NIU Conference Showcases Diversity Of Graduate Work, Allows For Connections

Apr 26, 2013

Credit niu

On Saturday, April 27th,  Northern Illinois University’s Graduate Research Association (GSRA) holds its 5th annual Research and Artistry Conference.  The academic event is unique in that it includes work from across many disciplines in the arts and sciences.

Rachel Moran is a master’s student in biology at NIU. She’s also the chair of the Graduate Research Association and helped plan this year’s conference. And she’s a participant. She says this event is a great opportunity for students like herself.

Even within the sciences, being able to see work from geology, psychology, different sciences, is itself unique because usually conferences are very specific-just biology- so it’s nice in that you get a wider view of what people are doing.

NIU Professor M. Cecil Smith teaches educational psychology in the school’s College of Education. He’s the Association’s faculty adviser. He too says the format of the conference is important, because it gives students a chance to make connections between their work and those of others.

Particularly at a time when interdisciplinary work and multidisciplinary work is so important, leading to new discoveries and advances in all fields, I think that it's incredibly important for students to begin to step out of the narrow silos we sometimes put them in, in graduate school.

Rachel Moran, Liz Rex and M. Cecil Smith
Credit Guy Stephens / WNIJ

Liz Rex is a doctoral candidate in art education instructor at NIU, and an instructor at UW-Milwaukee in art education. She was a member of the GSRA for 3 years. She says the cross-disciplinary focus of the conference is a welcome antidote to narrowly focused events where participants are "preaching to the choir."

The value of engaging and talking with students who are not in your discipline, but seeing some overlap in ways that you can build upon their strength, their unique ways of constructing knowledge, is exciting and valuable.

More than 100 students will be making presentations at the conference. Smith says everyone, including the public, is invited to come see not only the diversity, but the high quality of work that is being done by students across the disciplines at NIU.

The conference runs all day Saturday, April 28th, at NIU’s Holmes Student Center. The keynote speaker for the conference is Ira Flatow, host of NPR’s Science Friday, a show heard weekly on WNIJ. He will discuss ‘Science in Society’ at 1pm.