The Student Academic Conference: Gateway to an Empirical Adventure

By Sylvia Carter, student, School for Graduate Studies

October 3, 2011

Imagine a SUNY Empire State College event that showcases the talents of our diverse student body of thinkers, entertainers, artists and scholars. In March 2004, the Student Affairs Committee, one of five standing committees of the SUNY Empire State College Senate, decided to go forward with what it thought would be an exciting event proposal. The goal was to give students, who are the key to the unique appeal of SUNY Empire State College’s dispersed learning experience, the opportunity to come together to present their creative and academic work before an audience of their peers.

At that time, it was thought that this annual student event would mirror the SUNY Empire State College All College Conference, which was generally not attended by students. Therefore, the event, which had a first-year goal of 50 attendees, was to be called the Student All College Conference. After a period of planning, “talking it up,” and waiting for approval, the first SUNY Empire State College Student All College Conference took place in November 2005 in Saratoga Springs, the home of the college’s coordinating center.

What had been planned and worked for so hard had come to fruition! It included an art show, poster presentations, workshops, a sit-down dinner and light entertainment in the form of magic from motivational speaker/magician Jim Snack. Well, the magic had just begun!

The next two conferences also were held in the horse-racing town, Saratoga Springs. The success was proving that this student conference was “off to the races” as well. The war in Iraq, presented through photographic imagery from a soldier’s perspective; the effect of unhealthy choices; lighter issues, such as the allure of Marilyn Monroe and other femme fatales in 1950s Hollywood; and the search for happiness were among the more memorable presentations from those first three conferences.

In 2008, the conference was appropriately renamed. As it had certainly become one of SUNY Empire State College’s gateways to the interchange of all types of academic achievement. The Student All College Conference became the Student Academic Conference and it was taken on the road. The 2008 and 2009 academic conferences took place at SUNY Empire State College’s Syracuse Center, which was more accommodating to students who lived further upstate.

At those conferences, students presented on subjects of great diversity. However, the most memorable presentation of the 2008 conference was “Transformation–In Our Own Words,” a discussion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community. The room was filled to capacity. This presentation, given by a student who gave a presentation on forestry the year before, drew such interest that students were standing in the hallway to view it.

Last year, the conference was held at the spacious Crowne Plaza Hotel, located directly across from the Westchester Mall in White Plains. This location is a 30-minute train ride from mid-town Manhattan. The response to bringing the conference to the New York City area was so overwhelming that registration had to be closed before the previously scheduled cut-off date.

The 2011 conference is scheduled for Oct. 14-15, again in White Plains at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Please join us!

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