Scholars Week increases number of participants

Jenny Rohl/TheNews

Story by Matt Parks, Staff writer

Scholars Week, a long-standing Murray State tradition, has started to increase in number of participants, pulling out of a decline in recent years, as this year’s Scholars Week started to gain back its momentum.

According to Murray State’s website, Scholars Week is a “celebrational showcase of undergraduate and graduate research, scholarly, and creative achievements.” The event spans over a week, from Nov. 14 – 18, featuring a diverse schedule of oral presentations, exhibits, performances and poster sessions.

Arthur Boston, scholarly communications librarian, played a major part in planning this year’s Scholars Week and in the growth of the event itself, along with the addition of a fall Scholar’s Week.

Boston said this year’s number of participants was higher than the numbers of 2014-2015, and raising attendance and participation have been the primary focus for him.

He said he believes the event is important because it is a way for students to practice and demonstrate what they have learned during the course of their collegiate education, rather than simple classroom-based performance evaluations.

“We want to show that what we do here at the university has a direct effect on students when they graduate,” Boston said. “It’s not simply homework, it’s transferrable skills that they can use in the workplace and in life in general.”

He said he believes the event will continue to grow over time, and he hopes to focus on raising attendance events in the future by showing students they can gain great insight by attending their peers’ performances and exhibitions.

“We need to do it,” Boston said. “It gives students an experience they might not otherwise have. It gives them recognition for their work they might not otherwise have.”

The other faculty member responsible for helping to rebuild Scholars Week is David Pizzo, associate professor of history, who shares Boston’s focus on attempting to help the event reach the attendance level the event once had.

Pizzo said the spring Scholars Week event, which was once the only Scholars Week, hosted over 1,000 projects. By 2015, however, the event was down to 150 events with far less programming. Last year’s Scholars Week only hosted 11 events, which jumped dramatically to 178 projects this semester.

“The growth from 11 to 178 projects from one year to the next shows how much pent up demand there is, and we are ecstatic about how successful it has been,” Pizzo said.

Pizzo said he believes the event will continue to grow in the future because it provides a unique and valuable opportunity for students. He said it provides the chance to work on transferrable skills by finding a way to explain their research to audiences that may not be versed in the topic.

“Our university puts a premium on experiential education,” Pizzo said. “And both projects on display and the act of presenting them are examples of this focus.”

While Boston and Pizzo are responsible for planning and helping to rebuild the event, University Libraries are working to help them coordinate the week-long celebration.

Ashley Ireland, dean of University Libraries, said the libraries provide spaces for the student presentations and facilitate the scheduling of sessions.

Ireland said she believes Scholars Week is an important event for the university because it connects student learning to the “ongoing scholarly conversation.”

“Work that is done with the intention of being shared out among peers and the community naturally takes a different, more meaningful course than coursework done solely for an instructor,” Ireland said.

Melony Shemberger, assistant professor of journalism, said she values Scholars Week and the opportunities it provides students.

“I guess I am a nerd who loves Scholars Week,” Shemberger said. “It’s like my holiday. I truly enjoy seeing students taking time out of their busy academic and work schedules to present their scholarly or creative activity.”

Shemberger said she believes Scholars Week provides a unique and invaluable experience for students – the opportunity to experience sharing information in a conference-like setting, which Shemberger said she believes is crucial in today’s professional environment.

Spring 2017 Scholars Week will take place from April 17-21. Students interested in registering to present at the next Scholars Week or wishing to get more information about the event can contact Arthur Boston at aboston@murraystate.edu.