Seniors finish up their college careers with symposium presentations

By: Jordan Deane

Staff Writer

For graduating seniors at Rochester College, one last challenge stands in their way nine days before graduation: Academic Symposium.

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An institution-wide project for all graduating seniors, Academic Symposium, which started in 2003, is an event where RC seniors present their capstone projects in either a formal classroom project or a more informal poster session where students summarize their projects to interested visitors.

In the formal classroom presentation, students take 25 to 35 minutes to communicate their extensive research through PowerPoint slides and an oral presentation. Afterwards, audience members, usually made up of faculty, students and family members, ask questions about the student’s work.

For the poster session, student presenters create ‘3x’4 posters that display information about their senior project. They then stand next to their posters for 75 minutes and engage in dialogue with visitors and answer relevant questions.

The work involved in preparing a major research project and then presenting ideas and findings to an audience often causes students a high level of stress and anxiety.

Kaitlyn Thompson, a senior mass communication/public relations major who will be presenting her work in April, says the formal classroom presentation is off the table for her. “Public speaking is terrifying. I find myself incredibly anxious during the moments leading up to speaking due to the irrational fears of ‘what if I stumble on my words’ or ‘what if I don’t say the right thing.’ ” She said a poster board presentation is the right choice for her.

Dr. Carol Cooper, chair of the Department of Mass Communication, said she has noticed the majority of her students are opting to present posters. The only drawbacks she sees to this is that “the hallways get crowded and people sometimes ask strange questions.”

Danielle Smith, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication/broadcasting, presented a poster in Fall 2018. She said she wanted to be able to converse with others in a more relaxed setting. She wanted her audience to feel more comfortable asking questions and expressing their views on what they saw from her poster board instead of it being a one-way street communication style.

The next Academic Symposium will be conducted on Thursday, April 18.