Baker University’s annual scholars symposium, Dialogos, to take place virtually

Baker University’s annual undergraduate research presentation day, Dialogos, is right around the corner. Taking place this Wednesday, Apr. 28, the set up for presentations is different compared to previous years. This change is due to the current state of the pandemic and lingering restrictions that make it hard for students to safely present in-person.

Associate Professor of International Studies and Political Science Ryan Gibb is in charge of the honors program and is the coordinator of Dialogos for the second year in a row. This year, Dialogos will offer students ways to present both on Zoom and in-person with guidelines in place to follow COVID-19 guidelines.

“The keynote, the awards, and the panels are going to be on Zoom and the posters are going to be in-person outdoors, if weather permits. If it doesn’t permit, we’ll probably use the gym for them,” Gibb stated.

The honors program and Dialogos go hand in hand, as the honors contract requires presentations of research at Dialogos. This population of students will make up a large majority of the total presenters on Wednesday.

Historically, Dialogos has been an event with more student research participation, but Gibb explains how research on campus has decreased due to the pandemic.

“In the last year and a half, a lot of research on campus has slowed. There are fewer students doing independent research and I think part of that is because of COVID, just in terms of who can do what with the participation of students,” Gibb said.  “We do have dozens of presenters, but I think three years ago it was probably at its zenith. In terms of in-person presentations, it is much smaller than that.”

Gibb also contributes lower student researchers to the lack of students attending conferences. Gibb mentions that, “some programs on campus ask students to present and, historically, if you got money to go to the conference then part of going to the conference was presenting at Dialogos. Since very few people went to conferences there are a few people presenting at Dialogos.”

Sophomore Kysn Paepke is among the students that will be presenting their semester-long research on Wednesday. Paepke conducted research on the effects of rehab with a team of four through his exercise physiology class. Paepke explained the process of gathering research has been a smooth process overall with preparation for Dialogos being somewhat chaotic.

“We’re still kind of learning about how it’s all going to work as in the days leading up to Dialogos,” Paepke said. “We haven’t received all the information, but I think it makes it a little less stressful that we are presenting over zoom. I think I would still prefer being in-person just because it’s more professional and it’s good having that presenting experience, but we’re making it work.”

Senior Hadley Kaff conducted research last semester for her Dialogos presentation over voter suppression. When asked about her thoughts on presenting over video conference, Kaff explained that she will miss the atmosphere normally present at Dialogos in past years.

“It won’t feel as exciting as it has felt in the past, even as a spectator. We don’t feel that Baker community when we are online,” Kaff said.

While the students who are presenting via Zoom offer mixed feelings about this presentation style, Gibb explains the importance of learning video conference skills.

“Being able to present in a teleconference is a good life skill,” Gibb insists. “Whether or not you can do it in person, you’re not always going to fly out to a job interview or fly out to a conference, so being able to do this is good for everybody, even if COVID wasn’t a factor.”

More detailed information regarding the presentations will be sent out as Wednesday approaches for those interested in viewing in-person poster presentations and Zoom presentations.