Library’s Academic Symposium launches virtual event

Virtual presentations are live today

When organizers for the Wiggins Memorial Library Academic Symposium added a virtual presentations category three years ago, they were unknowingly preparing for the curve ball thrown at them this year. 

With “social distancing” the current way of life and Campbell University’s main campus essentially shut down to face-to-face interaction, this year’s Symposium — previously scheduled for March 18 — has become a completely virtual experience. The 10th annual event went live online this morning with 101 virtual presentations out of the 133 students and groups who originally signed up this year. 

“It is important for the campus, our community and prospective students to see the good work that is happening at Campbell University,” said Sarah Steele, head of research and instructional services and associate dean of the library. “We should take every opportunity to connect and engage in scholarly conversation. Expanding the virtual symposium this year provides a great way to engage at a ‘social distance.’”

When the March 18 event was postponed, students were invited to submit their virtual presentation materials through the symposium site. Faculty have been invited to incorporate the symposium presentations in their online classes — one assignment idea was to have students view one presentation within and one outside of their discipline and review them through a Blackboard discussion thread. 

According to Elizabeth Dobbins, reference and online instruction librarian, the transition to online was an easy one, and the core of the symposium — the student work — was unchanged. The only change, she said, was in the way the presentations are being viewed. 

“I have been so inspired by and impressed with our students,” Dobbins said. “We offered them a chance to still present, and the vast majority have opted in by submitting digital content, even during a challenging time of transition.”

A few of the presentations are surprisingly relevant to current life during a global pandemic. In her poster presentation, junior biology major Caitlyn Vester shows that group living (among ants) leads to an increased potential for parasite transmission among that community. Dense ant colonies mean higher risk of infection, but ants have adapted a defense system against parasites and pathogens through the production of antimicrobial secretions from their metapleural gland.

Vester’s presentation evaluates the microbial diversity of worker ants at Campbell to shed some light on the species’ method of self-protection. Guided by assistant professor of biology Stephanie Mathews, Vester conducted a study to determine if the bacteria Campbell ant species carry are unique compared to ants in other environments.

In another topical and timely presentation, junior homeland security and health care management major Micaila Coleman created a mock H7N9 Influenza scenario to show what an ideal response would look like in Raleigh. 

The H7H9 strain of influenza is an Asian lineage Avian A influenza virus that the World Health Organization classifies as “an unusually dangerous virus for people,” with a 30-percent mortality rate. Under the mentorship of associate professor of political science and public administration John Mero, Coleman presents a detailed multi-agency strategy to combat a hypothetical high-mortality H7N9 influenza epidemic in Raleigh. 

Other presentations of note are listed below. To find all presentations by type, visit, hover over “Virtual Symposium” under Filter By Type, and the options are on the left.

“I am so proud of the Symposium leadership team,” said Library Dean Alexia Riggs. “We have an innovative, creative group who adapted the Symposium’s format quickly. I am looking forward to attending the event.”