Dr. Stephenson Attends Washington D.C. Conference

by   |  04.21.11  |  Uncategorized

To supplement what Josh has been blogging about the trip to Washington, DC, as part of the Council on Undergraduate Research’s “Posters on the Hill” event, I thought I would give some of my impressions.

First of all, I would like to say that this event was one of the finest I have attended in a while. The presentations—both by the students and the keynote speakers—were top notch, and everything was well organized. The CUR did a good job facilitating visits with our congressional representatives, and generally it was a very pleasant trip.

I don’t want to duplicate everything Josh has already mentioned, but I would like to add a bit to his description of the luncheon event on Wednesday, April 13. The fourteen students whose posters were on topics in the humanities presented their work, and it was very nice to have such a small group. (The evening event for science posters had sixty posters.) Everyone at the luncheon was able to spend plenty of time at the posters they wanted to visit without feeling crowded or rushed. Josh is too modest to admit it, but his poster was especially popular, with many people stopping by to hear his explanation of his research. It was also one of the first posters the CUR filmed, since they wanted to make sure they had it on record.

The speech at the luncheon by Dr. John Churchill (Ph.D. from Yale, by the way), the executive secretary of the national Phi Beta Kappa, was a highlight of the trip. Dr. Churchill challenged the popular idea that we can’t afford to fund the humanities, basically saying that we must have the humanities to have a civil society. As he summed it up near the end of his speech, “Critical thinking, sympathetic imagination, contribution to the survival of the experiment of popular democracy, the exultation of the human spirit:  that’s what’s at stake in the humanities.” I was sitting next to a congressional staffer from California, who afterwards told me that he and his boss were on board to continue funding for educational programs.

The visit to Washington was especially fun for me, since I had worked on Capitol Hill when I was about Josh’s age for a senator from my home state, the Hon. John C. “Jack” Danforth (M.Div. and J.D. from Yale, by the way). (If you are old enough, you may remember that Danforth, an ordained Episcopal minister, presided at President Reagan’s funeral.) Though a few things have changed—such as much tighter security to enter all the buildings—it was remarkable how much I remembered about how to get around and the way things worked in Washington.

I submit this picture as evidence that I once was skinny.
I will make it a priority to see that our Honors College students submit proposals to CUR’s “Posters on the Hill” event in the future. It was definitely a highlight of the year for me, as well as a prestigious honor for Josh.