Celebrating 150 years: a conversation with the Graduate Exhibition event organizers

Celebrating 150 years: a conversation with the Graduate Exhibition event organizers

Penn State's Graduate Exhibition will take place this weekend,  March 22-24. Explore, experience, be inspired!

The Graduate Exhibition, a showcase of musical and theatrical performances, cutting-edge research, and visual arts presented by Penn State's graduate students, will take place this weekend, on March 22-24. We recently talked with the Exhibition organizers about the upcoming event.

Tell us about the Graduate Research Exhibition and its history at Penn State.

The Graduate Exhibition began in 1986 and has grown tremendously since its inception. The two-day event showcases the wonderful accomplishments of Penn State's graduate students to the entire State College community.  When it began, it was held in the lobby of the Kern Graduate building. Since then, it has been held at the Penn Stater and at the HUB-Robeson Center, which is where it is currently held today. The event has grown so much that this year we have a record number of exhibitors, with 304 student participants! The Exhibition was created by Charles L. Hosler, Senior Vice President emeritus for Research, Dean emeritus of The Graduate School and Professor emeritus of Meteorology in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Originally, the presentations were predominately in the science and engineering disciplines. Today, the Exhibition includes work presented from all areas of Graduate study. According to Kevin Furlong from the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (who has been involved in the event since its inception), "the purpose of the Exhibition is to provide an opportunity for the graduate students to present their work to a broad audience." 

In addition to students presenting their work, the event provides an opportunity for them to practice presenting to a large audience.

When and where does the Exhibition take place?

The 2013 Graduate Exhibition will take place March 22 and 24. On Friday, March 22, music and theatre performances will take place in the Eisenhower Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. On Sunday, March 24, Research Presentations will take place in the HUB- Robeson Center in Alumni and Heritage Halls from noon-3:00 p.m., and the Visual Arts Exhibition will take place in the HUB Gallery from noon-3:00 p.m. The Reception will be held in Art Alley at 3:00 p.m. Sunday, followed by the Awards Ceremony in the HUB Auditorium.

When does the planning for the event start?

Planning for the Exhibition is a year-round effort, but the Graduate School's Graduate Exhibition committee officially begins meeting in October of each year. After the actual exhibition, we spend time looking back at what went well and what we may change in the future and hold a recap. From the initial stages through the end of January, the planning efforts are largely focused on encouraging students to participate and informing them about the event.  Special information sessions are conducted in January and February to engage students' interest and provide greater details about presenting at the Exhibition. Additionally, promotional efforts begin in December and advertising for the event continues throughout the community during the months leading up to the Exhibition.

Next comes evaluating and sorting through the abstracts to make sure they're in the right categories and we run a session for those who are unfamiliar with poster preparation skills. The Graduate School staff does a significant amount of the planning and behind-the-scenes work, with committee members taking on more tasks as the event draws near. The recruitment of faculty, postdocs, graduate students and community members to serve as judges also takes place closer to the event and committee members tend to play a significant role in this task as well.

How can people get involved and how are students and judges selected?

People can get involved in this event by serving as judges and attending the Exhibition to hear the actual presentations. Information regarding the judges' registration and criteria are located on our website (http://www.gradsch.psu.edu/exhibition/judging.html). Judges are asked to evaluate between three to five presentations, which are assigned at random. Each year, more than 150 judges are needed and previous experience is not required.  On the day of the event, an orientation session for judges is held to provide specific details about the criteria used for judging the presentations.

What are the benefits to participating for students?

As previously noted, the benefits to participating in the event are the opportunity to present their work to a large audience, which provides additional levels of exposure, as well as a chance to hone their presentation skills as a professional development opportunity.

All students who participate receive certificates of appreciation and compete for monetary awards. Approximately $10,000 in prize money is awarded throughout the event within the following categories:

Musical Performances
Visual Arts
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Physical Sciences and Math
Arts and Humanities
Health and Life Sciences
Can you tell us about the selection process and what students can do with their presentations after the Exhibition?

There is no specific selection process for this event. At this point all students who register for the Exhibition are allowed to participate.  After the exhibitions, students have an opportunity to archive their posters with the University Libraries.

Will any aspects of the event be recorded or telecast?

Video clips as well as pictures from past exhibitions are available on our website (http://www.gradsch.psu.edu/video/).

Could you describe what the experience might have been like for Penn State alumni who participated in earlier Exhibitions?

Yes, here's some observations from two prior participants:

Dale White, participant in the first Exhibition in 1986, recalls the anticipation of wondering how the first Exhibition would turn out. White received his PhD in Geography from the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences in 1988. At the time of the Exhibition, he felt a lot of encouragement from his advisor, Gregory Knight. "The only moment I do remember was when Dean Charles Hosler, Dean of Graduate School and former Dean of College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, made his rounds and stopped at my poster," said White.

Amit Das, Grand Prize Winner in Physical Sciences of the 1987 Exhibition, first heard about the Exhibition through his advisor. Das was working toward his doctorate degree in solid state science in the materials research lab at Penn State. When Das put his work together for the Exhibition, there were more pictures than data so that all who weren't in the field were able to understand his impressive research. Dean Charles Hosler presented Das with his Grand Prize award. "When they announced my name, it was a shock. I received a cash reward of $2,000 which I used to visit my parents in India," said Das. Since his father's passing a few years ago, Das was looking to donate some of his father's books to the campus library. In doing so, he came across an article written about him from the 1987 Exhibition. He humbly reminisced on his experience and referred to it as "one of the most memorable experiences in his life".  Even though by 1987 Das had already presented his work at different technical conferences, he feels that the Graduate Exhibition helped greatly in preparing him for future presentations.