On Saturday, April 13, Keene State College held the 19th annual Academic Excellence Conference (AEC). The AEC is a chance for students to showcase their work that they have been doing for the past year.
Program Coordinator for AEC Kim Schmidl-Gagne said that the presentations range greatly and that all kinds of student work can be presented at the conference.
“For a while I think people thought of it as a research oriented piece. It’s not,” Schmidl-Gagne said. “It’s meant to showcase all student work. There are music performances and art and there are two dance performances and there are some pieces the sustainability project design folks have worked on. All sorts of things.”
The conference began in the Student Center with two sculpture presentations and the Clothesline Project, a presentation of images created by and for survivors of sexual violence—most of them students—put together by KSC’s Sexual Assault and Violence Education Committee, MCVP: Crisis and Prevention Center and Mentors in Violence Prevention. This was followed by keynote speaker KSC biology department chair and last AEC’s Distinguished Scholar Cynthia Hays in the Mabel Brown Room.
Afterwards attendees were free to walk between the Student Center and the Science Center to observe and sit in on a variety of panel discussions, oral presentations, art exhibits and two dance performances in the Mabel Brown Room. The conference concluded with a poster session from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
“People can come in, there’s a reception, food and you can walk around and look at the posters. It’s a wonderful way to end the day,” Schmidl-Gagne said. “The energy is really high. Almost all the posters are more than one student so it feels like there’s a lot of great energy in the room.”
One student who presented their research is KSC senior Christine Bryan. Bryan presented her research entitled The Political Tragedy of Pregnancy Loss. Bryan originally began work on this topic for her capstone project in the fall, but found it compelling enough to do further research for AEC, where should would have more time to present.
“It’s (the AEC) longer and has given me more questions and broadened the topic. I’m able to develop it differently,” Bryan said. “In early March I started working towards the Academic Excellence Conference, looking at my paper and seeing where things needed to shift.”
All students who participate in AEC must first submit an abstract for approval. According to Chair of the AEC Committee Irene McGarrity, abstracts then get sent back to the students with revisions and suggestions. After that the abstracts are either accepted or denied.
McGarrity also said there are many benefits for the students who participate in AEC.
“When you take your work outside of the classroom and share it with other people it feels more important, more meaningful and like it’s impacting other people. There’s also the opportunity to get feedback from the outside,” McGarrity said. “It’s always great to have any kind of public speaking presentation experience. It also always looks great on a resume for students planning on going to grad school.”
For Bryan, AEC was a great experience for her to challenge herself and tap deeper into her understanding of her discipline.
“I feel like I have picked up where some of the researchers I read left off,” Bryan said. “It’s been a chance to use my voice, my understanding and my thinking to create something original and also realize that’s part of the conversation. It isn’t static, this moving discovery of perspective and knowledge.
Bryan also said that for any students who are thinking of participating in AEC in the future, to attend the multiple workshops that are held ahead of the conference to help students prepare. McGarrity said that all members of the college and the community should attend AEC to see what KSC students are accomplishing.
“One thing I would love for people to walk away with is feeling inspired about the Keene State College community because I think when you see students from all these different disciplines presenting, you really just get a sense of all the great things going on at Keene and it really does just make you feel a sense of feeling connected and really good about your community,” McGarrity said.
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at