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Fall conference to feature student work

March 27, 2008

Students will once again have the opportunity to share their creative and academic work at UW-River Falls’ second annual undergraduate and academic conference.

The Sept. 26 conference will be divided into hour-long sessions during which students will have the chance to read or show their pieces-either creative or academic-and discuss them with fellow attendees.

Utah’s first poet laureate,David Lee, will end the conference with his keynote address. Fifteen books of Lee’s poetry, about everything from pigs to nature, have been published.

“I think that the student body will benefit from seeing his unique perspective and seeing his work,” president of the literary club Papercuts and student coordinator of the conference, Cynthia Meyer, said in an e-mail interview.

Additionally, art submissions will be displayed in the library gallery for two weeks before and one week after the conference.

“We already have one submission, which is great, from another UW campus,” UWRF English professor and co-organizer of the event, Michelle Parkinson, said.

Undergraduates from any university can submit work on any topic; if preparing something specifically for the conference, the recommended topic is art, nature and the self.

“The main purpose [of the conference] is to provide a place for students to present written papers,” Parkinson said.

Before the first conference, UWRF abounded with poster display opportunities but offered few forums for students to share and discuss their creative and academic writing in a professional environment, Parkinson said.

The English department and other sponsors decided to make the conference a yearly event to give more students a chance to showcase their work.

“Last year’s conference was so enjoyable for all of us that we really wanted to do it again,” Parkinson said.

Senior Brett Kroska, an English major with a creative writing emphasis, shared his creative non-fiction essay “About Language and Energy” at last year’s conference.

“;The audience was attentive,” Kroska said. “Which made maintaining eye contact throughout the presentation easier than at some of the previous readings he had attended.”

“It made me feel a lot more confident at presenting,” Kroska said.

Jennifer Brantley, who teaches creative writing classes at UWRF, arranged for acclaimed writer and journalist Masha Hamilton to be the keynote speaker for the 2007 conference and convinced her to speak at other events around campus.

“The students went to the events informed and ready to engage in meaningful discussions,” Brantley said.

Hamilton attended all of the readings and offered her critiques and compliments to the students.

“That kind of professionalism, that kind of connection at UW-River Falls is amazing,” Brantley said.

Some participants also left the event with a newfound international connection when they contributed books to Hamilton’s Kenyan book drive. After doing research for her novel “The Camel Bookmobile,” Hamilton was so intrigued by the idea of delivering books to poor villages on the backs of camels that she collected over 2,500 books for the camel-powered book delivery system, according to a March 2008 “Family Circle” profile of Hamilton.

A group of faculty members and students are making final preparations for the 2008 conference.

Student members of Papercuts, one group sponsoring the conference, are giving their input on setup issues and events related to the conference, which they will also likely be staffing.

“I’d say the bulk of the work is actually done,” Parkinson said.

Aside from such small tasks as ordering food and designing the program, the biggest job still facing event organizers is collecting student submissions.

Students who wish to participate in the conference have until April 30, 2008 to send an e-mail project summary, no more than 300 words, to michelle.parkinson@uwrf.edu. E-mails should be sent with “Nature, Art, Self” in the subject line and include a listing of the student’s major, university affiliation and the e-mail address of a faculty member who knows about their work.