SSA offers students the chance to engage in fields outside major

Jamie Archie

In the middle of my junior year at Washington and Lee, I have started to see much more value in the community events that do not revolve around the usual social events. This March, there will be a great opportunity for students to see what others have been up to. This year, the University will be hosting the Science, Society, and the Arts Conference (SSA) again on March 15-16. It is held every other year and is a unique event that truly allows students to participate in something different on campus.

The goal of SSA is the chance to expose students to numerous ideas, artistic or academic, and share their projects with the rest of campus. Some students may choose to submit an assignment that they worked on for a class, or even an extracurricular project. Students also may choose to present different artistic pieces instead of academics, including poems, short stories, drama or even musical performances.  All of these options offer a unique experience for students to expose their interests and skills to the rest of our little academic community. There is also still time for anyone to propose a project to present: the deadline is February 15.

The conference includes a keynote speaker. This year, the keynote speaker is Gary Staab, a freelance artist who specializes in sculptures of paleontology: much of his work has been placed in museums across the country. Let’s be honest, no one grows out of loving dinosaurs. And personally, as someone who took the Geology class on Dinosaurs the Spring Term of my freshman year, Staab will be an incredibly fascinating speaker.

The colloquium is one of the most interesting aspects of the conference, especially for someone who is not looking to present. A series of books, movies, and even a television show have been selected for discussion sessions. To name just a few topics that caught my eye: “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austin, “Becoming” by Michelle Obama and “Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. For movies, the discussions will center around “Black Panther,” “Blade Runner” and “Dirty Computer.” Lastly, for television shows, “Sharp Objects,” which premiered in 2018 and stars Amy Adams, will be discussed. The colloquium portion of SSA is incredibly fascinating due to the wide array of entertainment to discuss, as well as the impact many of these pieces of literature, film, or television have had on our culture today as well as who we were in the past.

Washington and Lee never fails to supply the campus with incredibly unique opportunities to expand student horizons and open their eyes to new ideas every day. This is one of the wonderful aspects of a liberal arts college, and specifically W&L. No matter what your major is or which building you spend most of your time in, you have the opportunity to experience lectures and presentations outside of that field. A whole weekend for such exploration? Well, sign me up.