College is much more enjoyable the second time around. That was all I could think as I sat at Scholars’ Studio – the interdisciplinary TED style lightning talks hosted by the Research Commons in UW’s Suzzallo/Allen libraries. The lightning talks are open to any graduate student at UW, and each Scholars’ Studio relates to a theme – this last November it was “Citizen”. Students get only 5 minutes to present their topics before the next person steps up.
As a graduate student, I am so much more in tune to the talent, passion and resources around me than when I was an undergraduate. Then, socializing with my friends and being “free” was all I cared about. At Scholars’ Studio, all I could think was, “Wow! All these people are so interesting and I’m listening to their fascinating research for free!”
Let me back up and explain more in depth what Scholars’ Studio is and why it started. Lauren Ray, the Research Commons Outreach Services Librarian, wanted to find ways of creating more of a community among grad students, at least among the group of people physically on campus.
After assessing graduate student needs, it became clear that the Graduate School and the Libraries needed to provide opportunities for graduate students to practice presentation skills. Many grad students must prepare talks for conferences in their respective fields, but often programs do not provide presentation guidelines or formal practice for students. There was a need for students to practice their presentations and get feedback in a no pressure environment.
And voila! Scholars’ Studio was created to provide grad students with a place and audience to present their current research, as well as for fellow students to hear what others at UW were working on. The diversity is what makes the talks so interesting – one minute you are reviewing environmental statistics, the next you are tracking the historical evolution of the newspaper and photography. This makes an hour and a half go by very quickly, and the sheer amount of knowledge presented makes that time some of the best time you can spend at UW.
The talks aren’t solely for entertainment purposes; the Graduate School and the Research Commons create feedback forms and ask attendees to fill out one for each speaker. These are “no pressure” talks, but the students also value any constructive comments the audience has. If a talk used too much jargon, or perhaps the slides weren’t the most effective for the arc of the talk, those notes will help the student before they present at a conference.
Some highlights of Scholar’s Studio from November 5th were:
- The MCDM’s very own Amber Cortes presented “Wayward Citizens: Citizen Journalism Under the Lens of Deviance,” a great talk focused on media, both formal and deviant, and how it has formed over the centuries.
- “Ask Not What the Herd Can Do for You” by Katherine Kwong in Public Health Genetics was a talk about “herd” immunity in today’s world and why vaccinations are essential for everyone.
- “The ɾ in “Citizen”: Difficulties in Mapping Speech” looked at “Citizen” in a whole new way – the actual word, and how it is pronounced and spoken in the English Language.
This is just a sampling from the ten talks that evening. I really can’t emphasize enough how informative and enjoyable it was to have an interdisciplinary panel of speakers; sometimes I get so caught up in my own studies that I get tunnel-vision for the MCDM. Scholars’ Studio is a great way of finding out what others on campus are doing – giving all of us grad students a place to be more involved with others in the Graduate School, and perhaps meet colleagues in other disciplines who may be great resources for our own studies.
Building a sense of community, practicing presentation skills and utilizing the UW’s Libraries resources for the lightning talks are all positive outcomes from Scholars’ Studio. From my perspective, the lightning rounds are a chance to learn from smart, impassioned people. Why you could almost say it is entertainment! I highly recommend Scholars’ Studio to anyone who is a “Citizen” of UW!
Scholars’ Studio is held once a quarter. For Winter Quarter 2013 the topic is “Disaster” and Spring Quarter 2013 the topic is “Pacific Northwest”. Deadlines for Winter Quarter haven’t been announced yet. If you would like more information on Scholars’ Studio and how to present your own talk, please visit the Research Commons website.