Episode 20: Festival of Excellence, Part 2

Recorded live at the annual Festival of Excellence at SUU, President Scott Wyatt and Steve Meredith talk with the Distinguished Student Project Winners. Due to the length, the podcast has been split into two parts. This is part two. [See Part 1]

Full Transcript

Steve Meredith: This is Part 2 of a special, live podcast from SUU’s Festival of Excellence featuring Distinguished Student Project Award winners. We join the interviews already in progress.

Scott Wyatt: Well, we have Nicholas Bastian and Jaden Brewer here. How are you two?

Nicholas Bastian: I’m good.

Jaden Brewer: I’m doing well.

Wyatt: Terrific. So we’ve got both of you because this is a joint project—this is a team effort. Now, some of the other projects that we’ve heard from were also team efforts I think, but the two of you are both here so you can compete for time on the mics.

Bastian: [Laughs] OK.

Wyatt: Why don’t you introduce this topic for us?

Bastian: So, this topic, it’s called, “Classifying Schur Rings over the Integers.” This is a math topic, it fits into the field of abstract algebra. It’s kind of and extension to work that our mentor, Professor Misseldine has done. He did his dissertation on Schur rings, and so we thought this would be a good topic as he would have knowledge to provide us to help us better understand what we were doing.

Wyatt: So for those of the uninitiated in math, what is a Schur ring?

Meredith: Because we know, but we want everybody else to know. [All laugh]

Wyatt: We all know, but for those that don’t.

Meredith: Just in case there are those that are listening that are unfamiliar. [Laughter]

Brewer: That’s a great question. So, I might need some pen and paper and a presentation to actually explain this to people. [Laughs]

Wyatt: Well, this is a podcast, so…[Audience laughs]

Brewer: Yeah, that’s the problem. [Laughs] So you have a partition and you have elements inside of this and they have to satisfy three axioms, I guess you could call them. One, the identity is in this alone. Two, if you have an element then it’s like inverse type thing is in it too. And third, it is closed under multiplication. That’s kind of a simple way to explain it.

Meredith: I got it, I think I have it. [Audience laughs]

Wyatt: Yeah, I think I’ve got it too. [More laughter]

Brewer: Great, great.

Wyatt: You didn’t even need a piece of paper and a pencil.

Brewer: No. [Laughs]

Wyatt: So why don’t you tell us what your project was? Either one of you.

Bastian: So, our project was we were looking at—first, we extended what a Schur ring was. It was originally defined “when you have a finite set.” And so we said, “Well, what happens if you have an infinite set?” And since no work had been done on that, we had to build up some of the ground work for what we already knew, which were for finite Schur rings. And so our thought was, “Well, we’ll do that,” and then we wanted to classify the Schur rings over the integers. There was a classification in the 1990s over all finite groups that looked like the integers—acted like them—so we thought, “Well let’s try to extend this.” And so that was what our research was is we extended that to prove what the Schur rings look like over the integers.

Wyatt: OK. And what was the most surprising thing?

Brewer: Umm, freshman exponentiation. So that is like the freshman dream—when you have a polynomial and it’s like “(x+1)2” you can just distribute the squared to the things inside of the parentheses, and that really helped us with this research.

Wyatt: That’s awesome. For some reason, it seems to be that math is easier to talk about with a piece of paper and a pencil.

Brewer: Maybe a little. [Laughs]

Wyatt: Well, why don’t you tell us what your majors are [and] where you’re headed? Nicholas, what’s your major?

Bastian: So, I’m a pure math major, and I plan on going to graduate school to get a masters and a Ph.D. 

Wyatt: And then what do you want to do with that?

Bastian: I want to become a professor of mathematics and continue research.

Wyatt: Fantastic. And Jaden?

Brewer: I am also a pure math major. I am a senior and I also want to go to grad school and do research.

Wyatt: So the pure math majors, that’s kind of like the aesthetics of math? It’s just beautiful thing.

Brewer: Yeah.

Bastian: Right.

Wyatt: It’s kind of like your version of art.

Bastian: I think of it kind of like a game—that I’m just playing a game trying to figure out a puzzle kind of.

Wyatt: Yeah. Enjoying math for the sake of math.

Bastian: Yeah.

Wyatt: And you just keep doing it and then teaching others.

Bastian: Yeah.

