It would be easy to say that our Ides of August works simply as a venue for sharing scholarly research. Besides, that would be boring.
I say it’s about passion. While the research is intriguing, it’s the underlying passion during these presentations that leaves a lasting impression.
To hear professors Adriel Trott or Laura Wysocki talk of the joys of ancient Greek philosophy or chemistry is to share their passion for the subjects, whether you know anything about Philopappou Hill or the angle of a hexagon bond.
For 30 minutes apiece Friday, Trott and Wysocki were among 17 Wabash faculty members who delivered updates on creative work and research efforts to colleagues. And in their time in the spotlight, those two led a charge that was engaged, energetic, and informative.
All that with Tasmanian Devil-levels of energy. OK, maybe it wasn’t that much energy, but it was more than enough to make you to sit up and take notice. Passion is contagious.
There were smiles, laughter, and changes in volume you just don’t get from most scholarly conferences.
Trott worked on Capitol Hill before heading to graduate school and a switch of career paths, saying, “I thought that I could do more somewhere where I was thinking and encouraging others to think. That’s what led me down this road.”
Wysocki caught the teaching bug in high school, when a biology teacher noticed that she had a sense for when information gets across to someone, and let her teach a class. From there, the passion took root and has blossomed in Hays Hall.
“I’m kind of a science nerd and this is a job where I get to be excited, unabashedly, unapologetically, excited about what I talk about,” Wysocki said. “I let that loose when I talk about my work.”
She certainly did.
That energy is essential to the faculty here. According to Lon Porter, chemistry professor and chair of the Ides of August committee, it’s a core belief that has earned its day of celebration.
“It’s central to faculty as individuals and to why and how we do what we do,” he said. “We get passionate about content, about process, about instrumentation, about analysis, about argument, about debate, and I think that really comes out. The energy that comes from this is really a fun thing.”
One faculty member summed it up best by saying of Trott’s presentation, “You had me wanting to go to Greece.”