By Cadi LaCourse, Staff Writer
University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) students and faculty are preparing for the Michael D. Wilson Symposium Day that will occur on May 1, 2013. The annual event allows students from all disciplines to showcase their work.
It takes a tremendous amount of work from both students and faculty to bring such a large event together. Preparations have been underway since the beginning of the semester. Associate Professor of Physics, Paul Stancioff has served on the faculty committee that organizes the event for ten years. He is responsible for reviewing all of the abstracts submitted by students and preparing the program for the event.
Over the years, Stancioff has been able to streamline the process, “I have reduced it from an 80 hour job to a 30 hour job,” said Stancioff. The event was first held in 1999, making this its 14th year. “Each year between 110 and 150 abstracts are submitted,” said Stancioff. “This year we have 121 submissions.” Some presentations are done by entire classes or small groups bringing the number of student participants to over 200.
About half of the students that participate are required to present as part of a class, the other half do it to take advantage of the chance to display their work. Symposium Day also gives students the opportunity to practice presentation skills in a non-threatening environment. “Some of the students are really great and sometimes the students struggle,” said Stancioff, “but that’s ok it gives them some experience without a lot of the fear usually associated with public speaking.”
The event is also an opportunity for students to examine the work that has been done by students from other majors. “One thing that I like is that students are seeing things outside their disciplines,” said Stancioff.
There are no classes held on the day of the event to enable students to attend. Some students are required to attend certain presentations as an assignment for a class, other go on their own because of their desire to see the work of their peers. “We are hoping that students do this to satisfy their own curiosity,” said Stancioff.
Natalia Asis, an exchange student from Argentina, who is also working as a Spanish Language Assistant, will be presenting at the event with six others from her English 215 class, Literature for Children and Young Adults. As a part of this class, Asis has been writing chapters for a young adult novel entitled The Unexpected Predictability. On Symposium Day she will give a 20 minute reading from these chapters.
Asis expects to continue working on the book when she returns home to Argentina this summer. “The idea of this class is not to complete a 400 page novel in one semester,” said Asis, “but to get a good start, get work shopped a number of times, and continue on your own.” She has never participated in an event like this. “I wish we had one at home,” said Asis. “We produce a lot of writing but our schools are very different from UMF.”
Asis is looking forward to the chance to share her work with others at UMF. “At my school we rarely do any presenting,” said Asis. “Sometimes you write your thesis paper and no one reads it but your professors.”
Innes Herdan, a junior at UMF and a Sociology and Anthropology major, will also be presenting at the event as part of her Anthropology 250S class. Throughout the semester, Herdan and her classmates have been working on the ethnographies they will be presenting. “Our ethnographies have consisted of getting to know the stories of employees and students at the Franklin County Adult Education Center,” said Herdan. “I have put in so much work for my ethnography by interviewing many people and spending much time and effort writing.”
The community members that Herdan and her class interviewed will also have the opportunity to listen to the ethnographies that the students have been working on. “We will be presenting excerpts to the people we researched, as well as the public at Emery,” said Herdan.
All of the students presenting at the event have dedicated a great deal of time and effort to preparing their projects. “I am nervous about presenting but I am proud of all the work my classmates and I have put in,” said Herdan. “I will probably spend a great amount of time rehearsing my excerpt.”
Adria Guptill, a sophomore at UMF and an Elementary Education major, presented at the event last year, as a part of a Physics class. “I probably wouldn’t have chosen to do it,” said Guptill. “Things like that terrify me but it was a good experience.” It was easier for Guptill to participate because she presented in a group. “Having three other people there was really nice,” said Guptill. “I would have been so nervous to be there by myself.”
Guptill and her group spent a lot of time working on their project which included a poster on semi-conductors and a 20 page paper. “The hardest thing was getting everything organized,” said Guptill. “I emailed my professor a lot during the process.”
Despite all the hard work she remembers it as a positive experience and would encourage other students to participate. “I was able to look around at a lot of the other posters and presentations because I was there when they were setting up,” said Guptill. “It was really interesting and I learned a lot from it.”
Students are encouraged to attend Symposium day that will be held in the Olsen Student Center on May 1, 2013.