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Students present research, projects at “Public Day”

Third annual event continues revival of University tradition

OpenGrounds facilitated the University’s third annual “Public Day” on the Lawn April 11 as an opportunity for close to 100 nominated undergraduate and graduate students to display 65 projects of their research on the Lawn.

OpenGrounds Associate Director Lindsey Hepler said Public Day is the revival of a historical tradition of sharing student work with a large public.

“This is to try to have a piece of everything to really showcase the breadth of what goes on at the University,” Hepler said.

Public Day was originally a tradition that marked the end of the academic year in the University’s early years, according to the OpenGrounds website, . On Public Day, students presented their work to the public “to share in the fruits of their studies.” The event, which stopped being recognized by the mid-19th century, was brought brought back in 2014.

University President Teresa Sullivan spoke on the Lawn about the philosophy behind Public Day and said the day was revived for the same purpose of engaging the public.

“Our students do cutting edge research and scholarship in many areas of endeavor and this gives us an opportunity to let you share some of what you’ve learned with the public,” Sullivan said. “We try to do [Public Day] around April 13th, which falls on Wednesday this week because that’s Founder’s Day, the birthday of Thomas Jefferson.”

Sullivan said she thinks Jefferson would have been impressed with the work on display.

“He urged us to explore and expose every subject susceptible to contemplation by the human mind,” Sullivan said. “That’s one of the things that you’re up to here with Public Day.”

One of the research projects on display was fourth-year College student John Al-Haddad’s distinguished majors project in Middle Eastern Studies.

Al-Haddad’s project focused on analyzing Lebanese history from 1952 to 1955.

“[Public Day] is a great opportunity for me to showcase something in the humanities,” Al-Haddad said. “[My research is] looking through archival data and and newspaper articles, primary source documents, diaries, memoirs. This is what makes up research for me, at least, so it's nice to give a humanities side to Public Day.”

To be nominated for a spot in the Public Day Lawn event, there were two avenues through which students could be considered for the opportunity to display their research, Hepler said.

“We reach out to [the] research dean of every school and ask them to nominate a handful of students from their school, and we also have a nomination where students can nominate themselves or their peers or anyone they think has a project worth showing,” Hepler said.

Hepler said students will also be presenting their work at the Tom Tom Founder’s Festival’s U.Va. Innovator of the Year program April 13 and at the Northside Library April 16.