UW-Richland students showcase research & creativity at Fall Undergraduate Symposium

By UW-Richland

(Richland Center, Wis.) - A tradition continued this month when the annual Fall Undergraduate Research & Creativity Symposium took place on the University of Wisconsin-Richland campus.  Dr. Aharon Zorea, professor of history, explained that this is the eighth year the campus has held the event - where seniors are required to offer a community presentation on their capstone research – a year-long, original project related to their educational emphasis.   

Jacob McCluskey of Hillpoint is a senior enrolled full-time in the Bachelor of Applied Arts & Sciences (BAAS) degree program with an emphasis in communications, and has attended both the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County and UW-Richland campuses.  He presented on a pair of topics at the symposium.  The first, entitled “Historic Preservation of Drea's Bar, now McCluskey Brothers Organic Farms,” examined the history and contents of the local tavern on County Highway G between Plain and Hill Point in Sauk County.  Owned and operated by Lawrence “Larry” Drea for 63 years, before his passing in 2010, Drea’s Bar was known as a community hot spot for social gatherings.  McCluskey classified Drea as a “very personable guy who was a very good story teller, something hereditary in the Irish gene.”  The building that formerly housed Drea’s Bar has been converted to McCluskey Brothers Organic Farms.  A portion of the facility is a USDA approved cheese packing plant, while another area now serves as a bed and breakfast.  Jacob McCluskey also serves as the sound technician for the Celtic Concert Series, working to incorporate current Irish bands to carry on the heritage Drea’s Bar once proudly showcased.  He said preserving the former Drea’s Bar building is important because it is historical preservation – “preserving a memory that a lot of people cherish in that community.”

McCluskey’s second presentation at the symposium was on the “Musical Pedagogy at Jack Young Middle School.”  Located in Baraboo, McCluskey was invited to participate in the school’s Music Week in May 2016 to assist students in the art of music, from composition to performance.  He said that during the week they tried to explain that “taking the sonic landscape of sound and music, and making art with it, is beneficial to your physical and emotional health.”  He added, “We got to develop different genres of music from country to hip-hop to build upon the self-expression in the students.”  Over 90 students participated in Music Week and McCluskey and his fellow teachers had to develop lesson plans and talk about different topics each day in both auditorium and classroom presentations.  They also utilized the computer programs Soundscape, Soundtrap, and GarageBand to help lead the students.  Jacob said, “Today, students in Wisconsin and throughout the U.S. lack the valuable resources, education, and inspiration to help shape the young minds of tomorrow, and this project incorporated the use of writing lyrical-poetic content, thinking about simple math skills like fractions and counting, and understanding fundamental music theory components in composing songs.”

Emily Zorea of Richland Center is a senior in UW-Richland’s BAAS degree program with a concentration in communications.  Her senior capstone project is entitled “Richland County as a Changing & Diverse Community: The Necessity of a Spanish-Speaking Needs Assessment for our Community and Brewer Public Library.”  Zorea, who serves as the Children’s Librarian at the Brewer Public Library, explained that over the past 10 years Richland Center has seen a great increase in Spanish-speaking residents.  As an ambassador for the library, she began an original research project to meet, interview, and survey Spanish-speaking families in our Richland County area.  She personally interviewed Hispanic families regarding the needs they seek from the library.  She also recorded oral histories from those who were often first generation immigrants to the U.S., who have settled in Richland County.  Among the initial leg work for her project, Zorea wanted to identify the community gatekeepers – the people who everyone knows and trusts – within the Spanish-speaking community. 

She also looked at what other libraries have done in the area of similar needs assessments and learned that print-based surveys were much less successful in the Hispanic community compared to individual, verbal surveys that are done face-to-face.  Zorea said, “I needed to gather information about how our library can better serve this population, but I decided to combine two goals.  I needed to compile information to learn more about this demographic, and I also needed to build relationships within the Spanish-speaking community.  So instead of seeing those two activities as separate, I decided to join them and do both at one time and make the investment in doing that, but knowing in the long run I am going to be further ahead.  I decided to use the data collection – the actual relationship building part – as the means to meet people and to let them get to know me and for me to get to know them.”  As a result of her conversations, Emily Zorea learned that child care is one barrier that may be preventing Hispanic families from participating in library programs.  Another is the limited collection of Spanish/English children’s books.  Zorea said that there are immediate changes that can be made at the Brewer Public Library to improve the experience for Spanish-speaking residents.  They are also hoping to obtain grant funding to build on relationships and pinpoint exactly where needs are so the library is not wasting resources.  She concluded by saying, “Investing in relationships is what creates change; not just in this project, but in everything.”

Richland Center’s Jayne Cler presented her research project on “The 150th Anniversary Celebration of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Muscoda, Wisconsin.”  Cler grew up in Milwaukee, and, after a 20-year career as a police officer in that city, she moved to the area to be closer to her family and to obtain a college degree at UW-Richland.  Her BAAS capstone project deals with the digitization of documents, photographs, and books that belong to St. Peter's Church, prior to its sesquicentennial in 2020.  She explained that much of the history was previously documented; however, it was scattered throughout the church building and congregation.  Cler’s goal is to collect the information, and put it into one location, a book for the congregation to see.  When the church celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1970, members of the congregation wrote down some of the history – some of which Cler has saved in digital form.  Also, after discovering a book of photographs of confirmations, Jayne Cler scanned them and recorded the names of all the confirmands and pastors onto a spreadsheet with the names, size, and conditions of the photos, and years they were taken.  Another aspect of her project was taking a deteriorating historic children’s song book from the middle to late 1800’s written entirely in German and digitizing it for historic preservation.  Finally, nine stained glass windows that exist at St. Peter’s Church were photographed, with the unique description of each also logged and saved.  All of the documents, photos and information will be digitally saved and the originals will be displayed in an expandable book in time for the 150th celebration.  Jayne Cler concluded by saying, “It’s important to keep these documents, book, and photographs before they are no longer viable.” 

Dr. Charles Clark, regional executive officer and dean of the Southwest Region of UW Colleges, called the symposium a signature event of UW-Richland and UW Colleges showing the public the outcome of the education students receive at the institutions.  “The work that we do in the classrooms, labs, and studios by itself is important, but without presenting it to the public, that last step is missing,” Dr. Clark stated.  He added that the capstone projects are a piece of the student’s professional development, and being able to apply the learning they have done in the classroom is very significant.

For more information about the Undergraduate Research & Creativity Forum contact Regional Director of Communications Shawna Connor at 608.604.3739 or shawna.connor@uwc.edu.  For more information about the BAAS program or the UW-Richland campus visit richland.uwc.edu. 





Shawna Connor