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Conferences attendees at a display.

2004 Graduate Student Conference

The Graduate Student Conference is like a marketplace of ideas. Wander into one room for a 15-minute explanation of western juniper encroachment in the southeast Oregon watershed. In the next room, you can participate in a short but intense roundtable discussion on how interpretive communities can aid in critical thinking. All around you, sophisticated concepts are being presented in clear, succinct form, so that audience members -- both expert and novice -- can learn, ask questions, and give feedback. The enthusiasm of the presenters is infectious, and the exchange is rich.


Steve Harvey is a first-year Exercise and Sport Science PhD student, about to begin his research. His conference presentation, Teaching Games for Understanding in Youth Soccer Players, described his master’s degree project at the Loughborough University in England.

“It’s a games-based approach to teaching a sport, in this case, soccer. Rather than teach individual techniques, you put the players in a small game situation – three on three, or four on four. Then you teach within the game, tactics and strategies instead of individual skills.”

The conference helped him introduce this model to students in his major, and to soccer teachers, coaches, and players who might eventually feed into his research. Steve explains that the model was developed some 15 years ago at Loughborough, but has been slow to catch on. His research here in Oregon will provide clear evidence of how effective a games-based approach can be in improving performance in both teaching and coaching contexts.

Wende Feller is completing her master’s degree program in Student Services Administration this year. Her research project, based on a student survey about the graduate student experience at OSU, generated some compelling findings and recommendations. She led a roundtable discussion at the conference, giving students a chance to discuss the survey results and offer additional feedback.

Wende developed her interest in the transition to OSU graduate programs when she was Graduate/Professional Student Association President last year. In that position, she organized a number of forums where students came to talk about their concerns.

“This conference offers one more opportunity to get student input,” she says. “It all helps to give weight to the issues when they come up for consideration at the ASOSU and university policy levels.”

Thirty-six master’s degree and PhD students presented their research at the 12th annual Graduate Student Conference, May 5 in the OSU Memorial Union. Beth Matlock, a second-year master’s degree student in student services administration, organized this year’s conference. Beth is director of the Graduate Affairs Task Force for the Associated Students of Oregon State University (ASOSU). Working with Graduate School dean Sally Francis, with the help of ASOSU staff and the Graduate Student Senate, she’s made some significant changes in this popular one-day event.

In past years, student presentations were limited to formal speeches or poster presentations. “From my viewpoint, that excluded a lot of academic areas and types of scholarly activity,” Beth says. “For example, a person getting a master’s degree in music would have no way to participate. There are more ways to learn and disseminate information than just standing up and lecturing.”

A lively, collegial atmosphere makes this conference an ideal forum for warming up before regional and national professional meetings. Some students take advantage of audience feedback to generate and refine their ideas.

“Opening it to less formal presentations makes it more inclusive of students at different levels of their academic careers,” Beth says. “Some graduate students aren’t far enough in their research to present findings. In a roundtable or question and answer session, they might pick up ideas that actually help them frame their theses.”

This year’s conference was organized around five major themes from OSU’s strategic plan, giving it a more natural flow than in past years, when presentations were grouped by college and department. Beth hopes this will open communications and help students find areas of common concern.

“Graduate students tend to be so compartmentalized by our individual disciplines,” Beth says. “This is one place where you can chat with people doing work that’s all together different from yours, just for the exposure.”