Scholarship and Creative Arts Day should be incentivized to encourage participation

Samantha Weiss April 10, 2014 0

Any reason is a good reason to get out of classes, right? I would say so. But what if the reason is that one must give a 12 to 15-minute presentation? Suddenly, I’m less likely to agree. And many other students share this sentiment.

Scholarship and Creative Arts Day (SCAD), which will be held on April 14 and 15 this year, was launched in 2007 as a conference to celebrate students’ research and interests. Presentations, a keynote speech and a day free of classes characterize the two-day event. Students can deliver their presentations in any format, from a formal speech to a dance.

“I’ll be giving a PowerPoint presentation that glosses over the topics that my research covers,” sophomore Matthew Jensen said. “My topic concerns Amish women and modern feminism and asks the question ‘Do Amish women have what modern feminists seek?’”

Many students are required to present projects during SCAD for a grade, but it is not limited to students fulfilling class requirements. Anyone on campus can send a proposal to the SCAD Committee and present on any topic. Presentations can run from 12 to 20 minutes with a question-and-answer period afterwards. Students can also present multiple times throughout the day.

“I think that SCAD is a good opportunity for everyone, and everyone who thinks that they ‘have to’ present has the wrong attitude,” senior Nina Wheeler said. “It’s a great advantage to be able to present a paper or thesis you worked really hard on in a formal setting.

“It’s something future employers might be impressed by. I am proud to have two presentations for my theses, and I knew when I began the process of accomplishing them that SCAD was a part of it.”

As a sophomore at Elizabethtown College, I have known plenty of people who have presented research at SCAD, though not a single person did so without the motivation of a course mark. The work that must be done in order to speak on a topic for that long is immense and the added stress is unnecessary. While the idea of presenting a research project simply for the experience is a romantic one, the reality of doing so is less than likely.

“I think that SCAD should be voluntary. A presentation designed for the public is very different from a presentation for a classroom setting,” junior Ellie Puhalla said. “In addition to these structural differences, the amount of students in a class should be taken into consideration. Nobody wants to have 20 presentations on the same, or at least similar, topics.”

Professors preach the benefits of giving and attending presentations, but few students appreciate the positive affects that these presentations have. As students, we only seem to hear “another project.” Mid-April is notorious for projects, papers and exams, so the prospect of yet another assignment is daunting.

“Don’t get me wrong,” sophomore Shayla Marshall said.  “SCAD is a great program, but right now I’m just trying to make it through chemistry. I don’t have the time or the energy for extras.”

What students fail to see is that the College organizes events like these with clear purposes in mind. Public speaking engagements, opportunities to present research and chances to show student involvement with the academic world are among the benefits of the College, but there are profits to the student presenters too.

In many fields, the exposition of one’s work is not only expected at some point in one’s career but also necessary to it. Those with the confidence and public speaking skills that come with practice are often the ones who find themselves a job.

Searchability, another advantage to presenting work, has cropped up in the last few years. When an employer types  potential employees’ names into a search engine and their undergraduate research comes up as the top result instead of a Facebook page, I’d be willing to bet that those students will earn points with their prospective company.

Without the pressure put on students by their professors to utilize this day, more students would look at it as simply a day off from classes, because everyone knows we need one. Despite the positive outcomes that go with presenting, students aren’t making use of SCAD as the College intends.

The day should be incentivized in ways other than grades to entice students to participate. A system of voluntary participation with the option for extra credit may change the culture surrounding the event. Students may begin to see the useful nature of the presentations and even produce better projects, knowing their grades don’t rest on their performance.

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