Panelists speak on innovative work

Left to Right: Panelists Scott Thorp, Eric Parker, Kendra Sue Finch, and Ashley Gess speak to the audience about innovative work at the LASER Talk on Sept. 13 in the JSAC Ballroom. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)
Left to Right: Panelists Scott Thorp, Eric Parker, Kendra Sue Finch, and Ashley Gess speak to the audience about innovative work at the LASER Talk on Sept. 13 in the JSAC Ballroom. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)

By Jamie Sapp | Editor-in-Chief

To celebrate innovative, creative and collaborative work, Augusta University hosted the LASER Talk that brought students, faculty and community leaders together on Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. in the JSAC Ballroom.

For those whom do not know what LASER means, it stands for Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous and it is a program sponsored by the Leonardo/The International Society for Arts, Sciences, and Technology.

The purpose of the non-profit organization is to bring artists and scientists together for great, informal conversations. The title of the LASER Talk was “Synthesis: Bridging Science and Art Through STEAM Education.”

At the evening event, the atmosphere of the room filled with laughter, excitement and curiosity.

Scott Thorp, chair of the department of art, welcomed the audience and later gave faculty and community leaders an opportunity to introduce themselves as well as share information on their work that related to art and science.

Zach Kelehear, dean of the college of education, spoke to the audience about the Integrative STEAM Education initiatives. He said the craft of teaching and the art is the science of what people do, which adds onto the aesthetic element in making people qualitatively different.

“Augusta University has challenged all the deans and challenged the science of doing different, to shake it up and make a difference,” Kelehear said to the audience. “I stand before you honored to take on that challenge.”

Kendra Sue Finch is a Spanish teacher and the Technology Integration and Innovation Coordinator at Westminster Schools of Augusta. Finch is an alumna of Augusta University.

Finch said her role is to help teachers find innovative teaching units for their students in transforming education within the classroom.

“I was taught by some amazing professors and those professors instilled in me a passion to think outside the box, and to try new things in the way that I would teach grammar and vocabulary,” she said. “…I didn’t want it to be boring. My professors inspired me to something dynamic in my Spanish classes and push the limit and try to find new ways to shaken up my classes.”

Finch spoke to the audience about the impact of design thinking upon herself, her teaching and her students, when she discussed about a previous research project with her sixth-grade students at the Lovett School in Atlanta, Ga. to help blind students and sighted students play together through a textured checkerboard with 3-D pieces.

Assistant Professor Ashley Gess of the Integrative STEAM Education and co-founder Eric Parker of and HACK Augusta also presented their presentations at the LASER Talk. Toward the end of his presentation, Parker said he didn’t think he was going to help ‘a bunch of techies,’ when talking about HACK Augusta.

“I am an architect,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to be helping a bunch of ‘techies’… But I want to make change and the only way I can see it is to do it from where I am, which is what I am doing.”

Contact Jamie Sapp at

Published on October 5, 2016 in Volume 59, Issue 1 of The Bell Ringer newspaper. 

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