Experiential learning encompasses any activity in which a student is actively engaged in their education inside or outside of the classroom. At Trinity, experiential learning includes undergraduate research opportunities inside and outside of the classroom, volunteer experiences, internships, study abroad opportunities, and more.

By Allyson Mackender – 

When rising junior Sasha Faust ‘18 began her research on Prussian blue, she never expected it to connect to painful family history. Faust’s research, which was funded by the Mellon Initiative and supervised by Jessica Halonen, Associate Professor of Art in the Department of Art and Art History, began with an interest in the color blue and its many meanings but transformed into an impactful series that she titled “With Our Hands.”

Discovered by accident in 1706, Prussian blue had an instant impact on the world of painting, but its influence reaches far beyond the art world. This compound was instrumental in the beginnings of photography and though it can be used as an antidote to some heavy metal poisonings, it also led to the discovery and production of Zyklon B, the poison used in Nazis gas chambers. This perversion of the color blue served as Faust’s “interest, horror, and inspiration” for her art. The descendant of Jewish refugees, pushed from their homes during the Nazi’s occupation of Poland, Faust decided she needed to further explore this dark side of this influential compound.

While considering how her family history might inform her artwork, Faust recalled a treasured family heirloom: “When my family escaped they were only allowed to take a few things with them,” Faust explained, “My great-grandmother brought two large, handmade, lace pillowcases.” These pillowcases provided inspiration for Faust’s series of cyanotypes created with handcrafted lace and lace embellished textiles once owned by her family members.

In order to create her pieces, Faust lays lace and other objects on paper that has been coated in mixture of potassium ferricyanide, ferric ammonium citrate, and water. This coating, after being exposed to UV light and rinsed in water, results in the piercing shade of Prussian blue, and an image of the object blocking the light remains. Using a UV lightbox in Trinity’s art studio, Faust experiments with double, triple, and quadruple exposures. “When I first began, the process was exciting because I didn’t know what the pieces would look like until they were fully developed,” Faust explained. “Just a few seconds of additional exposure time in the lightbox can drastically change the appearance of a piece.” After some trial and error, Faust discovered the ideal exposure times for the various textiles and paper used in her work.

Although Faust found it immensely rewarding to learn a new artistic technique she could use to produce a series of pieces to share with the Trinity community at the end of the summer, she says the most meaningful part of her research process was its role in starting family conversations long overdue. Faust has always been interested in her family’s history and experience during the Holocaust, but was never sure how to bring it up. “It’s painful for my family members to talk about,” Faust said, “but my research gave me the push I needed to talk with my family, delve into our history, and use it as inspiration for my art.” The rewards Faust gleaned from completing this research make her excited about the possibilities for intellectual and personal growth that research projects hold for other humanities students.

“The summer research program is a great opportunity for interdisciplinary studies,” Faust remarked. She noted that her project, although technically in the field of studio art, was able to tie in history, culture, and even chemistry. Through the integration of these disciplines, Faust was able to demonstrate the ability of visual arts to translate information that is not accessible without them. She hopes to continue exploring her passion for art and its cultural importance after graduation by pursuing a career in the arts.

For more information on Trinity’s art and art history program, please visit their homepage.
By Allyson Mackender –

Benjamin “Benji” Gomez ‘17 is exploring a lifelong love for music through Trinity’s Students + Startups program. Gomez, a rising senior and the agent of two Texas bands, Lonely Horse and Riders Against the Storm, initially became interested in participating in the Students + Startups program after meeting Ben Hodge in the San Antonio music scene. Hodge, a San Antonio native, is the mastermind behind Event Escrow, the music and talent buying platform that he and Gomez have perfected and recently launched.

Benjamin "Benji" Gomez '17 is working with Ben Hodge to develop Event Escrow. 
Hodge’s idea to develop Event Escrow came from a simple question asked by a Twitter user, “Who’s more popular Kanye or Obama?” Hodge said after exploring Twitter and creating what he referred to as a “heat map” for popularity, the researcher discovered that Kanye was most popular in Arizona, Oklahoma City, and Florida. This information was shocking to Hodge. “If I was his tour manager I would have never thought to book in Oklahoma City,” he said. This knowledge gap inspired him to begin Event Escrow, which Gomez would join soon after.

