This week brought a variety of activity for this college professor. Lectures in all classes, discussion in the two upper level courses, and documentaries on Wednesday while I was busy attending the annual Teacher Education Council Assessment Day. Monday also was the day for the Academic Honors Ceremony, where the academic programs honor our outstanding students (in the case of the History Program, we honored our Outstanding Senior candidates for the B.A. and B.S.E. Social Studies programs, along with recipients of the Phi Alpha Theta Book Award, which is given to Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society members who have demonstrated excellence in the study of History). As the self-designated photographer, I had the pleasure of snapping photos with the digital camera, feeling a bit like paparazzi (except instead of photographing famous people, I was photographing really smart people).
The camera was also snapping away on Saturday, when one of our students presented a research paper at the Eastern Pennsylvania Regional Meeting of Phi Alpha Theta. I have been a member of this honor society since 1979 (the 18th of April, to be precise), and I have presented papers at regional meetings in three states and have chaired/moderated sessions when able ever since my arrival at Mansfield University in Fall 1998. I always found it to be a pleasant (and non-threatening) experience when I presented a paper at these conferences (and not just because I won Best Paper awards at two of them), but the faculty who moderate sessions offer constructive criticism, and our students generally have enjoyed the experience–especially those who win awards.
This time, the experience was quite different. It was the faculty advisor’s first time at hosting a regional meeting, and it showed. For instance, the prize competition was a bit of a farce; I “served” on the committee, yet I did not see any of the papers that were under consideration. Also, it appeared that there was no distinction made between undergraduate and graduate students, and, with them grouped together, some worthy students’ submissions were probably overlooked (and I’m not just writing this because our student didn’t win an award). The quality of the student presentations was uneven at best; one of our group tallied 95 “ums” in the one presentation (that one, incidentally, was one of the honorees). I ended up chairing/moderating two sessions, one to cover for the faculty advisor who assigned himself a session at 8:30 in the morning when he had to take care of conference arrangements. For the other session, one of the presenters did not show up…which, on the bright side, provided the presenters with ample time (although I would have liked to make comments, but I was not provided with any of the papers in advance). The one session I observed (at which our student presented), the chair managed the time poorly, and as a result our student (who was presenting last), was a bit rushed. Plus, she did not receive any feedback from the moderator, other than him asking a question that made it obvious that he really hadn’t paid attention to her presentation. At least she now has the experience of making a presentation at an academic conference under her belt, one that will help her as she begins graduate school in the fall.
This week will provide a different type of adventure, as students in my upper level classes will be submitting the final versions of their research papers (except for the two who have been granted extensions for medical reasons). And, judging from the weather forecast, I probably will be dodging snowflakes when going to class–yes, it’s spring in north central Pennsylvania.
Photo of the week: The Mansfield University contingent at the Eastern Pennsylvania Regional Meeting of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, hosted by Kutztown University.