2020 Symposium: Web Design

Senior technical theatre and design major Taylor Pope has dreamed about being a sound engineer on Broadway, and she hopes a personal website might help get her there.

“I have always been a technical person, but building a website was difficult,” she said. “Wix is an amazing web design software, and once I got used to using the controls it was easy.”

Pope presented the session, “Professional Website Design: How it Works” at the 2020 Piedmont Symposium. Having a personal website helps influence people and adds value by sharing one’s value. It helps recruiters find potential employees much easier when applying for a job, and is a first great impression to help secure that first interview, Pope said.

In designing a website, Pope said the key is to plan your design. Think of how to appeal to a particular audience. In web design you don’t want to use the same templates that everyone else is using. Designing a site that is unique to your skills and personality will attract users to follow through and use your service.

“You want to make sure your website represents your uniqueness by appealing to those who you want to attract,” she said.

Pope uses Wix as her design software. Wix is a user-friendly site utilizing a drag and drop builder to make it simple for users to create their own website unique to themselves, Pope said. Wix has a lot of features to choose from and they make it easy to market your website.

“One of the things I loved about Wix is they give you step-by-step instructions about how to do navigate their website,” said Pope

Building a website can get frustrating at times. Taking advantage of her experience and building projects has helped Pope navigate Wix. “Think outside of the box and try something that you haven’t done before.”

Things shift very quickly in the design world. When designing a website, you have a lot of creative freedom. Pope explains not to overthink about how difficult or impossible things are. Instead, think outside of the box. Trying things that are different have haven’t been done before has help Pope explore new things.

“It might not work out, but it will work at least once more than it will if you never try.”

Pope finished her project explaining how her website is organized and the purpose of the class. Learning what employers are looking for, she was very happy with the outcome of her website. She has already used her site professionally at the South Eastern Theater Conference in February.

“I really enjoyed designing my website,” Pope said. “It’s amazing to look back on the things I’ve done.”

2020 Piedmont College Symposium

Piedmont College— Even in the wake of COVID-19, a group of business students propose a way that companies can help refugees, and vice versa.

A group of business students: Rachel Irby, Leslie Lopez, Mark Mitchell, Julia Nichols, Walker Snyder, and Valeriya Zhurakovskaya presented the session, “Migration, Employment and Entrepreneurship” at the 2020 Piedmont Symposium.

“We used The Department of Homeland Security to find out where these refugees were coming from and where they were going throughout the U.S.”, said Walker Snyder.

“People struggle to build a new life either because they are lacking education or finances”, said Leslie Lopez.

Lopez put together a pool of information about the migration of refugees. Her main focus was about those who were from Syria and Venezuela. She explained that refugees have a hard time settling in a new city or country due to their lack of education or finances. It is not easy to make a life for yourself when you are being stereotyped and judged, she said.

But there is one place refugees can be welcomed — business. Mark Mitchell noted that companies can help refugees, and in return refugees can help those companies.  

“You’re trying to generate revenue and help both parties”, Mitchell said.

However, COVID-19 has made it difficult to pursue and maintain this mutually beneficial relationship between refugees and employers.

“Different fields of employment have went up now with the virus,” said Rachel Irby, noting that refugees are usually used to fill in the gaps for companies that need employment. With the virus putting people out of work and businesses closing, it leaves little to no job opportunities for the refugees.

“I think this team has done a very good job of trying to highlight both what was there and what could be there for impact investing in tools and resources in helping people connect”, said Professor Stephen Carlson.

My personality trait is mental illness.

Abigail Cox, a mass communication major, is striving to change the very essence of how mental illness is displayed on social media. Her presentation, “Beautiful Suffering Turned to Dark Dismay: Glorification of Mental Illness on Social Media,” was presented at Piedmont College’s 2020 Symposium and shines a light on an issue that people deal with every day. 

“Many college students suffer from a mental illness, whether their family and friends are aware of it or not, and social media can be an outlet where they can express what they are feeling,” she said.

