Keene State College students have begun to embrace and research their interests in depth, with encouragement from faculty and staff mentors, as they develop and prepare to submit their presentation proposals for April’s Academic Excellence Conference.
“The Academic Excellence Conference is basically a day in the spring where students can present their research done that could be based on their major or even an ISP,” Becca Berkey, the director of experiential education at KSC, said. Berkey is working with students mainly on the planning process for the conference. According to Berkey, any student, regardless of major or class year, can have the opportunity to participate in many different types of presentations throughout the conference. These presentations could include posters, oral speeches or performances of some kind and may be presented by more than one person. Although the actual conference does not occur until April, students who have already participated in it are encouraging student presenters to start the major aspects of their work now.
“Prepare, prepare, prepare,” was the advice given by senior Samantha Person at one of two abstract proposal writing workshops given to students wishing to present at the conference on Thursday. Person explained that, while students should do the bulk of their research before planning their presentation, presenting at the conference “will be a great way of networking and an awesome experience.” Person, who demonstrated the exercise-dance Zumba to her audience in her conference last year also explained that her presentation on “Propriosception Neural Muscular Facilitation,” fit well into her discipline as a physical education major.
Students wishing to present at the conference sought advising and help with writing their 150-word abstract proposal. The proposal is then reviewed by the AEC Faculty Review Board of faculty and student representatives in the appropriate school of the proposal, given a presentation title, receives guidelines and goals for the presentations and related to a field of study in one of KSC’s three schools. At the event, students were able to split up into small school groups of Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences and Professional and Post-Graduate Studies, depending on what type of presentation they were proposing. Students used this time to bring their abstract proposals to KSC faculty members in their school for advice.
One student who was preparing her abstract at the recent workshop was DeeAnn Behnke. Behnke said, “I’m looking at doing a 30-day health challenge presentation.” Behnke added, “I’m researching holistic health, which is a more natural way of improving and maintaining health.” She explained that a portion of her 30-day health challenge would involve plant based dieting and forms of preventative health that would work with medication or help to avoid the need for medication in some areas.
“It’s mainly about taking control of your health,” Behnke said, also explaining that the workshop, “was very helpful. It was nice to receive feedback.”
The Academic Excellence Conference is an annual KSC event since 2010 and features many different types of programs from speeches to dances, according to Berkey.
When asked about some of her favorite past presentations, Berkey shared that, “Last year three students who were communication studies majors did a rhetorical analysis of media surrounding LGBTQ relationships.” Berkey added that media studied by the students involved television shows such as Fox’s “Glee” as well as other media, such as political campaigns.
Berkey shared that she would like to see more performance-based presentations at the upcoming and future conferences as well. “We’re working on getting more students involved in the performing arts,” she said. Berkey and Person also mentioned that presentations involving dance and choral performances have also occurred at the past Academic Excellence Conferences, as well poster presentations and poster making contests. Berkey explained that the conference is “more student focused but faculty supported.” Berkey also explained that each student proposing an abstract must pick a professor to mentor them and oversee their presentation throughout the process, along with the mentoring given during the previous abstract workshops.
While students proposing their abstracts are currently preparing to submit them into a feedback and approval process to the AEC review board, others are also getting involved in planning the event. “Planning also involves never-ending publicity,” according to Berkey, who also mentioned that graphic design students were also participating by making AEC programs for audience members to use during the campus wide day long event open to the Keene community in addition to students and faculty. Although it is still early on in the planning process Berkey hopes to get everyone involved either by attending or participating. Berkey said, “There are usually more than 100 student presenters at the conference. We’d hope that if a student or faculty member was not involved in presentations, that they would come as an audience member to support their fellow student and their research.”
Person, who was also present to review, advise and critique students writing their abstract proposals at the past week’s workshop, added, “It’s a great experience for presenters. It’s a fun time and you meet a lot of new people. You also get to work with faculty mentors on a whole new level.”
Pamela Bump can be contacted at