Event Escrow uses an artificial neural network to create data sets and put them into matrices, ultimately pushing output that allows music and talent buying to occur with minimal error. The platform aggregates data to determine how many people would come out for a particular event, on a particular date, at a particular venue, making the talent buying industry more secure. By using Event Escrow, local businesses and music venues will be more sustainable because they will be able to book artists without the anxiety of a bad turn-out. Furthermore, Event Escrow manages all payment, making sure that musicians and venues are all being appropriately accommodated for their services.

As the city of San Antonio grows and becomes more gentrified, a platform like Event Escrow is more useful than ever before. “San Antonio is becoming more walkable and bikeable,” Gomez, a San Antonio native, said, “This growth creates an opportunity for our company.” As San Antonio grows, the night-life scene will grow as well, meaning there are opportunities for San Antonians to perform at and attend musical events. Eventually, as growth continues, Hodge and Gomez hope San Antonio will host as many musicians as other cities, like Austin and Houston. Each month, these cities host nearly 4,000 events, while San Antonio only hosts 2,000. By using Event Escrow, Hodge and Gomez hope that talent buying will be streamlined, allowing more artists to perform and more events to take place. 

Gomez connected with Hodge and Event Escrow through Trinity's Students + Startups program. 
While the recent launch of Event Escrow is certainly proof of a successful summer with the Students + Startups program, Gomez’s reflections on the experience further suggest its impact. “We talk about the Trinity bubble all the time,” Gomez said, “It’s hard to get off the hill and into the city but this opportunity has allowed me to see the problems that exist in the industry I’m interested in, especially in my own community.” Through networking opportunities, including a booking collective he and Hodge arranged, Gomez was able confirm his interest in the music industry and was exposed to the various opportunities for him upon graduation next May.

For more information on entrepreneurship at Trinity please visit their webpage.
By Allyson Mackender – 

Discussions regarding Islam and the perception of Muslims in the United States have been some of the most contentious topics of the current election. With Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country and the recent speech by Khzir Khan at the Democratic National Convention, discussions of Islam have been central to both major parties’ rhetoric. Trinity students, Hanna Niner ‘17, Savannah Wagner ‘17, Iris Baughman ‘17, and Matthew Long ‘19, are exploring this dialogue in the San Antonio community. Under the supervision of sociology professor Sarah Beth Kaufman, communication professor William G. Christ, and religion professor Habiba Noor, the students are completing research titled, “How San Antonians are Thinking about Islam During the 2016 Presidential Election.”

Hanna Niner '17 is one of the students working on sociology research this summer. 
The group interviewed people from all over the city by using a purposeful sample research methodology. They began by listing all the major religious groups in San Antonio, including Muslims, Pagans, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, and others, and reached out to organizations from each denomination. Once interviews were conducted within these organizations, they proceeded with a snowball sample, which asks interviewees to contact their friends or acquaintances to also be interviewed. Together, the faculty and students interviewed over 150 San Antonians over the course of the summer.

While the students hope to collectively profile how Islam is being talked about in San Antonio, each of the four students will be producing their own paper with a unique perspective. Niner’s research is focused on race and anti-Muslim sentiment while Baughman is more interested in gender and perceptions of how women are treated in Islam. Furthermore, Long is interested in the ways in which Islam is held to a different standard than other religions; he hopes to uncover perceptions on the degree of Islamic religiosity and its pertinence to violence. Finally, Wagner is focused on how conservative evangelicals understand Islam and how they use religion as a way to deal with heightened fears of Islam. The diversity in the areas of focus captures the complexity of the subject, which at times can be hard to articulate.

The students have completed more than 150 interviews. 
Baughman explained that while many people seem to have an opinion on Islam, their interviews have proven that not everyone is comfortable sitting down and talking about it. Therefore, at times interviews have been difficult for the students. “I’ve actually gotten emotional in interviews,” Niner said, “People will say very hurtful and hateful things to me.” This sentiment was felt among the entire group, as they all nodded their heads in agreement. Long added, “It’s hard to form intimate connections with people during an interview and then remember your place as a researcher.” 

While the interviews have proven to be challenging, the students agreed that they are equally rewarding. Baughman said she was most surprised when an interviewee actually thanked her for completing this research, something that the other students had also experienced. Wagner added that while the interviews can be difficult and push both her and the interviewee out of their comfort zones, it is fascinating to see how people live their lives. 

Because of this research opportunity, the students agree that they are well-equipped with important skills and experiences as the pursue their educational and postgraduate goals in topics as diverse as women’s health, human rights, law, religion, and sociology. 