Her research shows that people who do not suffer from these mental illnesses often use the illness for attention. Not only do people with mental illnesses tolerate direct harassment from the people online, but they suffer a belittlement of the sickness that they do have. 

Dr. Melissa Tingle, mass communications professor and adviser for Cox’s research project, said that she has seen social media used on both ends of the spectrum. “Sometimes, they are constructively written and helpful to others, and some smack of false humility and pity that feels like the individual is seeking attention,” Tingle said. 

Cox has spent eight weeks working intensively on this project to make sure that she has done her duty to present the correct message. She decided to do this topic because she wants “to inspire positivity online, as well as spreading awareness of the harmful effects of glorifying mental illness to seem ‘relatable.'” 

An example given in her presentation is someone saying that “they are completely depressed because they can’t go to a party.” This is what she defines as “beautiful suffering” — the way that people on social use terms affiliated with mental disorders as a way to describe a disappointment or a certain mood.

Cox said she applied concepts from her mass communication theory and research class in her project. Her goal is to show that people with legitimate illnesses are being belittled, emphasizing  that their mental health disorder is just a personality trait, and not as dangerous as it is. She also hopes that people will change the way people they use social media. 

Cox said that people can begin to express how they legitimately feel without using somebody else’s mental illness to benefit themselves. They can express their sadness without belittling a mental illness. 

“I would love to erase the stigma of mental illness around the globe,” she said. “Every individual on Earth has their difficulties that they face every day, and for a lot of people, including myself, that includes anxiety and depression.” 

Alyssa Emmett: Behind the Scenes of the Yearbook: The Making of Yonahians 100th edition

Alyssa Emmett remembers falling in love with designing the layout for the yearbook when joining the Yonahian yearbook her freshman year in the fall of 2016. Emmett and her fellow classmate Sarah Bittner participated in Piedmont College’s Symposium by giving a presentation on Behind the Scenes of the Yearbook: The Making of Yonahian’s 100th edition.   

“Yearbooks are timeless. Once they are printed, a person has the book to keep with them forever.” Emmet said. “It’s very different versus a digital copy or on a CD. When you have a printed yearbook, it stays the same forever.”     

Emmett’s virtual presentation was held during the 2020 Piedmont Symposium. Emmet described what goes into making the yearbook and then showed off the layout for this year’s Piedmont edition. Being the 100th edition of Yonahian, the staff added a different element to this year’s book. 

“We also include a historical timeline in this publication,” Emmett said, adding that Bittner was responsible for the creation of the timeline.  

Working with Emmett, Bittner wasn’t just helping produce this year’s book, but was also training for the future as she will be editor-in-chief next year. 

 “As a freshman, I’m still learning a lot of new information when it comes to designing a book,” Bittner said. “But I’d say I now know the basic “rules” that go into a page/book layout. Such as the typography, spacing, design elements, how pages should be laid out in a spread, and in what order is best.  

With such a focus on Piedmont history in this year’s book, Emmett described a major obstacle during her research.   

“I had a hard time finding research about yearbooks specifically at colleges and universities.” Emmett said. “A lot of schools around the country have stopped publishing a yearly publication.” 

“Yearbooks are so important to me because I found my passion for creating and leading others through this publication,” Emmet said. “The Yonahian yearbook is the reason I am a mass communications major and a graphic design minor.”  

 As she looks to graduation, Emmett credits her involvement with the yearbook as a driving force in her Piedmont education. 

“The thing I most enjoyed about this project is being able to share my love for this publication. It truly has shaped me into the person I am today, and I couldn’t imagine my life without having joined yearbook.” she said. “It has allowed me to find my passion and meet some amazing people.”    

Symposium Story: Beautiful Suffering Turned into Dark Dismay: Glorification of Mental Illness on Social Media by Abigail Cox

Kaylie Barrett

As people increasingly share information about their lives on social media, Piedmont College junior Abby Cox is concerned about the impact it can have on those with mental illnesses.