Wyatt: OK. Tell us what you would suggest to those that say they struggle with math. There are none in this room. [All laugh] But there are people in this room that have friends…so what would your advice be? Because this is one of those—math—is interestingly enough one of those areas that is one of the biggest barriers for students graduating because they’re scared of taking a math class.

Meredith: Yeah, we actually talk about it all the time in Cabinet meeting and other places.

Wyatt: Yeah. Since you’re here, this is our chance to say, “What would you tell us?”

Bastian: One recommendation I have is to talk to the faculty that are teaching the class. They’re all very knowledgeable about the subject and they can help you. Turning to the faculty is a great way to understand what you’re doing in math because both me and Jaden are taking fairly high level math classes and we still have to talk to our professor because math is a pretty challenging subject, no matter if you’ve been doing it for years or if you are just entering in at the 1000 level classes. And so getting experience from…hearing the experience of your professors who know more, they can help you understand it better.

Wyatt: So, I would take from what you just said that math is challenging for everyone, it’s just that we’re all on a different level.

Bastian: Yes.

Wyatt: And so the general education math requirement might be really difficult for a student in the same way that these really hard math classes are difficult for you?

Bastian: Yes.

Wyatt: So nobody should be scared of this, we should just go after it.

Bastian: Yeah, that would be what I would suggest.

Wyatt: Does that sound right?

Brewer: Yeah.

Wyatt: OK. Alright, thank you so very much and good luck with your continued progress toward Ph.D.’s in math.

Bastian: Thank you.

Brewer: Thank you.

Wyatt: OK, Damon. How are you today?

Damon Swain: I’m great, thank you.

Wyatt: Terrific! So, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself? Give us a little life sketching.

Swain: My name is Damon Swain. I grew up in northern Utah and I’m an anthropology major and I did my research on the Marshallese immigrant communities in Salt Lake.

Wyatt: Very fun. And how did you go about this?

Swain: Umm…how I really did it, I just reached out to—on Facebook—to a few Marshallese people that I knew. And once you know…it’s kind of nice, a lot of people in the Pacific islands, once you know one person from a certain place, you know everyone else and it’s kind of like one big family. And so I was able to find a few people and I just started interviewing them and asking them questions on how they cope with their process of coming to the United States and also how do they cope with the effects of climate change in their homes.

Wyatt: So when you talk about Marshallese, those are people from the Marshall Islands, right?

Swain: Indeed.

Wyatt: And climate change—how is climate change affecting them?

Swain: So those who don’t know about the Marshall Islands, they’re in the North Pacific in the Micronesian area and there are about 32 or 33 atolls and they have an average height of six feet above sea level. So with rising sea levels, they will be some of the first nations to disappear.

Wyatt: Six feet above sea level. That’s the highest point?

Swain: That’s the highest point, no mountains. And so the majority, like on the roads, you can see both sides of the ocean the majority of the time.

Wyatt: So, you don’t know this about me, but I have a goal to get to the tallest point of all the states and many countries. I should go to the Marshall Islands, because I could be successful there. [Audience laughs]

Meredith: I believe I could do that one. [All laugh]

Swain: You really should.

Wyatt:…Without supplemental oxygen.

Swain: It would just be a simple bridge, so…

Wyatt: Well, so what are they seeing in the Marshall Islands with global warming, climate change?

Swain: I’m sorry, what was the question?

Wyatt: So what are they seeing with climate change?

Swain: They’re seeing that, with a lot of the rising…or, the bigger tides that come in, they call them King Tides, and it’s causing flooding and it’s having salt water go into the soil and so most likely by 2030, the islands themselves probably won’t disappear, but the people will have to move because it will be uninhabitable.

Wyatt: You won’t be able to grow crops because of the salt in the soils.

Swain: Nope, and also, there might be more droughts. They’re having an increase of droughts and different problems with the climate. 

Wyatt: What are the Marshallese in Utah telling you about their feelings or their experiences? How is this having an effect on them?

Swain: It’s really hard. Part of my research [was] I really wanted to capture that and so I’ve kind of created a short film. I interviewed these people and I also filmed the interviews because I wanted to provide a platform for them. And it is really hard. It’s a very sad thing to know that your home might disappear and that your children won’t be able to go to that home or ever visit it.

Wyatt: Yeah, and everybody has to relocate.

Swain: Yeah.

Wyatt: 2030 is the expectation?

Swain: Yep.

Wyatt: What is the biggest surprise for you in your research?