More information on the Mellon Initiative can be found here.
By Allyson Mackender –

This summer, with mentors Andrew Kraebel, professor of English, and Michael Hughes, liaison librarian at Coates Library, Kathryn Funderburg ‘17 is combining her various interests into one research project, funded by the McNair Scholars Program.

Kathryn Funderburg '17 was inspired to complete her research during her semester abroad in Aberdeen, Scotland.
While studying abroad in Aberdeen, Scotland during the fall 2015 semester, Funderburg was given the unique opportunity to spend hours pouring over a medieval manuscript in the university library's collection (MS 243), analyzing both its content and form. While completing this project, Funderburg discovered her passion for library sciences, simultaneously building upon her interest in medieval literature. This summer, Funderburg has been given the chance to combine these interests in a unique research project that, upon completion, will culminate in an academic essay assessing the presentation of the Lessons of the Dead, a devotional text by the fourteenth-century writer Richard Rolle.

At the start of her research, Funderburg was tasked with locating catalogue descriptions of nearly 50 medieval manuscripts that contain Rolle's Lessons of the Dead, which Professor Kraebel is currently editing and translating from Latin. In order to do this, Funderburg capitalized on her mentorship with Hughes and explored databases of libraries across the world, but primarily those at Oxford, Cambridge, and the British Library in London. 

When first given this task, Funderburg greatly underestimated just how daunting it would be. While detailed, scholarly descriptions of many of the manuscripts are available digitally, some are much harder to find. This realization did not stunt Funderburg’s passion, but instead solidified her desire to pursue a career in library science, where she hopes to make these kinds of texts more accessible to scholars and students alike. 

Funderburg is the recipient of the Beinecke Scholarship. 
After tracking down all of the descriptions, Funderburg has been scrutinizing them carefully, attempting to identify patterns in the other texts that circulated with Rolle's. “We are trying to create a family tree of sorts,” Funderburg said about her and Kraebel’s goal: “Where do these texts originally come from and how were they distributed?” In order to answer these questions, she has done extensive research on the role of scribes and manuscript form.

This work is obviously very detailed and exacting, but Funderburg thinks it should be of wider, general interest, and this is for at least two reasons. First, though scholars haven't paid much attention to this text, Funderburg’'s work shows just how popular it was in the Middle Ages. By making it available in English, she and Kraebel give us the chance to recover the interests of readers from many centuries before our own. Second, Funderburg’s incorporation of library science into her project is important, as digital accessibility of manuscripts and the catalogues describing them would open many doors within academia. Hence her attention to digital listings of manuscripts provides Funderburg with a unique perspective as she pursues a graduate degree in library science upon graduation next spring.

Like many rising seniors, Funderburg has spent much of this summer contemplating what the future holds. Fortunately, this research and her two mentorships have allowed her to combine her interests in medieval literature with her emerging passion for library science, all while completing the most original and extensive research she has done to date.

Funderburg is the recipient of the Beinecke Scholarship, which was detailed in an earlier article by Susie P. Gonzalez of Trinity’s Marketing and Communications department.
By Allyson Mackender –

Christine Peterson ‘18 and Meagan Pollock ‘17 are back for another summer of chemistry research in professor Christopher J. Pursell’s lab. The project, which is entitled “ Studying the Catalytic Behavior and Chemical Properties of Gold Nanoparticle Catalysts ” is a continuation of research from last summer. Using an infrared spectrometer (IR spectrometer) and Omnic, a program that allows the students to visualize their reactions , the students are observing the effects of hydrogen and carbon monoxide gas on gold nanoparticle catalysts, which can be used in food processing, oil and gas, and fertilizer production.

Christine Peterson '18 and Meagan Pollock '17 are completing their second summer of research. 
The IR spectrometer machine houses a reactor cell, which is where Peterson and Pollock run their experiments. The students place catalysts, substances that lower activation energy and speed up chemical reactions, in the reactor cell and apply hydrogen and carbon monoxide gas using a vacuum system. The spectrometer allows them to observe the reactions taking place as they adjust the amounts of gas and change the catalyst. Pollock explained that through a series of trial and error, her and Peterson run numerous experiments daily to observe the effects of changing variables on the catalysts.

The experimental routine is just one piece of the students’ research, though. Omnic displays the chemical reactions in a graph called a spectra, showing the frequencies and vibrations of the chemical reaction. The students explain that typically applying a gas to a catalyst will produce a single sharp peak on their spectra . However, when applying hydrogen and carbon monoxide gas to specific gold nanoparticle catalysts, spectra show an almost hill-like graph, which the students call a broadband shift. The goal of the research is to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why this broadband shift occurs.

