Student Academic Conference Resorts to Online-Only Presentations

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BY GRANT EVANS grant.evans@go.mnstate.edu

On Tuesday, April 21, MSUM will hold its 22nd annual Student Academic Conference (SAC), a conference where students discuss social matters as a means of intellectual discourse. The  conference is usually held on MSUM’s campus, but due to COVID-19, the presentations will be held under different circumstances this semester. Instead of live presentations, the students involved with the program will exhibit their presentations via video on MSUM’s website.

The conference is designed for students to research, write and execute work that will be exhibited to their peers, faculty and administration. Students’ presentations will range in topic from same-sex marriage to homelessness in America, as well as a presentation titled “Mexican Pro Wrestling and Spooky Things: Horror and Lucha Libre in the 1960s and 1970s” by Bethany Newquist.

The purpose of the conference is to display the intellectual goals of students who have been working throughout the semester with faculty mentorship to develop new perspectives on issues that affect people and communities. Observation and critical research is at the heart of the Student Academic Conference and is beneficial to students who will be exposed to different schools of thought.

Since COVID-19, students have been relegated to what is referred to as “the new normal.” MSUM students’ SAC video presentations are diminished to online availability only. Also, with the end of  spring semester, students have been resigned to the use of D2L, which has created logistical problems. Professors have had to change their syllabuses and class assignment schedules, with students left on their own to do independent study. 

Economics major Rebecca Weir’s project titled “The New Normal: The Rising Food Consumption Away from Home” is a project that Weir has spent a year developing. It examines how food expenditures have been rising and the multiple influences which surveys how food is consumed. Weir’s classes have predominately been Zoom lectures, where she said she is “totally alone.” 

Professor and Head of the Student Academic Conference, Oscar Flores, also opposes video learning.

“I personally do not think recording videos for students to watch is a good substitute for classroom teaching,” he said. “One of the most important things to remember when teaching and public speaking in general is to read your audience; their facial expressions, their body language.”

Dr. Kris Vossler, who teaches summer online classes Completely Online-Asynchronous, also believes that online teaching isn’t as effective as classroom experience. Flores said he expects only a “50-50” chance that campus will be open this fall.

With all of the change, students are doing what they can to finish off this semester strong, even if that means presenting in a way they didn’t expect.

If you want to watch the Student Academic Conference, presentations will be available at https://www.mnstate.edu/sac/2020-online/.

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