Swain: The biggest surprise to me is the interesting thing about the Marshall Islands is we as a nation, the United States of America, have an interesting tie with the Marshallese people and the Marshall Islands. We did a lot of nuclear testing there during the Cold War and because of that, they created a Compact of Free Association. And although the Marshall Islands are their own country, they can come and go freely to the U.S. The surprising thing I found out is that contract will actually be over by 2023 or there is also talk of it ending in 2020, and with the current way that we…with immigrants, we don’t know if we will send them back or what will happen to the people here. And so that was very surprising.

Wyatt: So it seems to me like this project has had a pretty good impact on you.

Swain: It has. I had already been to the Marshall Islands and knew the love of the people but it kind of spurred it into a bigger project. I would like to continue to raise awareness for this people and also hopefully contact more government leaders and let them know. It is a small population, but we are all made up of smaller populations, so it is important.

Wyatt: So we’re in a room with a lot of students here. What would be your advice about international travel? Study abroad?

Swain: I think it would be great. I would advise everyone to do international travel. To travel internationally, to study abroad, because it opens our scope up a bit. As a nation, I think we have sometimes the mistake of thinking we’re the only ones in the world. And we are a lot bigger world than we think. There are people all over and they have problems just like us. And as you do you, I think in a way, travel promotes peace because you understand that there are more people like you, they may just speak a different language and they may have a different culture than yours.

Wyatt: This issue of climate change is a more important issue to you now that you’ve associated it with people that are seriously affected by it.

Swain: Yes.

Wyatt: Rather than people that live at about 6,000 feet, which is where we’re at today.

Swain: Yeah, that’s true. It’s hard to relate in a way.

Wyatt: Well, thank you very much.

Swain: Yeah, of course! Thank you for having me.

Wyatt: Good luck with your continued studies.

Swain: Thank you.

Wyatt: Alright. OK, Megan. How are you?

Megan Abel: I’m good, how are you?

Wyatt: Terrific, thanks. So Megan Able, you are a Science Matters presenter?

Abel: Yes, that’s correct.

Wyatt: So, why don’t you…what’s your major?

Abel: I am a junior biology major and an honors student.

Wyatt: OK. And what is your plan with biology?

Abel: My plan is to go into animal husbandry, which basically is zoo keeping.

Wyatt: Oh, very nice. So how did you get interesting in zoo keeping?

Abel: So there’s a facility up in the Salt Lake Valley, it’s called the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, and in high school I did a couple of job shadows there for an internship class for a CTE credit, and I loved the people and I loved the atmosphere so I started working there and I started volunteering with one of their animal teams, it’s called the Endotherm Team, which just refers—at this facility—to mammals and birds. And I started doing that and I was still at a point in my like where I was like, “I want to do something with science, but I’m not sure what.” And I fell in love with that.

Wyatt: Very fun. So tell us why science matters? I think that’s the title of your topic, right?

Abel: Yes. So Science Matters is my honors capstone project—part of graduating with honors here at the university—and it’s a thesis paper that’s kind of divided into three subsections about why science matters. The first one is really about how we can increase the diversity and focusing on particular groups in science, like why are women important in science, why it’s important to teach science class earlier in education. The second part of the thesis is talking about how the controversy…how big the controversy is surrounding science right now and scientific topics. And the third part is how science and the scientific community interacts with the public that is not as actively engaged in science and how we can better communicate between the two.

Wyatt: And so what is your biggest takeaway?

Abel: My biggest takeaway from this actually has nothing to do with the paper itself. It was how much I learned about me as a student and as a researcher and a writer. One of the biggest things was getting the feedback back and having to let go of my creation a little bit and be open to the different ways that it could…the different directions that it could take.

Wyatt: So you had to let go?

Abel: Yes, a lot. [Laughs]

Wyatt: Which means what exactly?

Abel: It means I had this very straight and narrow idea of what I wanted it to be and I kind of wrote that up and I sent the first draft off and I got my feedback and some of the things were, “I don’t know that this is necessarily necessary for this paper.” And I was like, “But that’s one of my favorite parts!” [All laugh] But my editors were completely right, it was not…it was something that I was passionate about, but it didn’t move the paper along necessarily. And so I had to let go of some of the things that I really liked about it but that weren’t necessarily helpful.

Wyatt: So, Steve, this is really an interesting statement that we’re hearing about how the research itself, which you studied, wasn’t as important as what you learned about yourself.

Meredith: Yeah, especially in my line of work, but I think anybody that does any sort of research or creative activity you become so creatively close to that thing that it does become very hard to let go.

