The coffee is brewing and the name tags are affixed to colorful blazers, which means that it is once again time for the annual Graduate Research Symposium. The recently dissertated Jenna Carlson Deitmeier has led the charge, organizing this student-centered conference in which students from universities at home and abroad come together in thematic sessions to present recent research. We get paired with American Studies, History, Applied Science, and even Biology students (who have an unfair visual advantage because they get to share cute animal pictures throughout their presentations) to explore many facets and perspectives on a theme, like “The Information Exchange.”
It can honestly be very awkward and daunting to present current or past research to an audience of peers. I often stumble over words, get tongue-tied, in addition to wondering off in my internal thoughts as I mechanically read through the typed words of my presentation. “What are these words coming out of my mouth?…oh god…I think I see someone falling asleep…how late did I stay up writing this?…does any of this make sense?…are you judging me?” What better way to practice oratory skills and try out new ways to present research than to present in front of the other people in varying stages of “figuring it out.” This style of symposium really takes the pressure off and allows an open and constructive exchange of ideas and feedback.
We have had a major showing by the Anthropology graduate students, with Megan Victor taking the People’s Choice Award in the 3-minute thesis competition, Summer Moore receiving an award for Interdisciplinary Excellence in Research, and Jenna Carlson Deitmeier and Olarenwaju Blessing Lasisi given honorable mentions for Excellence in the Humanities & Social Sciences.
I look forward to next year and highly encourage any of you thinking about presenting, or even begrudgingly acknowledging that practice makes perfect (or at least better), sign up, come, and experience this uplifting experience of William & Mary’s Graduate Research Symposium.