Monday, April 06, 2009

Why things work the way they do

Recipe for a successful undergraduate research conference

Easily navigated, centrally located venue
Five to ten (5-10) dedicated faculty
Committed students, proportional to faculty
Animated and understandable plenary speakers (one to three, time permitting)
Inexpensive food and unpresuming (pizza, potato chips, potato soup)
Hospitably hosted game night
Student presentations (with reasonable expectations)
Willingness to let the students run the show

Begin with a generous serving of inexpensive and unpresuming food, mix in the bulk of the students and faculty and add a plenary speaker. Cover with a game night and more inexpensive food, and let sit overnight.

Come morning, begin with a warm welcome from a dedicated faculty member and another plenary speaker. Add student talks, a few at a time, making sure the students control the content and pace of their own talks and oversee the talks’ timing and question-and-answer periods. Be sure not to overheat. Cover with another serving of unpresuming food. Repeat this layering process two or three times.

Coat the top with generous closing remarks from one of the dedicated faculty (door prizes optional).

Serve warm.

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