Abel: Absolutely.

Meredith: And to take even the most constructive criticism about “your baby” is very difficult. Yeah, it is.

Wyatt: I’m very good with criticism, just don’t test me. [All laugh]

Abel: Noted.

Wyatt: We all love criticism in theory, right?

Abel: Oh, yes.

Wyatt: But in practice, it’s not quite so simple.

Abel: Yeah, much harder in practice.

Meredith: I have actually found one of the biggest lies in the world to be, “I am my own worst critic.” I have had way worse critics of myself than me. [All laugh] And so yeah. Being in that creative field, you learn that, in fact, you are not your worst critic probably. There are lots of people that are willing to deconstruct what you’ve done, and for the most part, if they’re good editors, if they know what they’re doing, it turns out better, as is what you discovered I think.

Abel: Yes, absolutely.

Wyatt: Well thank you so very much.

Abel: Thank you.

Wyatt: Science matters, and what we’ve learned is that studying science has helped us understand more that you matter, or that you understand you better. That’s fair, right?

Abel: Yes, absolutely. I would agree with that.

Wyatt: You know, in some ways that might be the most important part of an education is to really get an understanding of us and people around us. Thank you so much.

Abel: Thank you.

Wyatt: Michael.

Michael Ornstead: Hello.

Wyatt: Welcome, Michael. So why don’t you tell us a couple sentences about you.

Ornstead: Well I’m Michael Ornstead, I’ve been born and raised in Cedar City, Utah, and right now I’m actually a nursing major. And I’ve kind of jumped around a little bit, kind of like the keynote speaker today, I’ve found myself interesting in a lot of subjects here at SUU. I’ve studied a little bit of exercise science, nutrition, chemistry, biology, and I like nursing a lot too and I’ve just found myself very interested in science and so here I am.

Wyatt: You just keep getting broader and broader? As the world changes, the more broad our knowledge is, the better off we are. So it may have been by design, it may have been by just wandering. [Laughs]

Ornstead: Maybe a little bit of both. [Laughs]

Wyatt: So tell us a little bit about your research project that you presented today.

Ornstead: So right now, my research project is Stripping Supported Lipid Bilayers with Microfluidic Devices.

Wyatt: I got that, Steve, didn’t you?

Meredith: Yeah. Absolutely. [All laugh] I don’t know what any of those things mean.

Ornstead: Exactly. And one of my main goals when I present this project is to help the general public understand what we’re trying to do with it. So essentially, there are a lot of researchers right now trying to study different membrane proteins, and so imagine that a supported lipid bilayer is just this flat later of lipids, and researchers have proteins embedded in this lipid bilayer and they can separate these proteins based on their charge. But when this bilayer is flat, the glass underneath the bilayer that’s supporting it actually acts as a physical barrier and it’s difficult for these researchers to study how these proteins actually work. And so what our research aims to do is to make a device that can strip off this flat layer of lipids into more of a spherical shape into what’s called a lipid vesical. And if it’s in that vesicular shape, the glass is no longer a physical barrier and the researchers can study the protein and actually how it works without the glass interfering.

Wyatt: That’s cool.

Ornstead: Yeah. [Laughs]

Wyatt: That’s got to be really interesting.

Ornstead: It is really interesting.

Wyatt: Where is this going to take you? This research project…how is this going to inform the rest of your career?

Ornstead: So the rest of my career…I feel like just understanding the scientific process—knowing how to ask good questions and find out for yourself how to answer them—is a really important skill.

Wyatt: You won’t just be a technician, you’ll understand a lot of the information behind what you’re doing.

Ornstead: Correct.

Wyatt: If I can use the word “technician” as a nurse. That’s fantastic. And I hope that someday when I’m laid out in an emergency room, that you’re really nice to me. If that’s where you end up. [All laugh]

Ornstead: Oh, of course.

Wyatt: Well, so what is the most interesting piece of this for you? What came out of this that might have been a surprise?

Ornstead: Honestly, the most surprising thing for me—because I do love this project—but I’m surprised how hard research can be. Because we make these devices to strip these lipids, and they work about 20% of the time. And so that involves a lot of failure, trying to learn from previous mistakes with the other devices, and learn how to improve them…yeah, I’m just surprised how much these researchers have to get back up after their project doesn’t work and just keep trying and trying and trying until they can figure something out.

