Growing Academic Symposium sprouts new ideas, wide range of topics

Annual spring event has evolved from 15 students in 2011 to 114 presenters this year

In the 14 years Wiggins Memorial Library has hosted the Academic Symposium at Campbell University, organizers have come to expect one thing every spring.

When it comes to topics, you never know what to expect. 

The ways inherent satisfaction can motivate a student to excel. Med students who discovered four extra spleens in a cadaver. The good that can come from artificial intelligence in the classroom. How today’s streamers and YouTubers are having an effect on the way young people consume news. The prevalence of COPD in women. Toxic leadership in the video game industry. The transformational effect of prison education programs. The meaning behind the exaggerated behaviors of the children in Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” 

Those were but a few of the 114 total presentations given by Campbell University undergraduate and graduate students at this year’s symposium, held March 27 at the library, in Butler Chapel and at the Oscar N. Harris Student Union. The event has grown considerably from the inaugural 2011 symposium that drew 15 presentations — that growth reflects the efforts of the Campbell community “to cultivate experiential research and presentation opportunities for students,” said Elizabeth Dobbins, head of Research & Instruction Services and assistant dean of the library.

“For many library staff, the Symposium is our favorite day of the year,” she said. “There’s so much excitement in the air. Everyone is encouraging the presenters, and you can see and feel the support they receive from their faculty mentors, family and friends. We feel so honored to serve as the custodians of a day that is so special for our students and faculty.”

Only 27 of the 114 presenters earned “high merit” or “merit” honors for their oral, poster, video or art presentations. Among the merit winners for graduate oral presentation was Jared Fries, the associate athletics director for Campbell Athletics and a student in Campbell’s Master of Arts in Faith and Leadership program. Fries’ research examined the “virtue and vice” of Willy Wonka’s young visitors in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” The exaggerated behavior of the ‘four nasty children and our hero,’ Fries wrote, provides a clear expression of several of the vices that is both a source of entertainment and instruction for moral formation. 

Fries said his research helped him connect the ancient traditions he’s studying in his master’s program with modern day literature.

“We read a lot of Thomas Aquinas, which was good but challenging to read. Placing that ancient teaching in an accessible text, in this case a children’s book, helped me make connections with the content. It was also fun,” he said. “The symposium was a chance for me to take an academic paper and give it more meaning than just an assignment to earn a grade to complete course requirements. Most of our academic work is only shared between us and our professors, so sharing it with more people helps it feel valuable beyond the graded requirements.”

Lilly Johnson’s presentation, “Intrinsic Motivation in High School Students,” looked at the effectiveness of “inherent satisfaction” — rather than external rewards like candy or prizes — and how it can help a student excel. A future teacher, Johnson said presenting her research not only gave her a better understanding of how students are motivated, but it helped in other ways as well. 

“It helped me understand that just because there are easy ways to motivate students, it doesn’t mean it will help them later on in their education,” she said. “The point of me being a teacher is to help students learn something that will stay with them through life. The project also helped me develop my presentation and public speaking skills. I’m definitely glad I did it.” 

Some of the research was timely. Andrew Frabroni’s “Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom” asked whether students would benefit from learning more generative AI skills (instead of developing a mindset that it’s “cheating” in some way). The son of parents who worked in technology and teaching, Frabroni had a very positive outlook on AI’s future in education.

“Instead of the idea that it will make people obsolete [in the workforce], I think those who learn this technology and learn these tools will be more in demand,” he said. 

Julian Dominguez’s research focused on the way popular streamers and YouTubers are having an effect on how young people consume news and other forms of media. These streamers, he said, have earned the trust of their loyal viewers and listeners, and these “parasocial relationships” can influence bias. “This type of association leads younger audiences into more ‘group-oriented’ thinking and less critical thinking when it comes to analyzing media,” he said, “because viewers are more reliant on the streamers for their opinions as part of their identity.”

Anatomy students in Campbell’s Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine took work performed on cadavers over the year and presented their findings in oral and poster presentations at the Symposium. 

Jennifer Vasquez, Morgan Nelson and Khushmi Shah’s presentation was a case report titled “Rare Occurrence of Four Accessory Spleens,” detailing a 77-year-old man who died while suffering from aspiration pneumonia, epilepsy and prostate cancer and who was discovered — by the students — as having four accessory spleens around his normally functioning spleen. Cadaver work is an important part of a medical student’s education, and when a body is discovered to have a rare condition (four accessory spleens is almost unheard of), it leads to a unique learning experience. 

“For us, you learn so much in an anatomy lab, and when we come across something rare or interesting like this, you can put in your own time on it,” said Nelson. 

“We didn’t know four was so rare,” added Vasquez. In most cases, there is one extra and sometimes up to three, but I couldn’t find one case that had four.”

Second-year med student Rachel Grant’s anatomy lab introduced her to a 73-year-old woman who died of cardiac arrest, COPD exacerbation and acute hypoxic respiratory failure. Her research explored COPD — chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — and the prevalence differences between women and men. 

