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First annual Idea Fest kicks off

Billed as an "Interdisciplinary Celebration of Research at Dordt College," Idea Fest, with the help of a few free pizzas and airpots of freshly brewed coffee, drew good crowds at each of four venues on April 22. More than two dozen students gave presentations based on research they had done for papers or posters. Senior artists were on hand in the gallery to talk about work in the current senior show, and a student-produced film, "Snow Angel," was shown.

"I found Idea Fest fascinating," says senior Matt Visker. "As a presenter, it felt good to be able to showcase the work I had done during the semester. As an observer, I enjoyed hearing speeches and reading posters on a variety of subjects. I hope that Idea Fest continues in the future."

The driving force behind Idea Fest was history professor Dr. Paul Fessler. But the idea wasn't only his, he is quick to point out. Fessler had toyed with the idea of setting up such an event at Culver Stockton College, where he taught before coming to Dordt. A faculty forum presentation by Physics Professor John Zwart earlier this year and a discussion afterward among several faculty members prompted him to make it happen.

"Students don't often get to see what their fellow students are doing in other disciplines," he says, adding that students in athletics, music, theater, and art have more tangible ways to show their work. He admits that it's harder to make academic work accessible, but believes Idea Fest helped do just that.

Visker agrees. "Athletes and musicians have games and concerts to showcase their talents in those fields. Students should also receive recognition for the academic achievements."

Fessler also believes it helps send the message that it's okay to work hard. "Our culture tends not to respect or praise academic work," he says. "Idea Fest celebrates academic work and intellectual gifts."

Even though Fessler was out of town at a conference the day of the event, he's received many encouraging e-mails and responses from students and faculty. He credits other faculty members with helping make it possible by encouraging students who had done good work to give presentations and chair the different sessions.

"Idea Fest was a great way for students to see what students in the other disciplines and classes are doing, as well as a way for students to practice presenting their work, especially the work that does not get presented during class or at other conferences," said Christian Eggink. "I'd definitely recommend making this a yearly event."