The History of the IU Southeast Student Conference

Diane+Wille%2C+dean+of+research+and+graduate+studies%2C+and+Chancellor+Ray+Wallace+at+the+2016+Student+Conference.+%E2%80%9CLast+year+we+had+300+presenters+and+200+presentations%2C%E2%80%9D+Wille+said.+Photo+provided+by+Diane+Wille.
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The History of the IU Southeast Student Conference

Diane Wille, dean of research and graduate studies, and Chancellor Ray Wallace at the 2016 Student Conference. “Last year we had 300 presenters and 200 presentations,” Wille said. Photo provided by Diane Wille.

Diane Wille, dean of research and graduate studies, and Chancellor Ray Wallace at the 2016 Student Conference. “Last year we had 300 presenters and 200 presentations,” Wille said. Photo provided by Diane Wille.

Diane Wille, dean of research and graduate studies, and Chancellor Ray Wallace at the 2016 Student Conference. “Last year we had 300 presenters and 200 presentations,” Wille said. Photo provided by Diane Wille.

Diane Wille, dean of research and graduate studies, and Chancellor Ray Wallace at the 2016 Student Conference. “Last year we had 300 presenters and 200 presentations,” Wille said. Photo provided by Diane Wille.

Michael Melchor, Staff Writer

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One of the longest traditions on IU Southeast campus was born after two decades of work by IU Southeast students. The necessity was there for many students to display their work with faculty and on capstone projects to display that work for other students. That tradition continues next month at the 13th annual IU Southeast Student Conference on April 20.

Diane Wille, dean of research and graduate studies and organizer of this year’s conference, said, “The Student Conference was the culmination of 20 years of work on promoting student research and creative activity on IUS Campus.”

Wille said that Deborah Finkel, dean of research in 2005, had the desire to give students an opportunity to display their work with faculty members or on capstone courses.

Finkel said the conference was designed from the outset to be an outlet for students of various disciplines and degrees. Finkel worked with a committee to develop the first IUS Student Conference in 2005. From the outset, the conference was open to IU Southeast students of all majors, whatever form their capstone experience took.

Student presenters Jacob Holland and Kara McGee from the 2016 IU Southeast Student Conference. Photo provided by Diane Wille.

“That’s why we never included the word ‘research’ in the conference name,” Finkel said. “The logo we developed the first year says it all: IU Southeast Student Conference – Celebrating Achievement.”

According to Finkel, the first year of the conference in 2005 featured 78 presentations. The following year, the number grew to 121 the second year, and then to 147 in 2007.

“That doesn’t count all of the student authors because many projects have multiple authors,” Finkel said. “There were at least 85 students the first year, 176 the second year, and 249 by the third year.”

In the years since, the conference has grown to include many more students and presentations.

“Last year we had 300 presenters and 200 presentations,” Wille said.

The growth includes not just the number of students, but the scope and type of presentations as well. Wille said the presentations include posters and oral presentations, but also wider varieties including musical performances and company analyses by business students.

“There’s all sorts of new things,” Wille said. “When people think of research, they tend to think of things like chemistry, biology, sociology. The reality is that everyone does something that creates a product or project of some sort and that’s what we try to showcase. The conference was always designed for all of those

Dallas Flora demonstrates a 3D gesturing project from the IU Southeast School of Natural Sciences in 2016. Photo provided by Diane Wille.

different types of products.”

The growth of the student conference has necessitated a continuous cycle of planning, arranging and aid from all over the college to present the annual affair.

“The planning stage is all year long,” Wille said. “The facility is reserved a year ahead of time. There’s budgeting involved in all of this. What’s great about it is that I don’t know that there’s an office on campus that’s not involved in this. We’ve been working with the honors program since the beginning of last semester. All that has to start early to get the word out.”

According to Wille, students are also involved in the promotion of the conference.

“We have the honors outreach freshmen doing marketing and reaching out. We have the student design center who designed the posters. Part of the outreach the honor students are doing is to get more students on campus more aware of it.” Wille said.

Wille said that planning for this year’s conference is in the home stretch.

“Right now we’re at the point that registration is out there. We’re finishing the nuts and bolts of the program,” Wille said. ”We’re securing the judges for the program. It’s a never-ending cycle, but that makes it doable.”

Tanta DeCoux presents a project on student veterans at the 2015 IU Southeast Student Conference. Photo provided by Diane Wille

According to Finkel, the faculty and administrators of IU Southeast know that students presenting their work at a conference provides an unmatched learning experience. Students learn about public speaking as well as completing projects in their major. The value in the student conference experience lies in tying these experiences together.

“The chance to put those things together in a capstone experience can really tie together many of the facets of their baccalaureate degree,” Finkel said. “Presenting at conferences is one of the ways that faculty members share their work – it is a significant part of our own experience as knowledge generators and creative intellectuals: sharing our work with our peers and getting feedback. We wanted IU Southeast students to have something as close to that experience as possible.

For students who wish to participate in and present at this year’s IU Southeast Student Conference, abstracts and registration are due March 20. Students are also welcome to invite family, friends, and fellow students to register as guests and watch their presentations. There is no deadline on guest registration.
Graduate students are currently scheduled to present on Thursday, April 20. Undergraduate presentations are scheduled for Friday, April 21.