Q&A: Second batch of top-10 sophomore projects to examine religious morality, merging philosophies

Sonja Hansen
Sophomores Jacqueline Chao, Joe Zales, Mohini Rye, Chardonnay Needler and Abby LaComb will present their top-10 sophomore presentations on Tuesday, April 18.

On Tuesday, April 18, the final five top-10 sophomore projects will be presented by sophomores Jacqueline Chao, Abby LaComb, Chardonnay Needler, Mohini Rye and Joe Zales. 


Jacqueline Chao will present on the morality and legality of Christian Science.

Q: What is your presentation about?

A: My topic is on Christian Science healing and the legal controversies around it, especially when parents choose prayer instead of medicine, (leading) to the death of their child.

Q: What inspired you to choose this topic?

A: When I first heard about the legal cases and the fact that parents would pray at their children’s bedsides and watch them deteriorate instead of taking them to the hospital, I was shocked. Being raised in a non-religious family, where my grandmother was a doctor and my mother was a nurse, I couldn’t believe that people would deny medical care due to religious reasons. So I decided to do more research on both sides of the issue and how the cases were resolved.

Q: What’s an interesting thing you’ve learned about your topic?

A: I have learned that despite the general opinion, Christian Science doesn’t prohibit its followers from seeking medical care, and most Christian Science churches still welcome people even if they choose medicine instead of religious healing.

Q: What was your favorite and least favorite part?

A: My favorite part is interviewing people. Even though I don’t like calling people, I thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with two law school professors and a Christian Science Practitioner. I was so (sure) that I would hate the interviews, but it’s actually intriguing to hear other people’s opinions and both sides of the story. However, my least favorite part is studying the legal cases. There are many interesting cases that were resolved quite unexpectedly, but they were also heavy and sometimes awful to read about.

Q: What was your greatest challenge?
A: My greatest challenge was to remain neutral on the issue while doing the research. Sometimes I became very agitated with the legal cases, especially when the articles took a very emotional approach.

Q: What do you want your audience to learn?
A: During my research, I learned to never judge things unless you know every aspect of it. You can choose what you believe in or disagree with what people say or do, but you should still respect those people and ideas.

By Spencer Scott



Abby LaComb will discuss the merging of Unitarianism and Universalism, into one religion, Unitarian Universalism.

Q: Why did you choose this?

A: I’m not religious, and this religion really appealed to me because it focuses on morals and less on the belief (in) God. Unitarian Universalism is lesser known, and I thought it would be better to do a religion that not everybody knows about.

Q: What was your favorite part? Least favorite?

A: Going to the service and learning about their voice inside of the community and what they support. However, I didn’t really like narrowing my topic for the presentation. There were so many things to choose from, and I had to go through a couple of ideas before I got my final one. Also, my religion formed in 1961, and it’s fairly small, which made it difficult in some topics of the religion to find information.

Q: What was the most interesting thing you learned?

A: Everything! I honestly didn’t really know anything about the religion when I chose it. I just saw a clip of it on the news that really sparked my interest. I thought it was interesting how inside of Unitarian Universalism there are many religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Taoism, Hinduism, agnosticism, atheism, etc. They are open to anyone and really seem so friendly and helpful.

Q: What was your greatest challenge?

A: Narrowing the topic for the presentation. I’m not a big fan of presenting in front of people, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Creating the design was hard, too. I’m not really skilled with computers or design. My slides were literally stacked with information and pictures that would appear and disappear, so it became a bit confusing during some points of design. Also, choosing the order of information was a bit challenging. I tried a bunch of different orders before I found one that flowed nicely.

Q: What do you want your audience to learn?

A: I just wanted to show that not all religions have to be all about God. My religion is all about morals.

Q: Did you expect to make top 10?

A: I was surprised. After watching all the presentations (I went on one of the last days), I felt really nervous because everyone had such good presentations. I felt somewhat confident after I presented, but I was still nervous. I felt that I earned a good grade, but I wasn’t sure I made top 10.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

A: The meeting with (director of technology) Tom Wroten really helped. When I went into the meeting, I had a set layout for my presentation. After the meeting, I had a completely new topic. It was a little stressful because I felt behind after the meeting, but it paid off. Tom didn’t even look at my computer; he just asked me questions. Within 15 minutes he helped me find a topic that was way better than my original one.

Also for upcoming sophomores: I strongly recommend presenting in front of a bunch of different people. Have them write down questions or comments as you present. This really helped me make the presentation more clear and concise.

By Bri Davies



Chardonnay Needler’s project focuses on the alphabetization of the Chinese language and how it has contributed to an increase in literacy in the past few decades. It also discusses the invention and implementation of two major methods that are still used today: pinyin, which is primarily used in mainland China, and zhuyin fuhao, which is used in Taiwan and is the predecessor of pinyin. 

Q: Why did you choose to focus on the Chinese language?

A: I enjoy studying the Chinese language, and I was already familiar with some of the history of the Chinese language and its different forms. My topic isn’t too political, and there is a lot of information about it. I chose to focus on literacy specifically out of pure curiosity.

Q: What was your favorite part of the project? Your least favorite?

