Today’s featured blogger is Rachel McNeil, ’18 – an Organizing Theme major (Digital and Visual Media Literacy) from Cortland, NY. Learn more about Jessica and her major here.

Union’s spring schedule is full of traditions and annual events, from Springfest to Lobsterfest, to Alumni weekend, but my all-time favorite after four years here, is Steinmetz Day.

The 28th annual Steinmetz Symposium took place on Friday, May 11, 2018.  The symposium marks the only official day at Union where classes are cancelled, and the campus is transformed into a space for research presentations, performances, and gallery receptions.

Steinmetz holds a very special place in my heart.  When I was a first-year, I spent my first Steinmetz day walking around campus on my own with the presentation schedule in hand, enjoying the changed atmosphere.  Students dress up and often invite their parents, grandparents, advisors, and friends to their presentations. Faculty, staff, peers, and relatives all come out to support students and learn about what the academic scene of Union has been up to in the past year.  The air feels charged with excitement and anticipation.

I noticed in my schedule that there would be a “film festival” in the late afternoon.  At the time, I was in my first film class at Union: Writing about Film with Prof. Michelle Chilcoat, and was considering pursuing a film studies minor.  I was still really uncertain about what I would end up declaring for a major. I decided to go to the festival. It was inspiring, and the two hours felt like two minutes.  Students presented short films they had made in film production classes, as well as films made as part of senior theses. After the films were over, questions answered, and the room began to disperse, I chatted with Prof. Chilcoat, who introduced me to the other film studies faculty, including Prof. Jim de Seve, who I later took three classes with as he became a mentor and huge support toward my academic pursuits.

Fast forward to a year later at my next Steinmetz Day:  I had taken two classes with Jim, producing twelve short films of my own, Michelle had become my advisor, encouraging me to create, apply for, and declare an Organizing Theme Major in Digital Media (computer science, film studies, and digital art).  As a sophomore, I presented one of my favorite films I had contributed to, “Sherwood Mystic Mercenary”. It was nerve wracking, but our film was well-received, and a wonderful way to debut my work to the campus.

This year, as a senior approaching graduation in June, I presented my work from a two-term independent study in psychology that eventually inspired my senior thesis.  It was an amazing experience. Terrifying, yes, but amazing. I presented late in the day as part of the “Relationships” session, a psychology session featuring work on relationships.  My project is titled “Evaluating Film Relationships: The Suffocation Model in Film,” and there were two other presenters. The room was full of people supporting us. My parents and brother came all the way from Cortland to listen to my 15 minute presentation, members of my sorority came out to support us, several psychology professors represented the department, including my adviser, Prof. Morton, and numerous other members of the campus community were there.  It was a wonderful way to wrap up and share a project I’ve been dedicated to for nearly two years.

If I had to give advice to a first-year who is still academically undecided, I would say take Steinmetz Day by storm! Go to presentations that interest you!  Hearing about or seeing someone’s passions through a presentation, film, or performance is incredibly special and inspiring. There’s just something about this day that makes me feel part of something bigger, not just in the world of research or creative works.  Steinmetz Day reminds me that I’m surrounded by a community of support, and that’s an incredible feeling.