By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—This week, IU Southeast is proud to convene the 14th annual student conference.
From the evening of Thursday, April 20 to the afternoon of Friday, April 21, some 339 undergraduate and 21 graduate students from all schools will deliver 226 oral and poster presentations in University Center and the Hoosier Rooms.
Supporting the students are 60 faculty mentors and 60 judges.
The conference expresses the essence of the IU Southeast experience: the breadth of vision, the passion for exploration, the joy of discovery, the pride in accomplishment.
Don’t be surprised if you come away feeling blitzed by this meteor shower of academic inquiry. The questions raised by students offer fodder for hours of contemplation and debate.
How does chocolate make you feel good?
Do children benefit from reading science fiction?
Why do women account for only 18% of all undergraduate computer science degrees awarded?
Do boomers, Gen-Xers and millennials respond differently to drug advertisements?
What was the enduring legacy of the urban riots during the “Long Hot Summer” of 1967?
Do small metallic spheres called microtektites hold clues to the causes of the Late Devonian mass extinction?
Although the conference is a campus tradition, it is a dynamic one, evolving over the years in response to the unique interests and personality of the student body, and to the growth of academic programs.
Diane Wille, dean of research and graduate studies, teams up with Teresa Andrews, administrative secretary in the Office of Academic Affairs, to organize the conference.
She has seen the number of presenters and presentations wax, but there are other changes that are even more interesting. Wille notes that there are now undergraduate and graduate presenters from every school on campus. Students are also doing presentations outside of their major. And more faculty are encouraging students to develop course projects into full-blown conference presentations.
Once the domain of juniors and seniors, the conference is now seeing more freshmen and sophomores, a trend that Wille finds significant.
“These students tend to continue to take the opportunity to present at future student and even professional conferences, both on and off campus,” Wille said. “In so doing, they are developing excellent presentation skills and an impressive resume.”
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 thorough mastery of their specialized knowledge base, and to communicate a deeper appreciation for their field.
For faculty, the conference is just as exciting. And it is their involvement that closes the circle of this unique learning community.
“They are invested in providing the best possible educational experience for the students,” Wille said. “The one-on-one interaction required to develop and ready a student for presenting at the conference reveals the value that faculty place in this type of experience.”
One such devoted faculty member is Leigh Ann Meyer, director of The Writing Center.
Meyer has participated for the past ten years. She has coached presenters and judged presentations of all kinds, across all disciplines. The Writing Center itself is a crucial resource at this time, helping students perfect their presentations.
For Meyer, the conference is a two-way street. She not only gives of her time and talents, but also reaps rewards.
“I enjoy the presentations because of the information I learn, the varieties of research, the presentation skills and the enthusiasm of the students for their chosen subjects,” Meyer said.
On a more professional level, Meyer, who presents at conferences herself several times a year, sees how important it is for students to get a jump on the process of presenting their ideas in a public forum early on in their college careers. This practice is why the student conference is so important.
“Showing our students that their research interests and accomplishments are to be recognized and celebrated is crucial to the ongoing progress and development of each major and the liberal arts education that each student receives,” Meyer said.
Judging by the number and success of IU Southeast students at the annual IU Undergraduate Research Conference, as well as their participation in other professional gatherings in their fields, the conference is a significant incubator of academic rigor and scholarly polish.
It’s a recipe that prepares students to succeed in the world, not just the classroom.
“The conference is a great example of the value and importance of research to a teaching institution,” said Dr. Uric Dufrene, executive vice-chancellor for academic affairs. “While some students may not pursue research as a career, all students gain valuable skills that are transferable to just about any profession they choose to enter.”
2018 Schedule of Events
The Conference kicks off on Thursday, April 19 with graduate poster and paper sessions beginning at 5:30 p.m. in University Center North. Dr. Sumreen Asim, assistant professor of education, will speak at 6:35 p.m., and award winners will be announced at 7 p.m.
On Friday, April 21, 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, Erich Stem, associate professor of music, and Jacob Babb, assistant professor of English..
For more information, please visit the student conference website.