Wyatt: This process of learning, adding knowledge, is really challenging isn’t it? It’s tough work.

Ornstead: Oh yeah. But it’s also very rewarding.

Wyatt: Well, OK. Thank you so very much. Thanks for being with us today and for your project, Michael.

Ornstead: Thank you, President Wyatt.

Wyatt: Ashlyn Judd.

Ashlyn Judd: Hi.

Wyatt: Welcome to the table.

Judd: Thank you.

Wyatt: So, Ashlyn, you’re majoring in what?

Judd: I’m an interdisciplinary studies major.

Wyatt: That means that you have multiple majors that you’ve blended together?

Judd: Yeah. It basically means that I got to design my own degree.

Wyatt: Very cool. Why don’t you tell us about your project?

Judd: So with that custom degree—when I first created it at least—I hoped to pursue a Master’s in Art Therapy, but I really didn’t want to go into that without knowing that it would be something that would be effective for the people that I would be working with. So I approached my mentor, Dr. Grimes, with wanting to study art therapy. So we came up with a project to analyze a relationship between aggressive tendencies in children and their visual arts participation to kind of indirectly test the theory behind art as therapy.

Wyatt: So, what did you find out?

Judd: So we actually found that there was not significant correlation between art involvement in children and their aggressive tendencies. Which at first was heart breaking, but there are actually a lot of ways that we could go with further, future research, and also maybe indicative change between art as recreation and art as therapy. So there may not be as much truth, for example, in the statements people make like, “Oh, coloring really calms me down” or things like that. There might be a little more to it than that.

Wyatt: These kinds of things we just keep studying and studying and studying until we find something that’s really helpful.

Judd: That’s right.

Meredith: The children you studied, were they recognized as being particularly aggressive? Or were they just at standard group of children and how did you measure them exactly?

Judd: Good question. So, the study was actually an online survey that we conducted to parents. We tried to make the survey as minimally invasive as possible and not stress out parents or children. So it’s just to a general population. We used SUU’s Sona System as well as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, so that it could be open nationally, and we had148 participants, but no, they were not clinically aggressive and we don’t know really what may have been going on as far as their mental health.

Wyatt: So there was a lot of other factors that could be playing into it?

Judd: Definitely.

Wyatt: So maybe your heart shouldn’t be totally broken.

Judd: [Laughs]

Wyatt: So, what do you take from this? What did you learn the most?

Judd: This project really influenced my future career path. I’ve really become converted to being an evidence-based therapist, and that has caused me to take more of a behavioral approach and also a brain-based approach. So I’m now looking at getting a Master’s in Counseling and then a post-master’s certificate in neuro-counseling.

Wyatt: Wow, that’s really interesting. So I was recently in a school in South Korea for North Korean students and we were in the art room. And the room was filled with art that they had drawn or colored or created in some way or another to try to process their experience of being in North Korea and escaping from North Korea. And just looking at all of the pieces of art were enough to cause me to have emotional reactions to this, because I could see what they were experiencing—what they were trying to process—the regime that they had escaped and what it meant to them and their family and everything else. Do you think those kinds…they clearly devoted a lot of time to trying to process their thinking through art. Do you think that that is helpful? Or do you think that it’s—based on your research—what would you say we need to continue studying? Or what would you add to this?

Judd: So, before I designed this survey, I conducted a literature review for studying the traditional and current treatment for aggression, as well as the theory behind art therapy, and the most promising theory behind art therapy is its usefulness with children who have been through trauma, because of the difficulty of processing that verbally. So I definitely think that that should be looked into in the future. And for me personally, I want to continue doing research. I haven’t ruled out art therapy for myself, I just want to make sure I have other tools in place so that I can be as effective as I can as a people helper.

Wyatt: OK, well sometime we’ll have to talk about the art I saw in South Korea.

Judd: That would be awesome.

Wyatt: Well thank you so much for participating today.

Judd: Thanks for having me.

Wyatt: Katelyn.

Katelyn Revels: Hello.

Wyatt: How are you?

Katelyn: Good, thanks. How are you?

Wyatt: Terrific.  So, why don’t you introduce yourself? 

Revels: I’m Katelyn Revels, and I am a biology major with minors in chemistry and criminal justice. I’m also a senior, so graduating soon. Can you tell that I’m excited? [Laughs]

Wyatt: [Laughs] You shouldn’t be smiling that big.

Revels: I’m very excited.

Wyatt: We’ll miss you.

