July 25, 2024

Research acts as a large part of professor and student engagement at Bucknell. Over spring break, History Professor David Del Testa traveled to Japan with several students to present their research. Working with multiple students over different lengths of time, this was the first time the group could travel abroad and present.

Professor Del Testa started this opportunity in 2021 when he created a new faculty-student collaborative research project with four Presidential Fellows from the class of 2025: Grace Garvey 25, Bryce Merry 25, Lizzy Harrison 25 and Vienne Warfel 25. The goal of this research project was to explore ways in which the study abroad experience might become more accessible, inclusive and flexible. Del Testa pointed out that this research project was particularly important for him because some of his family members had faced barriers to travel and learning. 

Professor Del Testa had this to share about designing a solution to their research project: “After some initial work together, we decided to develop three interchangeable, interrelated complementary approaches to traditional study abroad: an interactive, augmented reality-enhanced app through which students can lead some or all of their study abroad experience in-person, a 1:1 video simulacra of that study abroad experience, through which students can “travel” and learn, and an immersive Ambisonic audio version of the video simulacra for use by those who cannot use or choose not to use visual interfaces.”

Two other students joined the project later, Renee Palma 26 and Dylan Christie 26. Collaborating with the Presidential Fellows, they developed conference papers for presentation in Japan. Through the Bucknell Institute of Public Policy (BIPP) Summer Research Fellowship with Del Testa as her faculty mentor, Palma investigated the relationship between the corporatization of the university and the proliferation of International Virtual Exchange (IVE) in university internationalization strategies. 

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With support from David Del Testa, Palma was able to research the project through a new perspective. “I considered this relationship through the lens of William Dugger’s ‘Power: An Institutional Framework of Analysis’ to develop a critical framework through which to analyze its development,” Palma said. “This project lasted 8 weeks. This individual project was part of a larger initiative led by Professor Del Testa and his Presidential Fellows to develop an education abroad program that critically leverages augmented reality and other digital tools to facilitate accessibility. The program intends to trace the path all throughout Japan taken by Matsuō Basho, an acclaimed haiku poet from the Edo Period.”

Japan was chosen as the destination for the conference because Professor Del Testa has done previous work in the country for the International Conference on Instructional and Educational Technology (ICIET). In 2018, he and his students traveled to ICIET. He knew the environment would be very friendly for English speaking presentations. At the conference, Harrison won the best poster presentation award which demonstrates the effectiveness of the students’ research. 

Students were able to attend this trip free of cost. This was made possible with on-campus research and travel support from the Humanities Institute, the China Institute and many academic departments including History, Education, Economics, Geography, Business Analytics, East Asian Studies and Women and Gender Studies. 

Professor Del Testa expressed his gratitude for being able to appropriate funds for this trip, “I am thankful to have Liz Loss in History and many people in Finance to help me manage all of these different sources brought together, and Terri Barner at Anthony Travel at Bucknell to help me arrange travel.”

Aside from Presenting at the ICIET conference, Professor Del Testa and students were able to explore Japan and meet Bucknell alumni now living there. This included visiting some of Japan’s most famous sites such as the Tojinbo Cliffs and Imperial Gardens. 

Professor Del Testa enjoyed the dinners with Bucknell alumni who live and work in Japan, “We met with Daisuke Nishii (’85), who works in the renewable energy group of Tokyo Gas, and Misa Kohsai (’09), who provides special education support services in math to the visually challenged for the Tokyo Metropolitan School District, for dinner in Tokyo and Emeritus Professor Michael Larazin (’71) and his wife for kaiseki cuisine in Kyoto.”

Bucknell offers many student research opportunities and reflects the liberal arts nature of the University. Since Professor Del Testa has been teaching, he has always facilitated student research. 

He shared the importance of having student-initiated research on campus. “Student-initiated research or faculty-student research projects offer important learning experiences, of course, but also excellent opportunities to mature intellectually, emotionally and even spiritually,” Del Testa said. “Students who come to a professor seeking out the opportunity to conduct research almost always already have the maturity and capacity for high-quality work, but require the professor to help shape the experience and help provide the tools and direction to do so.”

Students interested in research should always be on the lookout for professors who open research opportunities. As Professor Del Testa highlighted, Bucknell professors are willing to work with students to help them succeed intellectually. The Japan trip is just one of many unique opportunities students can experience at Bucknell.

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