A: I hate to say this, but my favorite part has been everything! It’s incredibly interesting to learn about the alphabet of a language that doesn’t naturally have one. I also enjoyed learning about how much improvement has been made in literacy rates (from eight percent to 96 percent in 50 years). Lastly, I loved my interviews with teachers, even if I did not use all the information directly. I had a lot of fun doing this project.

My least favorite part was having to explain so much about my topic before being able to talk about the interesting parts. I already knew a lot about my topic when I started it, but most of my audience didn’t know anything about it. So I had less time than I wanted to focus on less well-known aspects of my topic.

Q: What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned?

A: Why Mandarin became the dominant language, and how this affected literacy rates and the course of linguistic history in China. Mandarin wasn’t always spoken by everyone in China, nor was China always seen as a monolingual nation. The history and development of the language were really fascinating to me.

Q: What was your greatest challenge?

A: Interviews. My project is more focused on history than on personal stories, so finding people to interview was challenging. I could ask any Mandarin-speaking person questions and get the same story. The inventors of the writing systems are all dead, and Mandarin has been implemented in multiple nations, so there is no local focus.  

Q: What do you want your audience to learn?

A: I want to educate them. People know very little about this topic in America, so I want my audience to understand the goal of the Chinese government (to make all citizens literate) and how insane and hard it was for them to come up with a solution to the literacy problem.

Q: Did you expect to be in the top-10 presentations?

A: I did and didn’t. I felt that many presentations were much prettier than mine. I have good presentation skills, and I love to talk, but I felt like those skills weren’t going to be taken into account as much as they were.

By Héloïse Schep



Mohini Rye will present on the path of Conservative Judaism.

Q: What is your presentation about?

A: The rise (and now fall) of Conservative Judaism, and what its drop in members means for its future. I’m more or less exploring whether it’s a dying religion.

Q: Why did you choose it?

A: Deciding on a religion itself was a long process because some of my choices, like Buddhism, had too many (sophomores) doing it to be a logical choice. By the time I decided on Conservative Judaism, I had no idea what to do with it.

While researching aimlessly, I came across an article suggesting ideas on how to “save” Conservative Judaism. I was pretty surprised – I didn’t even know it was failing in the first place. When I looked into it more, it was something that I thought would be interesting to learn and talk about because if I didn’t know about it, I doubted other people would.

Q: What were your favorite and least favorite parts?

A: My favorite part was putting the presentation together (since) I love designing. I was worried about piecing together enough information to make a compelling presentation, but I actually had to cut a lot.

My least favorite was definitely tracking down all the original research. A lot of it, like research journals, was something you had to purchase, and I didn’t want to spend money on the project. I eventually did find some that I didn’t have to pay for, but it took a lot of time.

It was fun to bring art and work into one project, although I probably had a bit too much fun with transitions.

Q: What was the most interesting thing you learned?

A: The idea of my whole project is what most interested me, along with all the harrowing statistics. There are so many people leaving Conservative Judaism for so many reasons, and I didn’t even know it was a problem!

You go through history and so many things disappear, including religions. In a couple centuries from now, I wonder if Conservative Judaism will die out, too.

Q: What was your greatest challenge?

A: My greatest challenge was getting down to the most original research. It’s not like this is a problem that has been widely publicized. Lots of people aren’t even doing anything about it, which made it hard to find good stats.

Q: What do you want your audience to learn?

A: I want them to be aware that this is a problem and that history is always moving forward; things that are around today will be left behind. Conservative Judaism could be one of them unless something is done.

By Larkin Barnard-Bahn



Sophomore Joe Zales will present on the Catholic Priest Jorge Mario Bergoglio

Q: What inspired you to choose this topic?

A: I was inspired to choose this topic as the house of worship I chose was St. Ignatius Loyola, which is a Catholic church. Its priests are Jesuits, and Jorge is currently one of the most prominent Jesuits in the world right now. I suppose that I wanted a topic that I would be interested in so that I would be OK researching the topic as much as I did.

Q: What’s an interesting thing you’ve learned about your topic?

A: I learned that there was way more fake news surrounding the Catholic Church than I thought there was. This surprised me, and for the research, it was hard to distinguish what was true and what fake news or merely an opinion on Jorge.

Q: What were your favorite and least favorite parts?

A: My favorite was designing and putting together the presentation. I really like having animations that emphasize what I’m talking about without distracting from the presentation, so I spent a lot of time making sure that the slides moved smoothly and looked clean and simple. However, this made it really hard to go back and edit my slides. Which is my least favorite part. I have part of my presentation where the lines of text move up the screen, and I decided that I wanted to take out two of them, which meant I had to go back and move all of the other lines of text around so that they had uniform spacing. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it took me a little under an hour to perfect.

Q: What was your greatest challenge?

A: The greatest challenge was learning all the vocabulary specific to Catholicism as the religion is not my own. I had to ask the priest that I interviewed a couple of times to define word(s) that he was using.

Q: What do you want your audience to learn?

A: What I want the audience to take away is that with firsts comes opposition and controversy. In a way this is my thesis.

By Spencer Scott

Print Friendly, PDF & Email