Common Day of Learning unifies campus

Esther York, guest writer

How might one draw together a diverse campus full of differing majors, ages, and backgrounds? An event that takes place in the center of an academic week, and likewise in the center of the semester may do just that: bind and unify students and faculty in a joint effort to engage in an enriching learning environment. This event, Common Day of Learning (CDL), took place on March 1.

According to Dr. Benjamin Marsh, the Faculty Director of CDL this year, this communal pursuit of knowledge was initially enacted on Feb. 24, 1993. CDL has fostered the university’s commitment to the cornerstone of scholarship “by hosting this multidisciplinary conference dedicated to the commemoration of academic discovery,” Marsh said.

This engagement was certainly at work during the student and faculty presentations. This year’s CDL theme was created in accordance to the passage in Romans 14 that aims to instill a shared ideal that Christ followers should enrich the lives of one another spiritually and intellectually.

Marsh further clarified that this year’s event engaged student participation in an unprecedented way. Several students were appointed to the CDL Advisory Committee.

Student Government Association representative Tabitha Parker submitted helpful input and provided a voice for the student body. Other students worked to advertise the event across campus. Student focus groups even voted on which logo to utilize in representing this year’s theme. However, Marsh noted, there is always room for improvement.

“We have only scratched the surface of getting students more involved,” Marsh said. “There is so much more that could be done and we are enthusiastically open to student opinions concerning what they would like the day to look like.”

Cailey Whittaker, a senior psychology major, was one of the many undergraduate students who presented original research. Whittaker, alongside graduate student Stephanie Schussman and Curtis Lehmann, Ph.D. an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology presented their research on the correlation between religion and suicide.

“We’ve been working on this research for nearly an entire academic year, now. I really feel like a part of a team,” Whittaker said. “The population for our study was APU students. It makes me feel like that I know them a little better and I see a need in our community.”

Many of the attendees readily took notes and participated during a call for questions and group discussion of the material. The conclusions drawn derived from a variety of majors and backgrounds.

“I really like CDL because as a psychology major I kind of just stay in my little psychology world,” Whittaker said. “It’s fun to see what everyone else is doing, and what everyone else is learning. It really emphasizes that APU is this scholarly research institution, and shows support and a thirst for knowledge.”

The thoughtful response during the lecture also created the potential for a reciprocal learning environment. Students offered their input and perspective on the research, as presenters aimed to formulate new ideas and answers from them.

According to a statement courtesy of Don Isaac, Director of the Office of Research and Grants, this voluntary participation falls directly in line with the initial goal of the event:

“Making CDL attendance for all [undergraduate] students an absolute requirement could be counterproductive in promoting meaningful discussions around scholarship, research, and artistic endeavors leading to enhanced liberal education, understanding societal problems and [affecting] change.”

Whittaker noted the importance of it being a voluntary event. “This was a voluntary thing for students to show up to.” Whittaker concluded, “It shows an integrative nature of research findings like this. It showed they had questions and were wrestling with the material.”

Whittaker, Lehmann, and Schussman will attend the Western Psychology Association’s Convention this April and will present the same research to professionals in the field that students wrestled with on campus.

This truly shows the wealth of captivating, thought-provoking research that is both produced by and available to our student body through events like CDL.