It’s Electric: The 2020 Piedmont Symposium

The COVID-19 pandemic moved the second annual Piedmont College Symposium to a virtual platform, but organizers say the event was still a success with 138 students presenting their research and more than 1,000 views on the event website.

Even though there has been a lot of promoting and conversation about the Syposium, Dr. Julia Schmitz, QEP Director and Chair of the Piedmont Symposium Committee, recognized that there were still some who were unsure of the event. 

“We have to build up momentum because it is new,” said Dr. Schmitz. “People are still a little bit undecided about it.” 

This confusion grew when the symposium was moved online.  There were many who wondered how the symposium would be done virtually or who would even attend.  Others wondered who would be able to put together an online forum for students to present in. Enter Dr. Melissa Tingle, QEP Assessment Fellow and mass communications professor.  

“My role shifted considerably when we had to move the symposium online.  At one point, we did not think we would have a symposium at all,” said Dr. Tingle. “However, Dr. Schmitz and I sat down, talked it all through and I decided since I am the web design teacher, that I should design a website for the symposium.”

However, Dr. Tingle still faced the challenge of putting everything together in a very short amount of time and being able to get it approved by the administration.  Working through the time crunch, Dr. Schmitz and Dr. Tingle were determined to find a way to allow students who had finished their research to be able to present at the Symposium. 

“I only had about 48 hours to come up with a structure and a game plan to submit to the administration so that we could get their approval,” Dr. Tingle said. “I was able to build the website in about 24 hours and then once we got the approval from everyone, we just started to program as much as we could.”  

Students were indeed able to present their research at the Piedmont Symposium virtually and just as planned on the Symposium’s originally scheduled day, April 15. Student presenters were appreciative of being able to present online.  Many of these students had finished their research well before the symposium was shifted to a virtual platform, and they wanted to be able share their findings.  Freshman Computer Science major Christophe Donsereaux was still very excited and pleased with how his presentation went.  

“Presenting was great.  We would have rather done it in person, but presenting online still impacted us very well,” Donsereaux said.  “I think the symposium is a great thing.  It shows other students how their peers are working in other classrooms and majors. I hope that the symposium continues.”  

Looking forward to future Piedmont Symposiums, Dr. Tingle is really invested in the idea of how the virtual aspect can be involved with the face to face presentations.  She also wants to see a few new outside faces involved with and attending the symposium.        

 “Moving forward, we want to see how we can keep the website going and integrate the virtual component with the face to face component without taking away from either,” Dr. Tingle said. “We also want to get the outside community and professional networks involved.  These students are presenting this great research, so how cool would it be to have professionals come in to give you critique and potentially offering you an internship?” 

The 2020 Piedmont Symposium was a success. Even though moving to a virtual platform cut the presentations from 300 to about 138, there was still a lot of viewership.  There were 692 people present at the live zoom presentations, as well as the Piedmont Symposium website had 1,100 views on the day of the symposium.  There was great research presented, many missed faces seen and a Piedmont College community reunited during this difficult time. Dr. Tingle gave an insight to how everyone felt that had involvement with the symposium.  

“We really did have a great time,” said Dr. Tingle.  “The students’ presentations were top notch.  I can only imagine what it would have been if we would have done it face to face.” 

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