The university will hold the 32nd annual Ideafest Wednesday and Thursday in the Muenster University Center.
Ideafest includes research presentations from all disciplines on campus, from both graduate and undergraduate students.
Kim Albracht, assistant director for the Center for Academic and Global Engagement (CAGE), is part of the committee in charge of planning Ideafest.
“Ideafest is an annual event to show academic research, or whatever projects students are working on, to be showcased for the entire community,” Albracht said.
Highlighted events during Ideafest are oral sessions, which may be keynote speakers or student presentations. There are also panels and poster presentation sessions during the two days.
This year’s keynote speaker is Michelle Lavallee, former USD employee and the CEO of The Lavallee Group, a strategic planning company.
“She will be giving a presentation on how to brand yourselves and how to put yourself out there in a professional way for potential employers,” Albracht said.
The Ideafest keynote speaker is chosen by a committee who takes turns working with the different USD colleges. This year, they chose the Beacom School of Business.
“What we are looking for is finding a keynote that would be engaging no matter what your field of study is,” Albracht said. “Because she is talking about branding, even though she is connected to the business school, she is talking about something that applies to every student.”
In December, students start the process by submitting their abstracts to present at Ideafest. The deadline to submit an abstract was at the end of February. After that, Albracht takes all the abstracts and creates the Ideafest schedule.
“We want everyone to join us, of course, people presenting but also students, faculty and community members,” she said. “We try to make it as inclusive as we can, so we also reach out to students and faculty at the University Center, so they have the opportunity also to watch a livestream of the sessions.”
Different disciplines may have a higher representation in certain years during Ideafest, depending on what majors are doing research. Albracht says this also has to do with the faculty mentors in those departments.
“For students, especially first-time presentations, to get engaged in this type of activity it can be intimidating,” she said. “We try to make it low stakes for everyone, so they feel comfortable and welcome.”
Meghann Jarchow is the chair of the sustainability department, helps mentor students presenting at Ideafest.
“We try and make it a focus to encourage people to be thinking about putting things together for Ideafest,” Jarchow said. “It is lower stakes than if you would actually go to a professional meeting to present your work, but higher stakes in that your work is seen by a wide audience.”
Students come up with their own ideas for their presentations, but faculty try to encourage everyone to get involved.
“Students definitely come up with their ideas, but we do try hard to seed the ideas and let them know this is something everyone can do,” Jarchow said. “I think sometimes students think this would be a harder thing that might not be for them so we try to set the expectation that they can.”
Each year the sustainability capstone class does a community-based learning project to present at Ideafest.
“This year we partnered with an organization who is trying to melt down recycled plastic and turn it into building materials, so two of our presentations will be summarizing this project,” she said.
Other projects will include research of Spirit Mound prairie restoration, recycling in North Complex, and tree ecology.
Callie Meyers, a senior sustainability major, is part of the senior capstone presenting at Ideafest. The senior capstone presentation is split into two groups.
“One of the groups is the experimental group so they are doing the experiments in the lab and we are doing more interviews, analysis and studies,” Meyers said.
The students hope that their research can help find more sustainable ways to reuse plastics.
“Our end goal is to find a more efficient way to clean plastic because right now cleaning plastic uses a lot of water so we are trying to find an alternative way to clean them,” Meyers said.
The goal of this research group was to interview community members to understand their knowledge about recycling and the environment.
“I think we take for granted what people know. I assume everybody knows about recycling but during these interviews, we have found out not all of this information is common knowledge,” Meyers said.