Cello Music instruments on a stage


ore than 350 students participated in the third annual Piedmont University Symposium on April 14 in Demorest, Georgia. The high-profile event embodies the Piedmont Promise “practical” pillar by providing research opportunities for students.

The symposium is becoming a tradition at Piedmont and is a celebration of research, creativity and inquiry. Studies have shown that students who receive engaged learning experiences are more resilient, persist in their education and are nimble learners.

Among the student presenters was Gabriella Hayes of Goodyear.

Topics like how primary teachers feel about virtual learning and the differences in salary, media attention and amenities based on gender in sports were timely. Others sought answers about the accuracy of wearable devices that track steps, what it takes to make a film from scratch with no money, and “Solving the Dating Problem.”

Participants presented their findings to other students, faculty and staff at locations across the Demorest campus and in Athens. Most were face to face with students, answering questions about their respective topics, while other presentations were virtual.

“We have had the symposium in three different formats now,” said Dr. Julia Schmitz, associate professor of biology. 

“The first was in person, the second virtual due to COVID, and this year it was a hybrid format to allow for social distancing.”

Schmitz is director of the quality enhancement plan, which promotes high-impact practices (HIP). They engage students in deep learning experiences in and out of the classroom, focusing on community engagement and leadership, global learning, and undergraduate research and creative inquiry. The symposium is perhaps the most visible representation of HIP on campus.

With more students than ever participating in the day-long event on both campuses, approximately 120 faculty, staff and students volunteered to be timekeepers/runners, judges and “bouncers,” who were on the lookout for social distancing and mask compliance.

Geeth Mahagamage, the class of ’22, worked on two team projects: Robinhood v. Wallstreetbets, about the ethical concerns around limiting stock buys, and Ghost Games v. Regular: A Piedmont Soccer Analysis.

“While I enjoyed both projects and the topics, I believe that I would not have the opportunity or drive to do this research had it not been for the symposium,” Mahagamage said. “All my professors encouraged my classmates and me to take part in the symposium in any capacity possible, and two of my classes (business ethics and business analytics) had dedicated a major section from the syllabus for students to actively engage by doing research within the area of study of the course and present it to Piedmont peers at the symposium.”

Students were given feedback via digital “Liongrams.” Praise ranged from “amazing” to “master’s-level quality.”

The next symposium is April 6, 2022.