Many last year students are wrapping up the first semester of their senior seminars. Here is what some Drury students are doing for their final project of their undergraduate careers.
Heather Harman is a communication studies major and writing minor. For her communication studies senior project, Harman found a way for college students to comfortably talk about their plans for death.
“My project is called Death Over Dinner. It is an international campaign created by Michael Hebb which is based on the concept that the dinner table is the most forgiving place to have serious conversation,” Harman said.
The idea started a few years ago in 2013. It spawned from the fact that people do not like to talk about death and dying, yet they are crucial conversations to have.
Harman read about the Death Over Dinner project when she was doing reading for a class and felt inspired. She worked with a local non profit, Hospice Foundation of the Ozarks (HFO), which helps people with end-of-life planning. She was awarded a $1,200 grant to complete her Death Over Dinner project.
“With the grant I provided dinner for 50 students on campus in four separate dinners. I was able to provide dinner from another local Springfield business, Rib Crib. The dinners were hosted at the Martin Alumni Center on campus and were facilitated by a trained discussion facilitator from Respecting Choices.”
Students filled out surveys before and after the dinner, which helped Harman evaluate student feelings before and after experiencing the simulation.
“The purpose of the dinners was to get students to think about their end-of-life care wishes, and to encourage them to document these wishes in a legal document, called an Advance Healthcare Directive,” Harman said.
She believes it is important to have these conversations, even though death is usually not on the forefront of every college-aged person’s mind.
“This is a conversation that is not being had in a young demographic. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the topic so the goal was to clear up these misconceptions and to communicate the importance of advance planning,” Harman said.
Harman took her project beyond the dinners: on Halloween, she dressed up as the Grimm Reaper and walked around campus, handing out documents to help students create their end-of-life wishes.
She is happy with the results of her project. “[It] has had more success than I could have imagined.” Harman was interviewed by local news station KY3 about her dinners, she was invited to speak at a CORE 101 class and multiple students have done projects covering what she has done for senior seminar.
“The coolest of all, however, is that I had an interview with Michael Hebb’s ghost writer. They’re writing a book that will be published and on shelves next fall, and they are going to put some of the results from my dinners in that book,” Harman said.
Harman hopes that HFO will be able to learn from her project and adapt their approach to talking about death and dying with the college-aged demographic.
Trevor Cobb is a writing, Spanish and graphic design major. He is also an honors student. Honors students are required to complete a separate “honors” senior seminar in order to receive a degree with honors.
Honors senior seminars are spread out over two semesters. This semester, Cobb did brainstorming and preliminary research about his topic. Next semester, he will complete his project and present it.
Honors students may choose any topic that interests them, regardless of their major. Cobb is doing a cross-cultural analysis of emoji use in order to see how people who speak different languages interpret and use emojis in their daily conversations.
“This semester I did my prep and research and next semester I’m hoping to interview international students who speak French, Arabic and ones from Australia to talk about how they use emoji when communicating in their language/dialect,” said Cobb.
Bre Logan is a writing, graphic design and fine arts major. This semester, she has been working on her project for her fine arts degree.
She explained that arts senior seminars are spread across two semesters: one semester is for Praxis and the other is for Apex.
“In Praxis, I have been developing a photography series about nostalgia and preservation of memories that I will be carrying over into my senior seminar project of developing a travel magazine and associated branding,” Logan said. “My current Praxis project will be a featured article in the magazine, along with articles and features about my travels this past year.”
Logan has spent nearly the past year and a half abroad. She had an internship in India during the summer of 2016, where she worked as a global communications intern with Cross-Cultural Solutions. She studied abroad in Italy during the 2016-2017 academic year, and then spent the past summer backpacking Europe.
Logan displayed her photography depicting the refugee crisis in Italy at Drury’s gallery on C-Street.
Another part of her project is her development of a personal brand. It is called Wanders & Rambles.
“[It] will include a travel blog website focusing on photography, videography and narrative-style writing and a physical magazine of the same name showcasing art and writing through the lens of travel,” Logan said.
She hopes to be able to grow this project into a full fledged travel business in the future.