“When individuals with a mental illness see that others are glorifying illnesses that they suffer from it begins the propagation of beautiful suffering,” said Cox.

At the 2020 Piedmont Symposium, Cox, a mass communications major, presented her poster “Beautiful Suffering Turned into Dark Dismay: Glorification of Mental Illness on Social Media.”  Cox noted there is a lot of negativity on social media, and this may have negative impacts on some.

“Beautiful suffering is the online portrayal of suffering on social media that generates misbeliefs and misconceptions about mental illness,” Cox said. 

For example, when a person says they’re “depressed” because a concert is canceled or they spilled something on their favorite shirt, it minimizes the pain of those actually suffering from clinical depression. 

“When a person is actually suffering from a severe mental illness sees that, they don’t think that their issues are big as they actually are,” she said, adding that it can make those suffering from depression feel “little and smaller.”

While researching, Cox found there are many contributing factors linked to glorified depression on social media. 

“There is a growing interest in the potential influence of psychological well-being on social media,” she said. 

Today, mental illness is portrayed differently due to the impact social media has on today’s society and generations. 

“Mental illnesses are now represented as “interesting personality quirks.”

Like mentioned earlier, people feel belittled by something as serious as Depression being taken so lightly as a “personality quirk.” 

Fellow student, Breanna Gipson viewed the presentation and felt it impacted her greatly. “I see a lot of meme’s on Facebook and especially Instagram that would be considered glorifying depression or mental illness in general,” she said. “Those posts are usually shared and reposted by millions of people so it’s spread everywhere.”

Mass Communications Professor Joe Dennis said he can personally relate to some of the points Cox made in her presentation. “It took me a long time to come to accept my clinical depression, in part because I misunderstood the meaning of depression,” he said. “Because everyone one gets ‘depressed,’ right? I thought I should be able to snap out of it. And when I couldn’t, I sunk even further.”

Cox ended her presentation with reminding the audience to be more aware of what they post and the true meaning of the words they write. 

The Glorification of Mental Illness in Social Media: The Negative Effects on Individual’s Lives.

Demorest, Ga— Social media allows people to remain connected to others at all times, but it can also have to negative effects on individual’s lives. 

“The risk of negative consequences on an individual with mental health are much greater when an individual is constantly online,” Said Abby Cox, a junior Mass Communications major. “Multiple factors like social media lead to mental illness.” 

Cox presented her research, “Beautiful Suffering Turned to Dark Dismay: Glorification of Mental Illness on Social Media,” at The 2020 Piedmont Symposium, held on April 15. Cox recalls misconceptions and misbeliefs of mental illness within the media. Expressing concern for the well-being and mental health of others, she notes the negative impact that social media has on those with illnesses. 

“Belittling the severity of mental illness can make those with mental illness feel belittled,” She said. 

Cox’s words regarded the seriousness of her topic. Cox says the impact that a belittling statement, such as being “depressed” because an individual is unable to attend a concert, has a detrimental effect on a person who is clinically depressed.

“These statements hurt your feelings and make you think that maybe your pain doesn’t matter or isn’t anything serious,” Cox says. 

The more social media romanticizes mental illness, the less likely it is for an individual with an actual mental illness to speak up. An individual’s self-esteem plummets and their health and well-being are harmed. 

“By researching this topic, it has really opened my eyes on how frequently mental illness is glorified through social media,” Cox said, noting that millions of individuals suffer from mental illness such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder. “So, the fact that some people are not taking such a thing seriously is disheartening.” 

Cox says that individuals on social media platforms use emotions such as sadness in their photo captions and poses online. Other viewers will look up to these photos and then strive to be ‘sad’ as well. People on social media are not aware of their impact on those who are mental ill. 

Dr. Melissa Tingle, mass communications professor and Cox’s research adviser, said that she has seen social media used as a channel to highlight mental illness. “Sometimes they are constructively written and helpful to others and some lack of false humility and pity that feels like the individual is seeking attention.”

