Story by Mike Kilen
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
It was one big display of dreams turned into action. Students came to Grand Canyon University three or four years ago with an idea of what they would like to achieve and Wednesday showed their projects to back them up.
They were sociology students with dreams of helping foster children or government students with ideas on districting to create more accurate representation.
They were communications students flipping through research on the effect of words from parents and leaders or English majors showing off their writing and personal websites.
It was a dizzying array of scholarship at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Senior Showcase in Building 16 (see slideshow here), where prospective employers, classmates, faculty and CHSS advisory board members heard them out.
CHSS Dean Dr. Sherman Elliott said the showcase was a culminating experience that gave students the chance to tell their story and hone their elevator pitch to prospective employers.
“You’ll want to hear what they can do for your organization,” Elliott told advisory board members in a breakfast event before the Showcase.
It didn’t take long for GCU students to show what they could do for businesses but also in being of service to society, even in a social work field with typically lower entry-level wages.
“They don’t care. They just want to help,” instructor JoAnn Dunlap said of her social work students.
Student Jessica Rumrill read a story once about a child in Mexico who was struggling because of a drug cartel and decided she wanted to dedicate her work to helping children – and helping people help themselves. Her capstone work was on the importance of educational success for young people in foster care.
“I just want to help them,” she said.
One surmises that the word “help” was a major part of the showcase.
Student Kelley Heyer saw her adopted sister with an indigenous background struggle to keep her culture alive, so she wants to help that group. And help the homeless with haircuts because she likes styling hair. And children in protective services …
There was a lot of heart on display, from psychology and justice studies students to counseling scholars and the new L.O.P.E.S. Academy group that showed how students with intellectual disabilities can be given a decent shot at the college experience. (Here's that story.)
Kahlia Shepherd saw in her time at GCU that surrounding neighborhoods need a sense of community, where neighbors know neighbors and can unite for activities and support. She researched ways to do that with a project she called “Spark 'N Connect.”
“It is rare for people to help one another. I’d like to find ways to help them do that,” said Shepherd, the senior who was set to graduate Thursday evening.
It sounded like an interesting project to Robin Hanson with the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, who was recruiting students for AmeriCorp VISTA. She said an Arizona city is looking for a person to do that same thing and wanted to connect with Shepherd.
“This is fantastic,” Hanson said of the Showcase. “This is of more value than having folks at a table. You get to see students at their best.”
Members of the accomplished GCU Speech and Debate team did presentations of their work, some of which placed in the top three in the recent national competitions for Christian colleges.
For example, Erin Kisser gave a tightly reasoned look at actor Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit and the issues it brought up regarding domestic abuse of men and false accusations.
Communications students tackled serious subjects, such as senior Christian Guerra’s study on the effects of documentaries on viewers and what moves them to action.
There were poets handing out their work in StartleBloom, the literary review written by students, and in an adjacent room, blog writers said they dreamed of freelance.
Dalton Curtis showed off his website, a crisp, colorful array of photos and words constructed on Wix. He wanted to tell how the lessons he has learned at GCU can translate into work life.
“I’m ready to take a shot at it,” he said.
Government students took a shot at plenty of charts and graphs.
Vanessa Attawia led a presentation before she heads off to Botswana for graduate school. She explored the pros and cons of at-large voting versus districting in Scottsdale, a current issue in the suburb where most City Council members don’t live in the southern part of the city. The idea was nixed in Scottsdale in February, but the students created a map that would increase representation of all voters.
Again, there were eager ears listening to the students.
Rebecca Belz of Maricopa County’s Human Resources Department was impressed while leaving her business card at the venues.
“I love GCU. I really feel like it such an incredible place,” she said. “I’m a little biased because I came from a private Christian university. But I see the high morals here and they care about academics, not partying. I’m a big fan.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
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