjects are in the realm of humanities. It was a culmination of the most academically fulfilling thing I’ve done all year.”

Senior Kristine Guillaume acknowledged that the symposium helped her be “no longer afraid to write a massive research paper or speak in front of over a hundred people.”

The seminar ended off with an an awards ceremony in Rosenthal Library. Kellie Zestanakis, Lianna Rada, Kristine Guillaume and Holman Guama won awards for most engaging presentations, Jason Lalljee and, Noah Silversmith and Rafa Sattar won awards for best original research, and Grace Ko, Joanna Huo, Amanda Chan, and Jenny Shi won awards for best overall presentation.

In the upcoming years, seniors can expect to see some changes in the symposium. In an attempt to better this experience for the seniors, Mr. Olechowski and Professor Hizme will try to include the research students from the Honors Program at Queens College to compete with the seniors at THHS. It is also possible students from York College and Stuyvesant High School will participate in the seminar as well. Mr. Olechowski would also like to offer expand research opportunities for all seminar classes in the spring semester, which would allow for adequate time for extensive research with the aid from libraries, databases and archives.

“The humanities symposium is an opportunity for us to showcase your work during seminar. The culminating experience for THHS is the seminar, the colloquium,” Mr. Olechowski explained. He added, “We wanted really to showcase the amazing work that you guys do in some of these classes and replicate the college experience.”