An example of the broadband shift Peterson and Pollock observe. 
Peterson explained that while many scientists have observed this broadband shift and are attempting to characterize it, professor Pursell’s lab is attempting to mechanize the shift with a very unique and different hypothesis. This innovation is certainly exciting, but does not come without challenges. Pollock explained that even though her and Peterson can theorize all the reactions and understand how everything works, when they actually run the experiments they don’t always work out as expected. “Sometimes we have more questions at the end of the day,” Pollock said.

However, despite the complexity of the project and the challenges the students have had to overcome, Peterson and Pollock agree that the opportunity to do undergraduate research has been remarkably impactful. Peterson laughed when recalling the Trinity research symposium last summer, “It was strange to answer questions for professors,” she said, “It’s special to be given the opportunity to become an expert on something.” 

Peterson and Pollock hope to co-author a paper in the near future with their findings. 
For more information about Trinity’s chemistry department visit their homepage.
by Cheyenne “Cici” Garcia —

Thirteen interns from San Antonio’s Upward Bound program have spent six weeks this summer on the Trinity University campus, taking courses and working in selected offices or departments. The result for these high school students has been an inside look at college life and insight into the working world.

High school seniors of Upward Bound had the opportunity to intern in different departments
The interns arrived on the Trinity campus with fresh perspectives and a “ready to work” mindset, and they said they will leave with newly gained abilities.

Allison Payne, an intern at the KRTU 91.7 FM radio station, says, “I’ve learned so much here that I can apply to real world situations or that I can use elsewhere, such as building up my organization skills, computer skills, and networking. Being here also helps me become more diverse among my music taste.”

Allison Payne spent six weeks interning with KRTU
Ricardo Peña and Waverly Reyes, who interned in the engineering science department, agreed, “The beneficial part of this internship is that it’s challenging, it prepares us for tough challenges in other situations, and it’s definitely a learning experience.”

The interns share a motivation to get work done. For example, Raveé Mata, in the Office of Experiential Learning, and KRTU’s Payne feel that Trinity gives a “home-like feeling.” Payne says being at Trinity really gives her “a sense of belonging.”

Mata mentions that since many interns are seniors, “It makes sense that we’ve grown a certain type of love for the campus. Some of us have been here since the beginning, and some like myself, have recently joined.” It is definitely easy to understand this perspective from high school students who have gotten a feel for an actual college campus. Most of the interns agreed that the summer at Trinity and the experiences on campus will never be forgotten.

To qualify for the Upward Bound program at Trinity University, interns had to apply for specific jobs in designated areas. This year’s interns at Trinity campus and their department are:

  • Ana Nunez, Information Technology Services
  • Allison Payne and Ivonne Martinez, KRTU 91.7 FM radio station
  • Karen Padilla and Arin Douglas, University Presbyterian Children’s Center
  • Samuel De Los Santos, Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • Lizeth Salazar, Student Involvement
  • Raveé Mata, Office of Experiential Learning
  • Waverly Reyes and Ricardo Peña, Department of Engineering Science
  • Diana Long, Study Abroad
  • Samantha Martinez, Office of Career Services
  • Cheyenne “Cici” Garcia, Office of University Marketing and Communications

Additionally, other Upward Bound interns worked off Trinity campus, including Rosario Moreno and Laura Filerio, who were at the Law Office of Diane Martinez; and Alexis Mata, who was at a dental office.

Text provided by Cheyenne “Cici” Garcia of San Antonio, a senior at McCollum high school and student to the Upward Bound program at Trinity University. She was a summer intern in the Office of University Marketing and Communications. She observes, “As interns, we received an inside look in some of the offices of the University, going places we’ve never ventured before, and in return, gaining a variety of skills that can be applied elsewhere. Trinity has given us something to remember as interns, and as students we will keep learning and working not only for its benefit but for ours.”

By Allyson Mackender – 

Since the rise of social media and text messaging, cyberbullying has been at the center of many local and national headlines. All too often, news sources report on the dangers of cyberbullying, telling cautionary tales of people being targeted via email, text message, or Facebook, just to name a few. Many of these stories have tragic endings of young people’s lives being damaged by someone wearing the mask of a computer screen or cell phone. Rising Trinity junior, Rachel Lawson ‘18, is working with human communication professor Erin Sumner on a project titled, “Textual Harassment,” which addresses cyberbullying from the perspective of victim narratives.

