Graceland University held its annual Scholars’ Showcase Wednesday, April 7, with Graceland alumnus Roger D. Launius as the keynote speaker. Launius is senior curator in the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., where he was division chair from 2003-07. Between 1990 and 2002, he served as chief historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
A graduate of Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, Launius received his PhD from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, in 1982. He served as a consultant to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003 and presented the prestigious Harmon Memorial Lecture on the history of national security space policy at the United States Air Force Academy in 2006. He is frequently consulted by the electronic and print media for his views on space issues and has been a guest commentator on National Public Radio and all the major television network news programs.
Graceland University has been holding Scholars’ Showcase annually since 2009. Every April, student scholars from a variety of academic disciplines are selected to present their work to an audience of fellow students, faculty and visitors. This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the university’s emerging scholars. Graceland University Professor of Chemistry Dr. Dan Pratt, one of the original founders of this event, commented that the original intent was to “incorporate undergraduate research back into the curriculum. This led to the formation of our Scholars’ Showcase, which highlights our students' creative, scholarly and artistic work.”
Students from all disciplines participated and offered oral presentations, ranging from student artist talks to an overview of the entrepreneurial endeavors of Graceland Enactus, who just won at regionals and will move on to national competition in May. Posters lined the walls of Resch Science and Technology Hall and The Helene Center for the Visual Arts with the creators eager to explain their research. The posters arrayed topics from psychology, chemistry, music, athletic performance, art, history, health and economics. The campus was buzzing with a tightly orchestrated agenda for presentations across all disciplines.
“Being able to take part in Scholars’ Showcase as a presenter has been a fantastic learning experience. This event is one of the best things Graceland does to promote student research,” commented Graceland University Student Government President and graduating senior Natalie Sherer.
Graceland sophomore Amy Gully expressed her appreciation for the experience to attend the event and hopes to be a presenter in the future. “Hearing Dr. Launius speak was really interesting, and knowing he is a Graceland grad was inspiring. It makes it clear that what I’m doing now as a Graceland student can lead to really cool opportunities in the future, both as a student and after graduation.”
High school students from several regional schools also attended to experience the presentations and gain knowledge of some of the research that takes place at Graceland. Alumni and other Graceland mentors were on hand to ask questions and offer feedback, as well.
“Scholars’ Showcase has grown every year since its inception in 2009,” said Professor Jeff McElroy, chair for this year’s planning committee. “The committee is already working on how to improve the event next year, including ideas to further incorporate faculty/student presentations, increase alumni participation, and add activities to drive increased high school student attendance.”