Pushing Boundaries

Seniors culminate their Dana Scholars honors program with presentations highlighting their interdisciplinary research.

By: Kristine Yahna Todaro  Tuesday, May 31, 2022 11:36 AM

News Image
Some of the seniors who presented their year-long research projects at the 2022 Dana Forum, along with Dana Scholars Program Director Mohsin Hashim (center) and Dana Forum Director Ioanna Chatzidimitriou (right).

The effects of the pandemic on emergency care worker burnout. The inequity in performance art spaces as revealed by COVID-19. The disparate impact of the pandemic on American women.

Last month, 25 seniors presented on these and other topical issues at the 2022 Dana Forum as the culmination of year-long, collaborative research projects. The forum took place over two evenings, April 20 and 21, with members of the College community in attendance. 

During the course of their four years on campus, members of Muhlenberg’s Dana Scholars honors program participate in shared seminars, independent research projects and unique internship experiences. They declare majors in fields across the academic spectrum. 

As seniors, Dana Scholars engage in interdisciplinary research projects on issues of public concern and interest, paired with a faculty mentor. They then present the work they have been doing at the annual spring forum.

This year’s research projects were tied to the College’s Center for Ethics theme, Pandemic: Response, Resilience, Reflection.

Each team is intentionally composed of three or four students from different majors, says Associate Professor of French and Dana Forum Director Ioanna Chatzidimitriou, which means they examine a problem from multiple perspectives and bring a variety of strengths to the task. 

“Doing research in a field that isn’t their own and learning to then effectively communicate this sophisticated information brings respect and appreciation for their fellow students,” says Chatzidimitriou. “It also brings humility. As confident as seniors are about their own field of study, they realize how essential other perspectives are when researching and problem-solving complex issues.” 

Three students, for example, who presented “Women and Disease: An American Experience” at the forum are majoring in biology, English and theatre and dance, respectively. A team of three who spoke about the difficulties of implementing vaccine mandates in performing arts venues included students majoring in mathematics and psychology, biology and theatre and dance. Four other students, who explored the impact of Facebook on scientific communication during the pandemic, are in the fields of media and communication, biology and neuroscience.

“The Danas are agents who will push the boundaries of justice,” says Professor of Political Science Mohsin Hashim, director of the Dana Scholars Program. “The work they do here makes them better thinkers, builds academic and intellectual curiosity and encourages meaningful civic engagement. When these students leave Muhlenberg, they embody the best and brightest we can offer to the world.”

Learn more: PDF - 2022 Dana Forum Program