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Student Wins First Place at Conference

Posted on Friday, March 30, 2007

Amanda Miller, a Westminster College junior English major from Pittsburgh, was awarded first place for her paper, "Cycles and Femininity in Nature," at the New Philosophy and Religious Studies Conference held at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pa., March 24.

"I'm glad I took the opportunity to come to this conference," Miller said. "I feel that I learned valuable and interesting things from the diverse presentations. I'm happy that my paper sparked many ideas and questions, and I hope that others become interested in studying the fascinating aspects of various symbols."

"Miller's paper considered the relationship between lunar symbolism, plant cultivation, and fertility. The content was based on a paper on flower symbolism she submitted for the Religion and the Arts' course I taught during the fall of 2006," said Dr. Bryan Rennie, Westminster associate professor of religion and also one of the judges of the contest. "She re-focused and extended her argument showing deep connections among the meanings of lunar and vegetation symbols and female fertility."

The papers were judged by a panel of faculty members and awarded first, second, and third prizes of $150, $100, and $75. In second and third places respectively were papers by: Kyra Marken of Liberty University for "The Humanist Response to Scholasticism: Human Nature, Knowledge, and Education;" and Michael Evans of Penn State Altoona for "Oprah and Aristotle: Addressing a Hedonistic America."

The featured speaker was Dr. Gerald Zahorchak, the Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who spoke on "Applying Religious Teachers' Lessons to Public Life and Leadership." Zahorchak referred to recent articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Education Week, as well as to the notorious episode of Jay Leno's Tonight Show in which the members of the audience were asked to name the four Gospels and the four Beatles, and succeeded in the latter while failing the former. Zohorchak recommended required courses in world religions in colleges in the hope of training educators capable of providing objective and unbiased religious education in high schools.

Also attending and presenting papers at the conference were: Rennie Greenfield, an English and religion major from Poland, Ohio; and Zoe Anthony, an English and religion major from Campbell, Ohio. Dr. David Goldberg, Westminster College assistant professor of philosophy, also served as a judge.

"Everyone was particularly impressed with Westminster," said Dr. Arthur Remillard, the organizer of the conference. "In particular, your questions were pointed, intriguing, thought provoking, and fair. If people walked away from this conference remembering it as an intellectually stimulating, it will be because of your presence, and I want to give a special word of thanks to you."

Contact Rennie at (724) 946-7151 or e-mail for more information.

Amanda Miller
Westminster Group at the Conference