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A Celebration of Excellence

On Monday, April 4, Oklahoma Christian University held its second Celebration of Excellence, an event providing students an opportunity to present their academic work to peers and faculty and potentially win up to a $500 cash prize.

The event was founded by Scott LaMascus in 2019, although it did not occur in 2020 or 2021 due to COVID-19.

Alden Bass, a co-chair for Celebration of Excellence, said the event would be done a little differently this year.

“We want to unify the campus,” Bass said. “The first year we had a lot more departmental things and this year we’re really focusing on a single keynote and a single lunch—we’re doing it together. It’s a great time, especially for upperclassmen to see the work their friends are doing.”

Julia Davila and Sommer Bowker presented their research on the insulin pathway of a Drosophila Melanogaster, and Davila said their work led to more than they anticipated.

“At first, it was just something required and something I needed to get out of the way,” Davila said. “Then, concluding our research project, we got incredible news—we got published (in Micropublications).”

Learning this kind of research and how to use a computer genetic program were some of the obstacles Davila said she faced on this project, but in the end, it was a success.

“I had never heard of the Celebration of Excellence before, but I felt absolutely honored to be a part of such an incredible event,” Davila said. “I was so proud to present my research to my peers and professors around me.”

Kelly Araujo, Mary Salas, Derrick Karake and Carson Hazel presented on a Tec Match technology transfer partnered with the Tinker Airforce base. It uses an algorithm to match a company’s need to a suitable technology, thereby moving technology developed by engineers at Tinker into the private sector. Their project began as a part of a new entrepreneurship program created by Dan Blair.

Salas said both the program and the Celebration of Excellence provide multiple benefits, the latter presenting an opportunity for networking, receiving feedback and practicing.

“This was actually our first time presenting our project,” Salas said. “It was good practice because we got some feedback from professors.” 

Noah Carter presented on the Student Investment Fund, a fully student-run portfolio of the school’s money (specifically for the school of business) designed to grow like a mutual fund up to $250,000. At that point, Carter said, it will be able to start funding scholarships.

Currently, the fund has grown from $100,000 in 2017 to roughly $166,000.

Carter said he encourages others to consider joining the fund and hopes the Celebration of Excellence boosts awareness of it.

“It’s absolutely one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to be a part of in my time here and I really encourage people to look into it,” Carter said. “It’s one of many things this campus has that sometimes gets overlooked because it usually only speaks to a very niche group of students, when really it could be applicable to people all over campus.”

Kaleb Nadig presented on “Knightly Frailty: A Maturation of Christian Faith in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” showing the limits of binary thinking.

“It was my first research paper when I became an English major,” Nadig said. “So, when it was time for my senior project, I thought it was poetic to start where I began and see how far I’ve come.”

Nadig also said he was honored to be a part of the Celebration of Excellence.

“It was a big honor to present in the Celebration of Excellence, for I’m proud of the work I’ve done at OC,” Nadig said.

LaMascus said these large-scale projects have the biggest impact on students.

“These are the undergraduate projects that make the biggest impact on students’ growth. Many of OC’s students also take the same projects to win top prizes in national organizations and conferences on much bigger stages,” LaMascus said. “With COE on campus, we here at home get to see all the presenters, even if we can’t attend their national conferences to see their work.”

Nadig said he had a pleasant experience and that “OC was definitely onto something by doing Celebration of Excellence.”

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