BSU’s Student Researchers Present Findings During Annual Achievement Day

Additional student research previews are available here on Vimeo

More than 50 Bemidji State University students presented their academic research and creative achievements during the “Greatness Achieved” 21st annual Student Achievement Conference on April 7.

In preparation for the day-long event, student researchers studied a variety of subjects including mental illness, pirates, Bemidji’s recycling habits,’s sustainability efforts, aquatic vegetation in Lake Bemidji and coffee.

“This event is a culmination of learning and accomplishment across multiple disciplines as evidenced by the research, innovation and creativity seen in the students’ presentations, posters and performances,” President Hensrud said. “The conference reflects the interactive relationship between students and faculty and exemplifies the university’s rigorous and engaging academic environment. We are very proud of our students and their fine work.”

The conference began at 10 a.m. with an opening ceremony where President Faith Hensrud and Dr. Travis Ricks, associate professor of psychology and conference director, welcomed attendees and congratulated them on their achievements.

“It is exciting to celebrate this day of discovery as we mark another milestone of success in the intellectual development and personal growth of our students,” President Hensrud said. “The creative, virtual presentations that you will experience today, are a testament to BSU’s ongoing mission of teaching, exploration and reflection — all crucial to fulfilling our vision of preparing students to lead inspired lives.”

The ceremony featured a recitation of “Progression” a poem written and performed by Meghan Trimble, a senior creative and professional writing major from Elk River, Minn., and a performance by tubist Brennan Paulson, a senior music major from Solway, Minn. In addition, Bemidji State alumna Leandra Craigmile ‘18 returned for a feature performance of the Star-Spangled Banner.

The following awards were also distributed at the start of Student Achievement Day:

  • 2021 Student Achievement Award: Lacie Hines ’20, a psychology grad from Pillager, Minn.
  • 2021 Student Achievement Award: Jeffrey Erickson ’20, biochemistry and molecular biology grad from Sebeka, Minn.
  • Emeriti Achievement Award: Dr. Donna Palivec, professor emeritus of human performance, sport and health.
  • Emeriti Achievement Award: Dr. Muriel Gilman, professor emeritus of human performance, sport and health.
  • 2020 Northern Minnesota Achievement Award: Jennifer Kovach ‘93, social work alumna.
  • 2020 Northern Minnesota Achievement Award: Jennifer Anderson ’94, social work alumna.

Research presentations began at 11 a.m. and featured approximately 30 poster displays and 20 oral presentations. Representing a wide variety of academic majors and programs, students presented over Zoom and on an interactive virtual reality platform called GatherTown. The platform created avatars that users could control using a computer keyboard to interact with students and their posters in a number of virtual rooms.

Casey Johnson, a senior psychology and biology double major from Bemidji, said she was thankful to get off of Zoom and into another platform for Student Achievement Day. Johnson presented her research on masculinity norms in Western culture and mental health with a poster display titled “Traditional Masculinity and Help-Seeking Behaviors.”

“GatherTown is actually a super cool website that gives students a better virtual experience for a conference, rather than only using Zoom or canceling altogether,” she said. “You could just create a little avatar and interact with other people in a virtual world. It was super easy and I was glad to be able to talk about my research in a unique way.”

Meanwhile on Zoom, Matthew Merkling, a senior history major from Elk River, Minn., explored the lives of pirates from 500 years ago in his presentation “A Short and a Merry One – The Golden Age of Piracy.”

“Pirates often get this connotation as the biggest villains of this time period, but they were a lot more like us than people realize,” he said. “A lot of the things that appealed to them still resonate today.”

In “Deconstructing the Relationship Between Dehumanization and Disability,” Rebekah Asp, a senior from Sauk Rapids, Minn., pursuing degrees in psychology and philosophy, presented her research on the perception of physical or mental impairments. Asp based her research on a sample of more than 70 Bemidji State students.

“We were looking at how impairments that may affect the mind or psychological experience are different than those that affect the body or the sensory experience and what degree people are dehumanized based on those impairments,” she said. “Dehumanization and disability are not as widely researched or understood. A lot of ableist beliefs are normalized in our culture so research like this is important to undermine those beliefs and show the harm that those beliefs can have.”

Ricks said the annual Student Achievement Conference is an important event at Bemidji State as it allows students the opportunity to showcase their research and achievements to the community.

“The conference is evidence of our extraordinary learning environment that we have at Bemidji State University,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to show the significance of research and creative work across many fields and exchange ideas, methods and views.”




MN State logoBemidji State University, located amid the lakes and forests of northern Minnesota, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Enrolling around 5,000 students, Bemidji State offers 70 undergraduate areas of study and eight graduate degrees encompassing arts, sciences and select pre-professional programs. At Bemidji State University, we educate people to lead inspired lives. BSU’s Shared Fundamental Values include civic engagement and leadership, international and multicultural understanding, belief in the power of liberal arts, and environmental stewardship. BSU is a Minnesota State university. For more, visit or find us at BemidjiState on your favorite social media networks.