The first-ever Boundless Arts and Humanities Conference took place at the Ware Center on Oct. 11 and 12. The conference featured student presenters from eight schools in the PASSHE system, including a large number of students from universities such as Millersville, Kutztown, Slippery Rock and others. Students presented poetry, research, games and learning analyses, literary research among other topics.
Dr. Nicole Pfannenstiel’s English class had the opportunity to present on games they analyzed for a class project, like Monopoly, Uno, Wizard, Ticket to Ride, and Minecraft. The students were expected to pick a game and relate the learning principles and techniques that could be applied to real-life. Elizabeth Duchesneau presented on the game Ticket to Ride. She spoke about how the concept of multiple pathways within the game can be applied to educational learning.
For her, the experience at the conference was a very positive one. She enjoyed presenting a new idea but also interacting with others and working on public speaking skills.
“I think having an arts and humanities conference is important because there can be a stigma around those subjects like they are somehow less useful than mathematics and science,” Dr. Pfannenstiel said.
Another Millersville student presenter, Rachel Ritchey commented similarly, “The best part [of the conference] was being able to share my voice and contribute to a conference that celebrates the arts and humanities since they are just as important as STEM.”
Ritchey read a slam poem titled “Perfection” at the conference that combined her passion for creative writing with her desire to advocate for mental health.
Overall, it was a positive experience for both students and professors such as Dr. Pfannenstiel. She chaired or led two panels, one with her students and another with faculty and a student. Pfannenstiel was incredibly happy to see her students present strong research and build conclusions on their takeaways.
She also stressed the importance of “empowered learners, who recognize what they are learning, and why it matters in the grand scheme of life.” Education matters and it shapes the world. Dr. Pfannenstiel pointed out when talking about the meaning of the conference title, Boundless.
“That our education, that our thinking matters beyond the bounds of the academy. That our education, our ideas can change the world for the better. I’m all about empowered learning – and Boundless means supporting students recognizing how learning is boundless, beyond and outside boundaries, and how that is necessary to democracy – literally the reason why public education exists and matters,” she said.
Going forward the conference hopes to expand and continue to support the arts and humanities as a united campus. For myself included, the conference was an amazing opportunity to support the arts and to develop ourselves professionally. The Boundless conference emphasized the idea that art and humanity thinking is without bounds, and supports a well-rounded education.