Revels: Well, I’ll miss SUU as well, but I’m also very excited. [Laughs]

Wyatt: Well we’re mostly excited for you.

Revels: OK, good.

Wyatt: So, tell us what you studied?

Revels: So my project is a conservation genetic study on black bear population that is based in New Hampshire. It’s kind of an extension of a project that has already been going on. One of the people that started it, his name is Ben Kilham, he has been doing this study on the black bears, but it’s been mostly observational, so kind of like looking at their behaviors and stuff like that. And so he wanted to do a more genetic study of it, which is where I came in. And so I started out, I got bear hair, that’s what I worked with—so I didn’t actually get to do anything with the bears—but I got their bear hair and I extracted the DNA from all of them and then ran a couple of other reactions I guess, it’s call PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, and now I am in the analyzing data phase of my project.

Wyatt: What are you discovering?

Revels: As of right now, the stuff that we’ve actually been able to analyze, we looked at the male population—the adult male population and then the female adults and then them as a whole—and a couple of the things that we are looking at is that their inbreeding coefficient, so to see how inbred the population is because you want your population to be not inbred because when they are inbred, it can lead to genetic diseases, and we don’t want that in populations. We found that when you look at both the female and the males together, that we actually have a fairly low inbreeding coefficient. There is still a number, so that means that there is still some inbreeding going on, but it’s fairly low so it’s not too worrisome. And then another thing we are looking at is there heterozygosity. So, at each loci, which is basically just a point on a chromosome that we are looking at, we wanted to see if they are heterozygote, meaning that they have two alleles numbers instead of just one. When you have two alleles, you are going to be more diverse, and then you’re going to be able to pass on more diversity into your offspring, and then that’s also an indication of a healthy population. And so far what we’ve seen is that they are fairly diverse and that they have low inbreeding and also that they are not very related, at least within the males, which is also a good thing.

Wyatt: Yeah, so you found mostly really good news?

Revels: So far, yes. We’ve found good things. We still have…it’s still an ongoing project, and so we still have quite a bit of analyzing and stuff to do, so I guess there’s a possibility that we could find bad news, but for the most part so far it’s been good.

Wyatt: So this experience for you, what has it done?

Revels: It’s actually done a lot. It was my EDGE project, it’s gotten me opportunity in working in a lab setting, which for me is awesome and hopefully will give me an edge when I’m looking for a job, it has also taught me loads and loads of patience that I didn’t really have before. Overall, I feel like I’m kind of “the bear girl” on campus. People know me because, “Oh, I’m doing the bear project.” So I don’t know…

Wyatt: Has it changed your view of bears?

Revels: I feel like I like bears more. I see stuff about bears and I kind of have a relationship and I want to know more about it. If I see it on Facebook, I want to read it and I want to know more about it. So I think that that’s good.

Meredith: I would just like to say “bear hair” a lot. I don’t know why that’s so appealing to me. [All laugh]

Revels: You would think bear hair is cool, but it’s really actually the worst. [Audience laughs]

Meredith: I’m sure that’s right.

Wyatt: Yeah, but it sounds like it belongs in a poem.

Revels: Yeah, because it rhymes a little bit.

Wyatt: Maybe a bad poem, but a poem nonetheless. Steve, this is…isn’t this interesting? All these projects, there is such a wide range.

Meredith: Remarkable diversity, yeah. I’m amazed.

Wyatt: And all we’ve heard today—we’ve got one more coming—but we’ve just been talking about 14…13 or 14 out of 400.

Revels: Yeah.

Wyatt: Well thank you so very much.

Revels: Thank you.

Wyatt: The next time I see a bear, I’m going to think “bear hair.”

Revels: There you go, that’s good.

Wyatt: And I’m going to think of you and your research.

Revels: OK.

Wyatt: Pouring over DNA from bear hair.

Revels: Yes. You would not believe how hard it is to get bear hair into tubes. It’s very difficult. [All laugh]

Wyatt: I believe you.

Revels: It’s very difficult. [Laughs]

Wyatt: Thank you so much.

Revels: Thank you.

Wyatt: Thanks Katelyn. Steve, I think we’re down to our last student here today.

Meredith: That’s right.

Wyatt: Seth York, welcome.

Seth York. Yep.

Wyatt: What’s your major? What are you studying?

York: So I am getting my Master’s in Public Administration, and this is my last semester. I have study abroad in June, and then I’m done.

Wyatt: Are you going on the MPA study abroad to Europe?