Tingle thinks that some individuals use mental illness in social media as a way to gain attention. Although some people are genuine, others are ignorant to their negative actions on social media. Tingle says that it is best if people are more aware of what they are putting online.

“I had never really noticed the negative impact until now,” Connor Rogers said after watching Cox’s presentation, “I can see now that my friends act sad to seem cool — like it is a popular trend.” 

Rogers recalls hearing his friends throw around the word “depression” as a casual thing. He says that it seems like people want to be depressed because it makes them cooler and edgier than others. 

“People need to realize that mental illness is a real thing that affects millions of people,” Rogers said. “Throwing around terms like depression and anxiety need to stop.” 

Rogers realizes that mental illness is a severe disease and individuals should do what they can to eliminate the glorification in social media. He is willing to do his part in spreading positivity online and around his peers in order to stop the glorification. 

“We have to be careful about what we post and how our posts are interpreted,” Cox said. “We should help stop the things that other people post if they are glorifying social media.” 

Cox calls for the increased spread of positivity on social media as well as more awareness when someone is typing a caption or taking a photo in order to stop the glorification of mental illness.

Cox talks about her ability to impact social media in a positive way. Although she may not be feeling very positive one day, she knows that other individuals who are struggling will need an extra boost to their confidence. 

“I try to spread as much positivity as possible on social media,” Cox said. “Somebody else might need to see it as well, and that could very well turn their day around if they are struggling.”

Shattering the Stained Glass Ceiling with Laura Alyssa Platé’s Symposium

Breaking glass may seem like an easy task, but Laura Alyssa Platé proves that it is harder than one might imagine, especially in the church.

Platé, a religion and history major, presented her senior capstone, “The Journey to Dismantling the Stained Glass Ceiling,” at the 2020 Piedmont Symposium. The glass ceiling refers to an invisible barrier that specifically affects women and minorities in their professional growth. When talking about the stained glass ceiling, Platé is specifically referring to the barrier for women and minorities and their professional growth in the church. This barrier still exists, Platé said, and her presentation focused on the steps needed to ensure this stained glass ceiling does not exist forever.

Platé’s idea for her capstone came in her first year at Piedmont when she took a class about the life of the biblical figure Paul. As the final paper in this class, the students had to pick a topic Paul talked about, do some research into his opinion and apply it to the modern world.

“For that paper, I chose to write about women in ministry. I loved writing that paper, that class is still one of my favorite classes because of that paper,” said Platé. “I chose that topic because I have struggled with a call and seeing where God wants me and wondering if that might be in ministry.”

Ministry can mean different things to different people, and for Platé, ministry has a personal definition through her father.

“If ministry means being a congregational minister, then there are churches where it’s still not allowed for me, which definitely hits close to home,” she said. “Also, I see my dad always support women in ministry when he was a Southern Baptist minister. He came out of the priesthood because of that.”

Tim Lytle, professor of philosophy and religion, is the faculty adviser for Platé’s Capstone presentation. Since all religion majors have to present their Capstones in the spring, Lytle had another student he was advising, John Hollis Meyer.

“They both did a great job in adapting their presentations to fit the time constraints and the media constraints of the Symposium,” said Lytle. “It wasn’t what we had hope for when planning the Symposium, but as a way to adapt to the current circumstances, it was a great success.”

Campus minister Tim Garvin-Leighton, more fondly known as Rev Tim, attended Platé’s Symposium presentation.

“Laura Alyssa’s topic is timely, as more and more women go into Christian ministry and many of them seek ordination. Her section on the redemption of Eve was fascinating,” said Garvin-Leighton. “I believe that she was able to convey her main point that women in ministry does not go against the Bible.”

Doing a presentation on something you’re passionate about can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you are able to research a topic you love, but on the other hand, you become aware that there are people who do not feel the same as you do. This is one of the biggest issues Platé faced when she was writing her Capstone.

“When I was going through my research, I had to force myself to read things that I disagreed with so that I could argue against them. I would think to myself, ‘you have to read this so you can explain why that’s not true,’” said Platé.

