by Zac Godwin
The HECBC Undergraduate Research and Creativity Conference gives students the chance to get outside the classroom and enter the professional world.
Think about something you created for a school assignment, something you slaved over for weeks, something you were really proud of. After the grade was given and the semester ended, where did your handiwork end up?
Well, hopefully you kept it around, because there is an opportunity for students who have work they are proud of to get in the spotlight and show themselves off: the HECBC Undergraduate Research and Creativity Conference.
This annual undergraduate conference is a multi-college event that is sponsored by The Higher Education Council of Berks County. This year, it will be held at the Penn State Berks campus on Saturday, April 22, 2017.
HECBC is now accepting submissions, and students are encouraged to submit abstracts of proposed works on the Penn State Berks website until March 24. The HECBC conference accepts almost any form of work that a student would like to share, including academic papers, poetry, art, film, performance, and dance. Students can participate through lectures, bulletin boards, or creative exhibitions.
Dr. Tami Mysliweic, a biology professor at Penn State Berks and one of the organizers of the event, said that the conference “is a great way to showcase what students have done, what they intend to do and what their interests are.”
“I learn something new every time,” she noted. “So I am interested to see what students have learned and want to share with us.”
The event is not a dull meeting, or boring science fair, like in grade school. It is an incredible opportunity for students to stretch their professional wings by sharing their artistic or scholarly insights with a group of fellow artists or scholars.
Dr. C.L Costello, of RACC’s Communications, Arts and Humanities Division said that the value of the HECBC conference is the professionalization of the learning process.
“I think, too often students get locked into the role of being students […] and I think most students are looking to take what they’ve learned and apply it elsewhere,” Costello said.
But the reasons to be a part of this event don’t stop at using your knowledge outside the class environment. Another RACC communications professor, David Leight, commented that students can expect to develop strong professional communication skills from participation: students learn how to answer questions and how to think on their feet during presentations.
The ability to think quickly and effectively is necessary for all careers, and HECBC can serve as an opportunity for a student to try out public speaking in a totally safe environment full of people who want to see students succeed.
Virtually anyone can be a part of this event, regardless of major.
Carol Bean-Ritter, a RACC phycology professor, has previously been a part of this conference with her students.
“I expect that half of my phycology students will present. We do a poster presentation in our class, and I strongly suggest that [students] go to HECBC,” Bean-Ritter reported.
Bean-Ritter commented that HECBC is a “more real” environment than a classroom.
The conference has been designed to encourage broad participation from undergraduates. Students may present in a variety of ways, choosing their presentation style based on their subjects and preferences for presentation formats.
Students who have written academic papers may give short speeches on their topics. The HECBC website explains that students with papers will have 10 minutes to present them. A short question-and-answer session follows each lecture.
Another option is the poster presentation. Costello explained the poster board option as “resembling a sophisticated science fair exhibit.” The posters have sections explaining different parts of students’ papers, like introduction, review of other studies, methods, results, and discussion. Instead of giving a lecture, students will stand by their poster for 45 minutes as people walk around the event. This option is great for those presenting empirical research, and those who do not wish to give a longer lecture.
Though scholarly works tend to dominate, the conference is also a place for students to flex their right-brains. Artistic projects are encouraged, and many RACC students have previously presented creative works.
RACC student Joshua Sparks, a former participant, explained, “The conference was a good place to share art, writing, and school projects. I think it’s a good place to foster your academic skills without undue criticism.”
Sparks was part of a panel including a few students who presented around the theme “using archetypes as a starting place to tell new stories.”
Sparks worked with his professor Joey Flamm-Costello to put his presentation together. Flamm-Costello has also been part of the HECBC conference in the past.
“Each student works with me to submit either a story, or a collection of poems that they will submit for presentation at HECBC,” Flamm Costello said.
HECBC is an opportunity for students to break out of the classroom, and take on the role of an educator. The conference is a chance for students to hold their work above their head and tell the world what they’ve done and take pride in it.
For information on the conference, access the HECBC website at https://sites.psu.edu/hecbc/registration/.