Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Marciano Palha De Sousa ’07 (Harare, Zimbabwe) intends to explore a career in engineering, but recently he delved into his musical side.

He leaned on his background in music and his skills as a writer to help Nina Gilbert, director of choral activities, prepare two articles for publication in the Choral Journal, published by the American Choral Directors Association.

“We edited and honed projects for my writing fellows program at the Choral Journal,” Gilbert explains. “This included reading articles and helping to reorganize them.

One of the articles focused on an unknown work of choral literature and the other dealt with training conductors, she says. Some of Palha De Sousa’s editing involved turning academic dissertations into magazine-style articles.

They collaborated through Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend. The program has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

In addition to the editing work, Palha De Sousa, an electrical and computer engineering major, co-authored a web page of writers’ guidelines for scholars in the fellows program.

While the work wasn’t as technical as a research project rooted in engineering, Palha De Sousa says the project certainly helped him improve his writing skills.

“It’s a different perspective, really,” he says. “I don’t think I want to be an editor or write for a career, but I’ve definitely benefited from the experience.”

Gilbert assigned him several books by John McPhee, a professor at Princeton and staff writer for The New Yorker.

“Something I learned about writing is that the John McPhee technique is basically about presenting facts in a more interesting way,” he says. “It’s not just facts stated and even though they are still facts, they come across as a story.”

Palha De Sousa, who intends to add an A.B. degree with a music major, capitalized on his role singing tenor in the Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers and his 10-year history playing piano, asking Gilbert about summer work.

“I’ve always enjoyed music and it’s always been a part of my life,” says Palha De Sousa, who received voice training and whose core curriculum during high school included music instruction.

Gilbert says his skills as a writer and his knowledge of musical theory — which is advanced thanks to his education in Zimbabwe — are two abilities that helped him with the work.

Some of the things he learned will extend beyond the scope of music into whatever field he pursues, Gilbert says.

“One is a sense of what sort of scholarship is going on in music research and that people can work in choral music,” she says. “Another is a sense of how things like grammar and writing style can become a high art that can apply to any other field.”

Palha De Sousa was among the 16 members of the Concert Choir who toured Washington, D.C. over Fall Break, taking in the sights and performing at venues ranging from high schools to the Masonic Temple. He is a member of International Students Association and Africans Creating African Consciousness and Interest Abroad and has served as a writing associate. He won the intramural chess championship last fall.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty-two students were accepted to present their work at the last annual conference in April.

Categorized in: Academic News