Graduate Online Symposium went live April 17

The Graduate Online Symposium went live online for the first time Monday, April 17. This is an online conference where graduate students can upload videos of themselves speaking about their own graduate work.

“We’re calling it a conference, because it is,” Heidi Southworth said. “Students had to do work, they had to prepare.”

Southworth is the digital initiatives librarian at Memorial Library. She was one of the people who came up with the idea for the graduate symposium, along with Dr. Barry Ries, dean of the College of Graduate Studies. Together with other faculty members and one graduate assistant, they organized the Graduate Online Symposium Steering Committee in order to put together the resources and online space for graduate students to present their research.

“We formed with the idea of trying to come up with a way that we could showcase graduate work/research,” said Southworth.

Southworth works with a software at MNSU called Cornerstone, which is a digital archive for the university. She said that Cornerstone has been a place for graduate students to publish their theses and dissertations, among other research and creative activities done by students and faculty members, but there hasn’t been a place or event for graduate students to present their research, like undergraduates can do during the Undergraduate Research Symposium.

“We’re trying to find a way to revitalize something like that for graduate students,” Southworth said.

However, the problem is that many graduate students never step foot on campus. Some graduate students take online classes, while others live in different locations all together and don’t commute regularly to Mankato, if at all. Southworth wanted to come up with a way to involve all graduate students, even those who weren’t on-campus learners.

The solution was an online symposium in which students would be able to take a video of themselves explaining their research. They could choose to show themselves or not, whichever they felt comfortable with, said Southworth. The main thing was it was them talking about what they learned through an online presentation, similar to a PowerPoint.

“It’s a recording [of them] talking about what interests them, and what they wanted to do and research,” said Southworth.

The videos themselves were up to 15 minutes long, and the software allowed them to take screenshots of their research so they could reference it while recording. The idea was to allow graduate students the chance to “show off” to a broader audience. Each student who did a video received a link to a unique URL that links directly to their video, which they can then take and use in a resume or as a way to let people know what they are researching.

“We are hopeful that the innovative format will allow graduate students the opportunity to showcase their scholarly and creative work,” said Dr. Ries, “and allow colleagues to view their presentations in an accommodating way that is considerate of their schedules.”

The committee received 11 entries from graduate students from a wide variety of studies and colleges. The feedback they received from students was all very positive. Some things that the committee will be taking into consideration for next year is tweaking the deadlines so that students have more time to complete the videos and the ability to submit videos longer than 15 minutes.

Southworth said that the committee was very happy with the responses they received and that they hope for more people to submit videos next year so that they can continue to keep this going. She also hopes that word will spread about the online symposium for graduate students and that students from more colleges will show interest and help to improve the process to make it more practical for everyone.

With the use of this technology, it no longer matters if you study on campus. Wherever you are, you can show off what you are studying and make an impact with others.

“We’re not limited by distance now,” said Southworth. “It’s not just our little campus… It’s a broader audience, a way to kind of show this off to the world.”

Southworth wanted to thank the members of the committee who contributed to the project and made the symposium possible, including Dr. Barry Ries, Dr. Teri Wallace, a professor in the department of Special Education, Dr. Shawna Peterson-Brown, assistant professor in the department of psychology, and Christine Klecker, a graduate student and teaching assistant in biological sciences.

You can find the videos from this year’s Graduate Online Symposium at

Alissa Thielges

Alissa is a sophomore majoring in mass media at MSU. When she doesn't have her nose stuck in a book, she enjoys eating pie and fangirling over various fictional characters. You can get in touch with her at her email

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