Student Conference presents broad spectrum of IU Southeast academic life

20th April 2016
Student Conference

Table-top presentations fill the halls at the 2015 IU Southeast Student Conference.

By Steven Krolak

What is the relationship between visual images and opinions on gun control?

Which cartoon characters are perceived as attractive?

How many birds live on the Rio Negro?

What is the best way to reduce inappropriate behavior among fourth grade boys?

These are just a few of the over 200 innovative, provocative and substantial topics that make up the 12th annual IU Southeast Student Conference, taking place Thursday and Friday, April 21-22 in University Center.

Over the course of the two-day event, some 275 undergraduate and graduate students from all schools will deliver over 200 oral and poster presentations.

The best way to describe the conference might be “mind-blowing”–not a particularly academic turn of phrase, but then again, the conference routinely expands the boundaries of what constitutes scholarly endeavor – in a good way. And this year’s installment is no exception.

“The conference is a celebration of the wonderful research and creative work of the students at IU Southeast,” said Diane Wille, dean of research and conference organizer, adding that the IU Southeast event is one of the largest, if not the largest, in the IU system.

For students who have worked hard on long-term projects, often in collaboration with one another and with faculty, the conference is a chance to demonstrate a command of their knowledge base, and to communicating a passion for their field.

“The conference provides a first step in presenting this work to their peers and the academic world,” Wille said.

Student presentation

Students such as Brian Dennis gain important experience in presenting research.

Among specific skills developed in preparing a presentation, Wille lists field-related expertise, self-motivation, professionalism, critical thinking, collaboration, written expression and more.

The conference is also a meaningful moment for faculty.

“About 30 percent of IU Southeast faculty have mentored students who are presenting at this year’s conference,” Wille said. “It means that faculty value the positive effects of this type of experience on students and the importance that this type of experience has on student success.”

The IU Southeast Student Conference dates to 2004, when Deborah Finkel, professor of psychology and director of interdisciplinary studies graduate programs, was interim associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and dean for research. With funding from Commitment to Excellence, she convened a committee that worked to “figure out what form a student conference would take on our campus.”

That form proved to be both unique and sustainable.

“We deliberately chose not to include the word ‘research’ in the title, because we wanted to be sure to celebrate all the ways our students express their learning,” Finkel said.

The committee also decided to mix up the sessions so that students and faculty from different disciplines could learn about what was going on all across campus. And they established judging rubrics and awards for posters and presentations that are still in use today.

Finkel recalled that the first conference was small and took place in the former dining commons and a few meeting rooms, before moving to the Ogle Center while the new University Center was being constructed. The UC has been the conference’s home ever since, with presentations filling meeting rooms and corridors.

2016 Schedule of Events

The Conference kicks off on Thursday, April 21 with graduate poster and paper sessions beginning at 5:30 p.m. Dr. Shifa Podikunju-Hussain, assistant professor of education will speak at 6:35 p.m., and award winners will be announced at 7 p.m.

On Friday, paper sessions begin at 8:30 a.m. in University Center, and poster sessions start at 9 a.m. in Hoosier Room West. Table-top poster presentations will be located in the hallway between UC North and UC South. A second paper session begins at 10:15 a.m.

Awards will be presented during the Luncheon beginning at 11:45 a.m. in the Hoosier Room. Speakers will include IU Southeast Chancellor Dr. Ray Wallace, Dr. Adam Maksl, assistant professor of journalism and Dr. Kenneth Harris, associate professor of management.

Photographs courtesy of Aaron Setterdahl.

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