Behind the Scenes at SIP Symposiums

By Viola Brown

The SIP (Senior Individualized Project) often terrifies most students at Kalamazoo College; some even start brainstorming possible topics during their first year. Even though this is a major component of the K Plan, many people don’t know much about the SIP Symposiums, an oral presentation of the written SIP, and the amount of planning that goes into it.

“All of the ANSO and HDSR majors have been meeting once a week since the beginning of spring quarter to plan for the symposium…we break into different committees like food and publicity and each committee has two chairs,” said Brittany Morton, a senior Anthropology and Sociology Major who is a part of the group of 30-40 students who are planning the Hightower Symposium.

The English department has a similar planning process. Two professors, Dr. Babli Sinha and Dr. Shana Salinas, are chairs for the Hilberry Symposium along with four student panelists, two seniors and two juniors.

“I was contacted by Professor Sinha over spring break to help plan the symposium…we [student panelists] help organize food and make sure that everything has a good flow, so that the professors don’t have to do everything themselves,” said Hunter Parsons, a junior English Major and one of the student panelist.

Most SIP Symposiums are a mix of Powerpoint and poster presentations, and students can choose what feels comfortable to them. Powerpoint presentations are 30-40 minutes and then people walk around as students stand by their posters and give presentations. The Hightower Symposium has three poster sessions and the Hilberry Symposium has three students in each panel, a total of nine panelists.

“This has really prepared me for grad school and I feel confident (for) when I have to write my master thesis,” said Morton, who wrote her 75-page SIP on prisons in the United States and public policy in the 1960s.

Helping to plan a SIP Symposium is even beneficial to non-seniors.

“I don’t know what I’m going to write my SIP on yet since with English there so many options, but this is helping to guide me in certain directions,” Parsons said.

The Hightower Symposium, “The End of Learning is Gracious Living”: Social Science as Social Action, is on Saturday, May 3 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with Keynote Speaker, Shae Howell, a Detroit activist.  The Hilberry Symposium is on Friday, May 2 at 7:00 p.m. in the Olmsted Room and Keynote Speaker playwright Joe Tracz ‘04, will be speaking. The student panel portion is on Saturday May 3rd from 1 pm to 5:45 p.m. in Dewing.

Other upcoming SIP symposiums are the Social Justice SIP Symposium, which is on May 7 at 4:00 p.m. in the Light Fine Arts Building, and the Physical Education SIP Symposium, which is on May 5 at 7:00 p.m. in the Fieldhouse Hornet Suite.

Outside Researchers Want Greater Access to SIPS

By Kamalaldin M. Kamalaldin

Since 2007, the Upjohn Library Commons has utilized the College Academic and Historical Experience (CACHE) as the Kalamazoo College digital archive. The CACHE archive contains historical material relating to K as well as academic work done by K students and faculty.

“Most of what we have, actually, are student Senior Individualized Projects (SIPs),” said Stacy Nowicki, Upjohn Library Commons Director.

The physical copies of SIPs are housed with their respective academic department, but are requested by the library to be scanned and uploaded to the CACHE archive.

“Student SIPs are not available to the public,” stressed Nowicki. The SIPs are only accessible to people with a K network account, such as faculty, staff and students. People without a K network account can only see the Title, Author, Abstract, Date, and Advisor of a SIP.

“Students can see other students’ work and they can see old [SIPs] if they are trying to get ideas,” said Nowicki. The SIPs come in PDF format, and students can search for keywords or phrases within the PDF, but cannot copy/paste any information in order to deter plagiarism.

Some students think their SIPs are useless once they are done with them, expressed Nowicki. “Students don’t realize that their work, with their permission, can be of use to professionals in their fields,” she added.

K has received SIP requests from some of the most prestigious academic institutes based all around the world, including the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Scientists, Tehran University of Medical Scientists, the University of Damascus, as well as universities in Kenya, Egypt, Brazil, India, the Netherlands, Finland, Greece, and Scotland, and local academic institutions within the United States.

When a SIP is requested from an entity outside of K, Nowicki sends a formal request to the SIP’s copyright holder. “If I can find [the copyright holder] and get [his or her] permission, then I will send the SIP on. If I cannot find them, then I do not send the SIP,” said Nowicki.

Most alumni are excited and confused when they are told their SIP is being requested, according to Nowicki. “They say … I did my SIP so long ago, why is anybody even interested?”

A specific SIP dealing with fingerprint detection has been popular in terms of SIP requests due to its influential implications.

The Archives holds all Senior Individualized Projects from their introduction with the K-Plan to the present day. Only a few SIPs are not available in the CACHE archive due to critical academic, personal, or legislative reasons and purposes.

Students can choose to censor certain information in their SIPs, or hide it from public or K students all together. They can also opt to make their SIPs fully available to the public, to be fetched without request.

New Grant Opportunity for Senior Individualized Projects

The Hough Foundation will fund two SIPS over the next two years

By Mallika Mitra

The Hough Foundation has recently offered to fund two Senior Individual Projects (SIP) each year for the next two years. One grant will go to a project in the natural sciences or mathematics, and one grant will go to a project in language departments.

“It’s a pretty remarkable SIP opportunity,” said Biology Professor Jim Langeland, who is the Division Chair for Natural Science and Mathematics. Langeland is coordinating the application and review process for the natural sciences and mathematics grant.

He said applicants should “dream large and tell us what you got,” and added that there are “not a lot of parameters” around what the grant applicants can do. They are looking for innovative and imaginative projects.

Regardless of major, any rising senior intending to do a SIP in these certain departments are eligible for this grant. The recipients must agree to give a public presentation of their work in a campus-forum during the winter term of their senior year.

Applicants are being asked to prepare a statement that outlines their intended project, explains why it is an appropriate project for the applicant and his or her field of study, and discuss what makes the project imaginative. They are also asked to include an itemized budget and up to three letters of recommendation in their applications, which are due April 25, 2014.

The committee who will be choosing the recipients consists of Langeland and other department chairs. Langeland explained that they are getting the applications to students through the department chairs, and that applications should be given to the department chairs when completed. Classics Professor Elizabeth Manwell will be overseeing the application and review process for the languages grant.

Although the grants are currently only available for the next two years, and will only fund four SIPs in total, Langeland explained that if they “get some really cool projects,” the foundation might decide to continue with the award in the future.

According to the announcement for the natural sciences and mathematics SIP grant, the mission of the Hough Foundation includes “encouragement of lifelong success, and the promotion of positive contributions to society.”

“The idea is for them to follow their passion and not be too constrained by budget,” Langeland said.