“This was important to me, because I’m interested in surgery, and historically, there hasn’t been as much research specifically on women and what goes on in our bodies — like we are predisposed to certain autoimmune conditions. So it led me down a research rabbit hole asking ‘Why do women present this way?’ ‘How are our bodies different?’ This research was interesting to me, and hopefully to others.”

The hoped-for outcome of every Academic Symposium is a greater appreciation for the learning process. Hannah Byer, a freshman Honors Program student, presented on “Education and Transformation,” looking at prison education programs like Campbell’s Second Chance Initiative and the impact they have on recidivism rates. 

“Prison education was something I’d never thought about before [my Honor 105 Self & World] class, so everything I learned was new to me,” said Byer, whose research examined not only the benefits of the programs, but how they have had to overcome politics to succeed. “I learned a lot about how political polarization creates barriers to implementing good ideas [like these programs].


A full (slides and videos) of presentations can be found online at

Undergraduate Oral Presentations

High Merit

  • Exploring Bolivia: No, Not Bolivia in South America: Bolivia, North Carolina by Sarah Cribb (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Justin Nelson)
  • Crossing the Globe from my Bedroom: An Autoethnography of Computer-Mediated Communication in a Cross-Cultural Setting by Maisy Rainey (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Dean Farmer)
  • Analysis of Guardian ad Litem Program Construction by Aaron Walls (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Catherine Cowling)
  • Changing Perspectives of “The Glass Menagerie”–a disability studies reading by Mackenzie Wood (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Donna Waldron)


  • The Miracle On Ice: How Geopolitical Rivalries of the Cold War Heated Up the Ice for an Unforgettable Hockey Game by Elizabeth Davis (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jaclyn Stanke)
  • College Through the Lens of a First-Generation Hispanic Student by Crystal Lopez-Alvarez (Faculty Mentors: Dr. Sherry Truffin and Dr. John Roberson)
  • “I am not romantic, you know”: A Feminist Reading of Charlotte Lucas by Gray Ricks (Faculty Mentor: Elizabeth Rambo)
  • Meridian Kiosks: Efficiency Analysis by Jalen Wilkes, Patrick Adams, and Cameron Tassos (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kim Fowler)
Graduate Oral Presentations

High Merit

  • Increasing Compliance with Evidence-Based Metrics for Adult ADHD Treatment Monitoring by Robert N. Agnello (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nicholas Pennings, Nominated by Dr. Emily Cayton)
  • Syncretism: Christ, Culture and a Twissian Approach by Mark Hunter Locklear (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cameron Jorgenson)


  • An Examination of Virtue and Vice in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Jared Fries (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cameron Jorgenson)
Undergraduate Poster Presentations

High Merit

  • Investigation of S321A variant of the thiamine dependent enzyme SucA in abiological carbon-carbon bond-forming reactions by Sumiya Bibi (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Evan Reynolds)
  • Effects of substituents and reagent concentrations on the oxidation kinetics of benzyl silyl ethers by Mia Turley (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sarah Goforth)


  • Coast Guard Academy “Operation Fouled Anchor” Cover-up by Sage Dougherty (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Laura Lunsford)
  • Prevention of Burnout in Nurses and its Impact on Patient Safety by Danielle Drent and Mackenzie Helms (Faculty Mentor: Prof. Sharon Boyd)
  • Rational Design of Mutations to Expand the Substrate Scope of the Thiamine-dependent Enzyme SucA by Angelique Girard (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Evan Reynolds)
  • Isolating Antibiotics: Assessing the Antibiotic Potential of the External Microbiome of Solenopsis invicta by Leeann Stearns and Amanda Beal (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Michelle Thomas)
Graduate Poster Presentations

High Merit

  • The clinical course, prognostic, and risk factors of neck pain conditions: an overview of systematic reviews by Toni-Ann Ariola (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Emily Bailey)
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in the Setting of Chronic Renal Failure by Zachary Kitts, Nidhi Kumar, David Feist, Joseph Leuelling, and Aishani Tingare (Faculty Mentors: Dr. Alan Proia and Dr. Amy Hinkelman)
  • Five Common Causes and Diagnosis of Cirrhosis in Adults by Brianna Stempniak, David Lehrburger, Katherine Hennion, Danielle Ogonowski, and Nicholas Iskandar (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Robert Larson)


  • Effects of Acupuncture on Obesity by Zachary Kitts and Nidhi Kumar (Faculty Mentors: Dr. Nicholas Pennings and Dr. Robert Agnello)
  • Acidosis-dependent vascular regulation: role of GPR4 by Rudra Swami (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Victor Pulgar)
Undergraduate Online Video Presentations

High Merit

  • Underlying Meanings in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Madison Strickland (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Rambo)
Graduate Online Video Presentations

High Merit

  • A Focus on Syphilis in Wake County by Anna Blackshear (Faculty Mentor: Prof. Nathalie Ortiz Pate)
Art Exhibits

High Merit

  • Living Pages by Arianna Aguila (Faculty Mentor: Prof. Dejan Mraović)


  • “Birds Crossing”, a humorous traffic sign, 2023 by Simon Osbourne (Faculty Mentor: Prof. Dejan Mraović)
  • Nigerian Flora by Jamari Cannady Pratt (Faculty Mentor: Prof. Dejan Mraović)