By: Paul Kramer and Brian M. Card
Minnesota State University Moorhead's Student Academic Conference provides student researchers from each of its four colleges with the opportunity to present their work to faculty, administration, peers, and the general public in a formal academic setting. The Conference has grown exponentially over the past eight years to become one of MSUM's most eagerly anticipated annual events.
The Conference was conceived in 1998 through the collaborative efforts of Political Science professor Andrew Conteh and his then student-assistant Ryan Sylvester, who envisioned a forum for students to present original research that would reflect the intellectual vibrancy of the MSUM community. As the format of the proposed Conference took shape, Dr. Conteh and Ryan jointly advocated its relevance to the University's top administrators who expressed both excitement and support for the concept. The enthusiastic participation of both faculty and administration has been a hallmark of the Conference since its inception and remains perhaps its most obvious source of continued success.
Traditionally, the Conference begins with a luncheon held in honor of its presenters, headlined by a keynote speaker address delivered by an MSUM alumnus. The speaker is chosen by the Conference's faculty advisory committee with the goal of identifying MSUM "success stories" representing the multiple disciplines and career orientations offered at the institution. As part of the presentation, current MSUM students are chosen as panelists who respond to the keynote speaker address and present their own personal anecdotes regarding their individual research experiences.
Following the luncheon, students showcase their work in panel discussions, workshops, multimedia presentations, displays, and demonstrations throughout the expanse of the Comstock Memorial Union. The Conference's ever-increasing popularity among students has necessitated moving some of the presentations to Livingston Library in order to accommodate all those who want to share their academic work with their community.
The conference organizers remain committed to encouraging a multi-disciplinary approach to research projects, allowing visitors and guests to explore a panoply of different efforts showing the breadth of opportunities presented in the campus environment. Most of the presentations are limited to twenty minute time periods in order to allow the conference attendees to gain a wide variety of perspectives over the course of the afternoon's events. The Conference ends with a brief reception that allows participants and attendees to relax, unwind, and reflect upon a day of academic exchanges.
Without the support of many different campus organizations and financial contributors including faculty, administrators, support staff, and students too numerous to mention individually, the Conference would cease to exist. The organizers of this year's event also with to note the expansion of support from the Fargo-Moorhead community at large as the program expands and reinvents itself over time. As soon as this year's Conference ends, planning for the next will begin, with new lessons learned and optimism that each succeeding year will bring a bigger and better experience for the MSUM community.