Spring brings an annual series of events to the campus of Walla Walla University. And one of them I especially enjoy is a chapel service where we highlight student scholarship.

Each year we ask for nominations to feature and we always have too many excellent suggestions for our short program

This year we will celebrate these accomplishments at a chapel service on April 22 at 11 a.m. in the University Church, and you are most welcome to come.

Let me give you a little taste of projects we will feature this year.

Graphic artist Alix Harris served last quarter as the art director in the course Graphics Services. Class members played the roles of employees in a design firm. Alix, coordinating a team of other students, tackled the challenge of rebranding a local elementary school, the Milton-Stateline Adventist School.

The outcome?

According to the instructor, Linda Felipez, “Alix and her team did an amazing job of crafting a variety of materials for the school — a new logo, mission statement, a wide variety of printed materials, a video, and a website.” 

Senior social work student Joy Nelson uses music therapy with dementia patients. Joy plays hand bells, native flute, Celtic flute, the accordion, and also sings.

She brings her music with her in her social work practicum where she develops a personal musical care plan for each patient. She uses a standard geriatric assessment with each client and then provides music therapy or intervention following the personal music care plan for three weeks, followed by another assessment and an additional three weeks of therapy.

Ultimately, she seeks an answer to the question, “Did this help?”

Early indications are the therapy does indeed benefit Joy’s patients.

A large group of engineering students (a total of 16 scholars) are working on a thermal-soaring unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), guided by project sponsor Michael Allen, who worked on a similar project at NASA.

With teams assigned to various aspects of the project, they are designing their UAV — a lightweight glider with a 100-inch wingspan powered by battery — to do “machine learning,” to teach itself to find thermal air currents and stay aloft longer.

This would be especially beneficial in search and rescue UAVs, which could extend searches without having to return to base.

Team member Garrett Wilson describes the hoped for outcome: “Once we get the glider in the air, the propeller will fold back to reduce drag. From that point on, it will rely on finding thermals to stay in the air.”

Team members credit courses such as “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” and “Writing for Engineers” with providing necessary skills, together with a lot of learning outside of classes and much tinkering and experimentation for the success they are experiencing.

University students engaged in important, fascinating and valuable scholarship, exhibiting the core themes of Walla Walla University, “Excellence in Thought, Generosity in Service, Beauty in Expression, and Faith in God.” Could there be anything more rewarding?


John McVay is president of Walla Walla University.

Recommended for you