York: Yep. Yep, so I’m pretty excited.

Wyatt: Every year it’s a fun…so what are your career goals after you complete?

York: So after doing my research, I’ve been debating on getting a Ph.D. in Education. My end goal is to be a LGBT director on campus for a university.

Wyatt: Good luck. Fantastic, what an interesting thing. And then your research [is] related to that same topic?

York: I did a assessment on campus with the queer community. And with that, it was a lot, a lot of research and once I got into it, I was like, “I don’t know if I can finish this.” But luckily, my teacher kind of pushed me through. But yeah, I was able to just create a whole assessment of where SUU is standing, where they should be going and kind of like what’s next for SUU to do.

Wyatt: So this is a question we could have asked everybody, but you brought this up, so how much time did this project take you?

York: Oh my gosh. I told someone the other day I think maybe 200 or 300 hours easily outside of class.

Meredith: Wow.

York: The last probably five weeks I’ve spent editing my research paper to a T because I want to get that published now and so yeah, it’s been a lot of hard work, so it’s kind of nice that this day is coming and it will be over.

Wyatt: This is kind of an extra project. This isn’t really a required project for you to graduate.

York: No. And when I told my teacher I wanted to do this, she was like, “Are you sure? You really want to take on all that work?” And I was like, “Yeah, I really want to do this.” And she was like, “Alright.” And I went with her to China over study abroad and she kind of knows how I work and she was like, “You know what? Just take the reins on it. I know you’ll finish by the end of the semester.” And I did. And it was actually…my birthday was the end of the semester last semester, so I was typing on my birthday right before midnight just trying to make sure this got in so I could get an “A.”

Wyatt: It was your birthday gift to yourself.

York: Yeah. It was a lot of fun. [All laugh]

Wyatt: So, what is your largest takeaway? 

York: My largest takeaway from this was I was surprised about kind of the resources that we have. Considering the LGBT Support Group, Pride and Equality Club, Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and when I asked people about these services, there was 10% that didn’t even know it existed. And there was about another 60% that just didn’t even use them. And so I was kind of like, “Huh. So we have all of these resources, but people don’t either use them all the time or they use them sparingly.” I think there was 6% of students and faculty said they used it regularly, and I was like, “That number needs to jump up a few more. And I think that’s kind of a focus that we can put on for next year and the year after, just kind of put pressure on people like, “Hey, here are some resources you can use, this is available for you.” But yeah, when I came to SUU, I actually came out. It was like 2009…that was a long time ago when I got here. But I’ve seen the progression of the resources available and so it’s kind of nice that they’re there, and I’ve been able to take advantage of them. And so it’s sad that they’re here and some people aren’t even using them. 

Wyatt: This is really an interesting project for you as you seek to become an advocate professionally to have this kind of a basis before you start your career to help you understand that it’s one thing to have services, it’s another thing to have people know about them.

York: Right.

Wyatt: And have the services offered in a way that everybody takes advantage of them.

York: Right. And I will say the one service everyone did know about was Counseling and Psychological Services, and I thought that was amazing because they helped me out through my coming out process and I was like…I just thought that was an awesome checkmark and I was like, “That’s really cool.” I was just really happy that one everyone knew about.

Wyatt: Thank you very much, I appreciate your time. Any last words? You’re the last presenter here.

York: I will say, I think this research should go again and the one thing I would try to do is try and get it on Portal. That was something I wanted to do but I wasn’t able to, and I think that would give you more valid results of an actual number of the LGBT community on campus. And I think that would be something…I think it’s something you could keep on doing and keep on doing and measuring where SUU is at and try and improve the next time.

Wyatt: Thank you very much.

York: Yeah, you’re welcome. Thank you.

Meredith: Thanks, Seth.

Wyatt: Well, Steve, I think that’s our list.

Meredith: That is.

Wyatt: And this is our sixth year for the Festival of Excellence. It’s the day that we don’t have any classes and those of us in administration or faculty or students wander around and are taught all day long by students.

Meredith: Very cool.

Wyatt: Yeah, it has been one of my favorite days this semester.

Meredith: You’ve been listening to Solutions for Higher Education, a podcast featuring President Scott L Wyatt of Southern Utah University. This has been Part 2 of a special, live podcast from SUU’s Festival of Excellence, featuring the Distinguished Student Project Award winners of the award. We’ll be back with a new podcast next week. Thanks so much for listening, bye bye.