More students than ever apply to Lafayette

Despite the challenges of COVID, which regularly altered travel and visitation plans as well as demanded in-person, virtual, and hybrid events, Lafayette Admissions received a record number of applications: 10,394. It is almost a 30% increase over the previous year and 12% above the record set in 2018 (9,236). “In 2016 we set a goal to reach 10,000 applications by 2025,” says Greg MacDonald, vice president of enrollment management. “I love that we reached our goal early and how the entire community pulled together to make it happen. A focused and dedicated enrollment team certainly rose to the challenge, but our colleagues on campus responsible for keeping the college operating in person also deserve much of the credit.” The number of applications show an increase in international as well as tri-state students. “Prospects see us as a destination for undergraduate research, faculty mentors, leadership development, and cross-disciplinary learning,” says Matt Hyde, assistant vice president.

How can menu design reduce food waste?

Food waste is a global problem—about a third of the food produced is lost annually, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Understanding how to address it requires interdisciplinary efforts. But a recently published research paper by Lafayette College economics professors Joaquín Gómez-Miñambres and Hongxing Liu reveals how something as basic as the design of a food menu may influence how much people order and whether it’s consumed or discarded.

Using a combination of field experiments and online surveys, the researchers show that when encountering menus that more prominently display small portions, people are more likely to choose small portions of food and also waste less. Therefore, “narrow menus” can boost not only healthier eating but also lower food waste, an important goal in the fight against climate change. With many cities nationwide promoting winter restaurant weeks, it’s worth considering, as the study suggests, that the number of alternatives displayed in a restaurant menu might ultimately affect the size of a food order and how much of it will get thrown away.

Using virtual reality to promote physical activity

Recent studies suggest that Americans exercised less during the height of the pandemic, but virtual reality research by Lafayette College computer science Prof. Christian López may help get sedentary people moving again. López has developed innovative ways to promote physical activity by developing virtual reality exergames. Wearing a VR headset, viewers physically respond to obstacles coming toward them, and with the use of depth-sensor technology, they can control an avatar in the virtual environment. 

The games do not require intense physical activity, but in this virtual environment the obstacles have participants engaged in full body movements, ducking down and moving side to side, making the simulation an effective tool for physical therapy or helping prevent work-related injuries. A variety of game elements to help motivate users to play the game and perform physical activity. Each of the game elements can be toggled on or off depending on whether the player feels they are benefitting or hindering the experience.

New grant to fund violence-prevention programs

Lafayette College is one of two Lehigh Valley-area colleges to receive “It’s On Us” grants of up to $30,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Governor’s Office. The program brings together college and university presidents, superintendents, administrators, teachers, students, families, and community members to reframe the conversation around sexual violence and pledge to be part of the solution. This is the third time Lafayette has received the grant; the College was previously awarded in 2018 and 2021.

With the funding, Lafayette will partner with Communities in Schools and Easton Area School District to provide workshops, support groups, training sessions, and self-care celebrations for K-12 students to increase awareness of, and improve responses to, sexual assault. The College also plans to host various training sessions for Lafayette staff and stakeholders, as well as members of the Easton Area School District, which will address today’s greatest challenges in preventing and combating sexual assault, and will focus on topics such as LGBTQ+ and BIPOC survivors inclusivity and competency, drug-facilitated assault, and more.

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