In order for women to have a place in ministry for the future, there are some changes that need to be made. One suggestion Platé makes is a separation of church politics and church theology.

“Even the people that believe that women should be in the church share culpability of the way that women aren’t allowed to leave their mark behind a pulpit,” said Platé. “My hope with that is that the conversation has to continue until there is a defined answer. Having people that are willing to have those hard conversations and not walk away from the table is really important.”

Hollis Meyer’s Take on Homosexuality in Religion

Religion and homosexuality have often been at odds. Hollis Meyer, a junior at Piedmont, explored this relationship examining religious teachings in his senior capstone paper, Homosexuality in the Bible and Qu’ran.

“As a gay person and a person of faith, and having grown up in the Deep South, I’ve had many of the texts I study in the paper thrown at me to denigrate my identity. Using my education to reckon with these topics is the best way I know how, and it allows me to funnel my passion into my work.”

Meyer presented his paper at the 2020 Piedmont Symposium, held entirely online on April 15 due to COVID-19. This was a change Meyer had to adjust to.

 “It was a novel situation. I had originally prepared to use the Symposium as my presentation time for my philosophy & religion capstone, but I had to change my plans a bit. I provided a .docx for Zoom participants and find a good place to sit that didn’t have clutter but had good connection to the internet.”

In examining homosexuality in the Bible, Meyer found that homosexuality was possibly not what The Bible was referencing, that it was referencing “Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, [and] robbers.”

The Qu’ran, which is an extension of the Old Testament for those of Muslim faith, has similar writings about homosexuality.

Meyer in his research paper said “There is no reason to believe that homosexuality in the time of Paul or for centuries thereafter [was present].”

Dr. Tim Lytle, Meyer’s academic advisor for his presentation, said that under the conditions, Meyer presented good research. “Ordinarily, I would spend a good bit of time in the latter half of the semester working one-on-one with students,” he said, adding that he was unable to that in the same capacity due to the shelter-in-place order.

Although COVID-19 didn’t allow students to meet in person, that did not discourage students from attending. Meyer’s session was packed with more 40 attendees, and he had to take into account for distractions from other students in the Zoom call, and distractions in his home. “Before the pandemic, I was going to print out a few handouts, and present for about 10 minutes and field questions,” he said. “I had to account for ambient noise from participants who hadn’t muted their microphones and the four children I live with. Not to mention our two dogs.”

Migration, Employment & Entrepreneurship

As American employers report a difficulty in finding “skilled labor,” a team of student researchers at Piedmont College think they may have found the answer, as well as helping solve another international dilemma.

“By 2018, there were 70.8 million individuals forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations,” said senior business major Leslie Lopez, adding that their research focused specifically on Syria and Venezuela.

Lopez was presenting the topic “Migration, Employment and Entrepreneurship” at the 2020 Piedmont Symposium along with fellow senior business majors Rachel Irby, Julia Nichols, Wes Snyder, Mark Mitchell and Valeriya Zhurakovskava.

Statistics show extreme numbers for both regions. Syria with 6.2 million internally displaced with upwards of 11 million requiring humanitarian assistance. Venezuela has seen a 8000% growth in those seeking refugee status with roughly 4.6 million that have already left the country.

“Just like the Middle East, Latin America struggles to meet the needs of refugees and those of their populations.” said Lopez.

With countries struggling to meet needs of their refugees, this means there is not much work for these people, as Lopez stated, “Of 305 Syrian refugees, 82% of adults were unemployed, with 38% having a college education.” Lopez said.

 These statistics are high compared to those not being displaced. So, where do opportunities for employment come from for these people?

Rachel Irby passionately speaks on remote employment and how refugees can obtain jobs while in their situation. “HR has recently reported difficulty in recruiting due to lack of skills or candidates.” Irby said, adding that many refugees lack basic skills needed, such as “technical skills and soft skills.” “Some employers have found training to be useful in shortening the gap, but other employers have found alternative candidates in retirees and veterans or foreign countries.”

