Physics grad to speak at summer commencement


Adam Szewciw

For the Department of Physics, it’s quality not quantity at the summer semester commencement ceremony, slated for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 3 at Elliott Hall of Music.

Adam Szewciw – that last name is pronounced “SESH-yu,” believe it or not – is the only Physics undergraduate receiving a diploma at the ceremony. Overall, 39 undergraduates from the College of Science will don the caps and gowns on Aug. 3.

While he is the lone Physics undergrad, Szewciw was selected to speak at the ceremony. His application and speech impressed L. Tony Hawkins, associate vice president for Student Affairs.

“ … If his delivery is as good as his speech,” stated Hawkins in an e-mail, “it will rank as one of the top two I have heard from students since working with student responders and after sitting through 115 graduation ceremonies during my time as dean of students. After meeting him and observing his personality, his will be a slam dunk.”

Szewciw, a native of Schererville, Ind., has already been hired to be a physics teacher at Crown Point High School in Crown Point, Ind. His first day of teaching will be Aug. 22.

While he had to finish up his degree in the summer, Szewciw accomplished a huge amount of work and gained a tremendous level of experience during his time in the College Science.

Question: How did you get the opportunity to speak at graduation?

Answer: I filled out the nomination application and recommendations and stuff and then I heard back last Monday (July 15) that the College of Science had chosen me.

Q: What can you tell us about the speech that you will give?

A: I was pulling back to the earliest attempts at education, and I give a little bit about Socrates and talk about his approach. One of the last courses I’ve taken at Purdue this summer is Ethics, funny enough. I guess I was just in that mindset, and I think it’s a relatable approach – the whole Socratic approach – knowing when you don’t know something and being in a better state. … I just thought it was something everyone can relate to and I also tried to do it in a slightly humorous way.

Q: Besides that Ethics class, what else have you been doing this summer?

A: I somehow put off Computer Programming so I had to take that this summer. I sort of delayed my graduation because I was taking a lot of classes that interested me that didn’t amount to me getting minors. … I’ve also been preparing for my job.

Q: What were some of those extra classes you took?

A: I took five semesters of Italian. … I don’t know what the requirements were but I took additional classes because I wanted to. I took some astronomy courses just for fun.

Q: What kind of physics department does Crown Point High School have?

A: They have some guys that teach nothing but physics but they have different physics courses. They also have individuals who teach multiple subjects. I think there’s one guy who teaches biology, physics, chemistry … . The course I’ll be teaching was developed last year in what they call the blended learning environment. It’s incorporating online components and in-class instruction. How much you do of each kind of depends. … I think we’re just adapting to the way the world is going. You’re having these online components and certain methods of instruction are becoming almost obsolete. But I don’t think that does away with the need for in-class instruction, especially hands-on physics, hands-on science. I do think it forces future and current instructors to adapt.

Q: What were some memorable accomplishments for you during your time in the College of Science and Purdue?

A: The (Physics) Outreach activities. I was just very happy when I was doing those. We would put on demonstrations for middle schoolers and elementary schoolers. Sometimes you get a little frustrated doing what you’re doing here (in Physics). Occasionally we’ll lose sight of why we’re studying science. It’s good to go back and remind yourself this stuff is exciting. When you show them neat demonstrations and get them talking about it, it excites you about what you’re doing. It felt like I was instructing them and getting them excited, but on a different level, personally, it was making me excited to come back and continue.

I also worked in the Physics Help Center, which is kind of like a homework help room. … It’s good for students to get one on one interaction and also to hear physics explained by someone who is more like them and isn’t so far removed from the subject. I learned a lot working there.

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