Adrian College’s annual Ribbons of Excellence Conference was held entirely in person for the first time in three years. While last year’s event was a hybrid between virtual and in-person attendance, this year, various classrooms around campus were filled once again with eager presenters and curious audience members.
On this Ribbons of Excellence Day, there were 46 different presentations, including oral presentations, poster exhibitions, and musical performances. In addition to student presentations, a few contests were held throughout the day, including two freshman writing awards, The Star Light Writing Award and the Mahan Manuscript Honors Award.
Freshman Christopher Fieldhouse and winner of the Mahan Manuscript Honors Award, said he at first did not realize how big of an accomplishment the award was. However, once Ribbons of Excellence Day came around, he realized how special the day and the award were.
Fieldhouse said, “After presenting and watching the other finalist, Mackenna Mougrabi, who had a great speech and I’m sure a fantastic paper, I was feeling a bit nervous.” Though he was nervous, Fieldhouse said, “Instant relief took over [and] hearing I won was just the cherry on top.”
Besides the freshman writing awards, there was also a creative writing contest, where students, faculty, and off-campus guests were invited to judge. Students from Dr. Curton’s Advanced Creative Writing: Poetry class shared select works from the semester. There were two awards given at the end of the contest, a judges’ choice award and a people’s choice award.
Sophomore Gabby Barksdale won the judges’ choice award with her poem titled “Target Practice.” Barksdale said, “I wrote [the poem] because the only time we acknowledge what happens to the people of the Black community is during Black History Month and when another Black person gets killed.”
In addition to student presentations, the day began with a presentation by keynote speaker Jennifer M. Kay. Kay graduated from Adrian in 2003, where she earned her BFA in Art Education with minors in French and Theatre. As a high school art educator, Kay exemplifies this year’s ribbon, “caring for humanity and the world.” In addition to serving as the advisor for NHS, she hosts an annual hair drive for Wigs 4 Kids, where she has donated her hair eight times.
Ribbons of Excellence Day was started in 2008 and was built on the key values of Adrian College. There are five ribbons representing the standards of excellence, including caring for humanity and the world, learning throughout a lifetime, thinking critically, crossing boundaries and disciplines, and developing creativity.
Each student presentation relates to at least one of the themes represented in the various ribbons. Following the presentations, at the Honors Ceremony, one presentation is awarded the “Outstanding Ribbons of Excellence Presentation Award.” Based on faculty judging, Maryssa McNamara’s presentation, “The Power of Female Storytelling: The Direction of ‘Night Blooming’,” was the winner.
McNamara admits Ribbons of Excellence Day was at first a nerve-wracking experience between having to present a year’s worth of research and the subject matter being extremely personal. However, McNamara said, “I had an incredible amount of support from faculty as well as peers from my department when I was presenting my poster.”
Despite students’ feelings of stress and anticipation leading up to the big day, each year, Ribbons of Excellence brings a heightened sense of camaraderie to campus as students and faculty support and encourage each other to share their research and passions.
McNamara said, “It was a wonderful opportunity, and I was truly honored that I was selected for the [Outstanding Ribbons of Excellence Presentation Award]. To be able to represent the arts as well as diverse communities was a humbling experience, and I am very grateful that I was able to do that.”