Remote employment would help prospective employers fill their gaps.

“Our team believes that the answer to filling labor market and skill shortages is through the refugee workforce by providing remote work opportunities,” said Irby. With remote work having 173% grown from 2005-2018, and 5 million Americans working from home, this seems to be the best solution for employing refugees who have migrated back to their home countries or have chosen to come to a new country for a new life. Remote work also shows benefits to the employers of these remote workers. Benefits including higher retention rates and cost saving for the firms.

Irby said the idea for the research came from their business professor Steven Carlson.

“Carlson approached Amplio recruiting, so he really decided to base our class about the research for Amplio’s fund,” she said. 

Upon researching the project there were things that caught the team by surprise. Senior Leslie Lopez said, “We were surprised by the amount of information that we found, and some days the information was overwhelming,” Lopez said. “We thought we would find a few articles that approached the subject, but instead of a few, we saw thousands of articles, studies, news, and data sets from all over the world.” Irby as well responded with what surprised the team as they dove deeper into their research. 

“We were all surprised about the effect the skill gap has on the U.S market,” Irby said. “More specifically, the jobs that are hiring cannot find anyone to fill positions because of the skill shortage in potential candidates.”

Carlson hopes for this research “to help build the case for impact investing to promote ventures that provide refugees with work opportunities.”

Lopez could not agree more with Carlson. “ I believe it is the future for employment.” she said. “The world is currently going through a health crisis, and we are seeing that many companies have their employees work remotely. Employers are having conversations n how to continue operations while not having staff in the company’s facilities and, this will tremendously help refugees, especially those who are displaced in their own country and struggle to find a job. with remote work, an individual is not dependent on local job offerings and can find one that fits their set of skills and qualifications.” 

We have the technology; it will be accessible in a way that once again is life changing. Through impact investing and properly integrating this technology the standard of living can improve worldwide. 

Online Language Symposium

With the vast growth of social media in the last decade, children around the world are most often communicating through different technologies. What does that mean for the English language? 

“Children have started using the internet younger and younger, and it is not uncommon to see a tablet-using toddler in a shopping cart seat or elementary school kids with smartphones, when just ten years ago teenagers were denied flip-phones by strict parents,” said psychology major, Cole Cline. 

Cline presented his paper, “21st Century Verbal Man: A Defense of Children’s Internet Language” at the 2020 Piedmont Symposium. Cline says society has become obsessed with social media and screen time, in general. Through multiple academic sources, Cline was exploring whether this newfound “internet language” was having a detrimental effect in learning the English language. 

”I found the topic through a video by Tom Scott, who is a frequent collaborator with McCulloch,” Cline said. “Before, I had a passing interest in linguistics, but seeing that I could be able to link psychology with it really sent me down one of the few good paths of no return.” 

After viewing the video, Cole said he had the feeling of “wanting to know more” — the internet researcher in him came out. It led to him wanting to find the missing link. “The social and linguistic behaviors all made sense, they fit together like a puzzle more than I was expecting. Honestly, it was lucky that it got to be a defense rather than an attack.” 

The results of his research surprised him – there is no noticeable negative impact on learning. “I was expecting it to contradict developmental patterns, but it just … didn’t. In the words of developer Todd Howard, ‘It just works.’ There’s the researcher in me who wanted there to be a missing link, the final thing I could find and put together that everyone else would have missed! But it seemed just too logical, too much of what we should have expected,” Cole said. 

Sheere Irvin, a teacher at Level Grove Elementary has seen the changes firsthand. “I have truly seen the change through this technology advancement in the last decade,” she said. “I have been around public school systems and it seems every year in recent memory that kids come in with new tablets and things like.” 

Sheere has seen the changes with her own children, 18 and 10 years old. “Raising Peyton (18) was a lot different than Oakley (10). She has spent a lot more of her time on her i-pad or TikTok, where Peyton was always outside and playing sports. I do believe Oakley has benefitted in her learning more than Peyton was at her age, and she has a lot more knowledge about technology in general.”