Rachel Lawson '18 is completing human communication research as part of the Mellon Initiative.
Lawson’s research focuses on the specific type of bullying and abuse that can occur through text messages, which they are referring to as “textual harassment.” Professor Sumner conducted various focus groups that encouraged targets of cyberbullying to talk about their experience with harassment. Transcripts from these focus groups were then given to Lawson, who is analyzing the stories to asses the relationship between harassers and targets and to discover the traits that targets assign to harassers. In order to analyze these relationships, Lawson is focusing on the language used to describe the situation.

“It’s helped me realize the power of language,” Lawson said, “The way we use language to assign things around us completely shapes our world.” Hence, identifying key words used to describe harassers and assessing the diction used in the target’s story is a significant piece of Lawson’s work.

As Lawson pores over the transcripts, she is interested in finding narratives among the stories that the targets tell. She claims that by analyzing the transcripts from the perspective of narrative, she is able to identify commonalities among each target’s unique story. For example, Lawson said many targets claimed that “texting is not real life.” This viewpoint, while common among young adults, seems to downplay the effects of texting in ways that contradict the very real consequences that targets face when they are harassed or bullied via technology. These narratives, and the commonalities she identifies, serve as a way to prevent or change the trajectory of future textual harassment. 

Lawson looks over transcripts of target narratives. 
As a human communication major, Lawson claims that analyzing text messages is crucial to her discipline. “Human communication is about relationships,” she said, “Texting is a way to create, maintain, and in these cases, destroy relationships.” Additionally, research on cyberbullying has important implications simply because it is a fairly new phenomenon. Lawson agreed that communication through technology is a new concept, so there isn’t a lot of research on the subject, making her project unique and relevant to the changing landscape of interpersonal communication.

Despite her knowledge on the subject, Lawson claims she is still shocked by “just how mean people can be.” Perhaps more shocking, though, is that most of the targets knew the person who was harassing them, making the hurtful and hateful messages all the more poignant. She hopes that her research, and the rest of her time as a human communication student at Trinity, will allow her to further explore the new dynamic that texting brings to relationships.

Lawson’s research is being funded by the Mellon Initiative. For more information on the human communication department at Trinity, visit their webpage.
By Allyson Mackender –

Trinity University’s Arts, Letters, and Enterprise (ALE) minor is one of a kind. This unique program “enables students to gain business literacy while pursuing majors in the humanities, arts, social sciences, or natural sciences.”

For the second summer, the ALE program arranged paid full-time internships around San Antonio for Trinity students. These internships are incredibly diverse, ranging from positions at the San Antonio River Authority, to the Mayor’s office, to the Battered Women’s Shelter.

Rising junior, Susan Clark ‘18, is one of the students completing an ALE internship this summer at OPERA San Antonio

Susan Clark '18 is a rising junior at Trinity University. 
Clark explained that after hearing about ALE from Erin Hood, Trinity’s Assistant Director of Experiential Learning, she was immediately intrigued by the opportunity to stay in San Antonio this summer and gain some work experience. After consulting the list of ALE internships, Clark was struck by the number of opportunities in art and music. As a member of Trinity’s chamber choir and an art enthusiast, Clark was excited about OPERA SA’s mission statement and work environment.

Now that Clark is officially the Administrative Intern at OPERA SA, her responsibilities are many and varied, including managing their marketing, public relations and social media, submitting grant applications, planning and coordinating fundraisers, and tracking ticket sales, just to name a few.

Her largest project this summer has been in the field of educational outreach, though. OPERA San Antonio is putting on a production of Carmen this fall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. Clark is creating a study guide for the upcoming production that will be distributed in an attempt to provide the community with background information on Carmen. 

Clark is the Administrative Intern at Opera SA. 
The nearly 50-page study guide provides background on Carmen, including social, historical, and political context for the opera. “It’s better to watch a show when you know the history and meaning behind it,” Clark said. With this in mind, Clark is enthusiastically finalizing the study guide to make it accessible and engaging for all readers.

Not only has Clark’s ALE internship given her the opportunity to engage in a field that she’s passionate about, it has taught her to be independent and confident, especially at professional and cultural networking events. “I attended the loop young professionals mixer,” Clark recalled, “I was intimidated going into it but it was an amazing networking opportunity.”

Tickets for Carmen are on sale now at the Tobin Center, and Clark encourages everyone to go see it.