Celebrating Student Scholars at
Two-Year Colleges

Montgomery College
June 1, 2018
Submission Deadline: March 1, 2018!

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a tab below for the appropriate FAQ.

  • Student FAQ
  • Faculty FAQ

What is Beacon?

Beacon is a competition and one-day conference for students at two-year colleges in the mid-Atlantic States. The top papers from each participating college are presented and judged at the annual Beacon Conference in June.

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How can I get involved?

Submit a paper!

Look over the research writing that you have done or are doing for your courses. Is there an excellent paper, one that involves original thought, research, and good writing? Is there a faculty member with whom you would like to work to polish the paper or do research that might become a research paper to submit to Beacon? If so, talk to the faculty mentor, check out the submission guidelines and the information on this web site, and submit your paper.

If you don't have a paper for this year but might consider one for the future, why not just come to the next Beacon Conference and check out what your peers are doing?

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Why would I want to participate?

You may already have written an excellent research paper for a course, and Beacon is an opportunity to submit that paper into a competition with other students' papers. If you are chosen as a finalist, you will have the opportunity to share your research with others by giving an oral presentation of your paper at the conference.

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What other benefits are there?

There is a $100 prize for the outstanding paper in each of the academic categories. Also, being a Beacon scholar is a fine addition to your resume.

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How do I submit a paper?

First, find a faculty mentor to work with (probably the professor who assigned the paper, but it can be any professor who is willing and with whom you want to work). The paper should be one that involves research and original thinking. Next, work with your mentor to polish the paper and get it ready for submission. Pick a category that fits your paper, and then follow the guidelines to submit.

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Can any student submit, or must s/he be in an honor society or on the dean's list with a high GPA?

Any student with a worthy paper may submit it regardless of his or her grade point average or membership in honor societies.

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Must my instructor recommend my paper for submission?

Beacon is meant to honor the relationship between instructor and student, so students are encouraged to work with their mentors. Students may take the first step by asking their instructors about submitting, especially since not all instructors are familiar with Beacon.

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Can I see samples of past winning papers?

Yes, all of the winning papers are included in the conference proceedings. You can view past proceedings on the Proceedings page

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What can I do in connection with Beacon?

Be a mentor. Encourage students who produce excellent research papers in your classes to consider submitting their work to Beacon. Work with them as necessary to polish up their papers for submission and, if the papers are chosen, for presentation at the conference. Faculty mentors of the most outstanding presenters receive $100 outstanding mentor awards.

Be a reader. Volunteer to read and rank papers submitted to Beacon in your discipline. Contact your campus Beacon representative or the co-directors of Beacon 2016 for more information.

Be a moderator. Volunteer to moderate a Beacon panel in your discipline. Contact your campus Beacon representative or the co-directors of Beacon 2016 for more information.

Be a supporter. Let students and faculty at your and other two-year colleges know about Beacon. Come to the one-day Beacon Conference in June, support the finalists, and hear some excellent papers.

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How much time does it take to be involved with Beacon?

As a mentor, that depends on you and the students you work with, but most faculty and students report that the time spent is very rewarding.

As a reader, it means reading and ranking about 7-15 papers in March.

As a moderator, it means spending a few hours keeping a panel running smoothly at the June conference, and as a bonus you get to hear some great student presentations.

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How can I best mentor students?

Keep Beacon requirements in mind when creating assignments:

  • Approach: Create topics that encourage research and analysis appropriate to your discipline. Encourage original ideas. Beacon submissions must show the results of research, reflection and an original perspective.
  • Subjects: There are 19 different subject areas. It is easy to find one that fits your course and your students' papers.
  • Length: There is no minimum, but there is a maximum length for submissions (5000 words or about 20 typed, double-spaced pages).
  • Research Documentation: References should follow the guidelines for the discipline.

Make students aware of the conference and its goals and guidelines. Put Beacon information on your syllabus, make announcements, point out posters, and encourage students to check out the conference web site.

Identify excellent research papers and those with potential. Contact the students and encourage them to polish, revise, and consider submitting the papers.

Keep in contact. Encourage students to keep in touch with you about the paper and submission, but it helps for the faculty member to take the initiative. Here are some suggestions:

  • Collect a list of names of students who might submit papers along with their addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. It saves time and prevents delays if you don't have to stop and look them up.
  • Send students information about the Beacon Conference submission format and deadlines, suggestions for working on their papers, and information about time you are available if they have questions.

Help students improve and polish papers for submission. Mentors should read the papers carefully, advise students on ways to improve their research and presentation of ideas, and head off any potential problems with inadequate documentation of sources. Remember that you, as mentor, are endorsing the submission, so you are taking some responsibility, too.

Help guide the preparation of the final draft. Make sure the student follows the submission guidelines (e.g. that the title page lists all the required information, that the student's name is only on the cover page, etc.). Remind the student of the March 14 submission deadline.

Help the student prepare for the presentation. If a student you mentored is selected to present at the June conference, it is important the student be prepared. Since many of the students have not presented at a conference before, give them the benefit of your experience. Make them aware of ways to present themselves and their papers in order to make the best impression. How much and what kind of help will vary with different students and mentors, but consider some of the following:

  • Talk to the student about how best to present the material in their papers. Some presenters read all of their papers, but others – because the original is too long for the 20 minutes allotted, or because the written language would be hard for listeners to follow – prepare a presentation version that outlines the major points and develops them in excerpted form. Some presentations require and benefit from visual aids (posters, PowerPoint, transparencies, etc.), but some do not, and some visual aids can distract from the presentation. Advise students about effective visual aids and help them decide what and how much is appropriate.
  • Help the students prepare for public speaking. Remind them that the presentation is an important part of what is judged at the conference along with the written paper. A presenter who reads with head down and is barely audible will not do as well as one who stands and looks at the audience and speaks confidently. Everyone can benefit from some good public speaking advice.
  • Consider setting up practice sessions. Student presenters benefit from opportunities to present in front of an audience – at a faculty meeting, a special event, a student club, or just in front of an informal gathering of students and faculty. Experience speaking in front of people will help the students relax and gain confidence, and will provide valuable feedback from listeners.

Be at the conference to support the students and share in the experience. Beacon is an experience that can bring faculty and students closer together. It will mean a lot to the students to have faculty there, and it will make faculty proud to see the presentations. After all, much of what is involved in being a mentor is what makes good faculty and makes us glad to do what we do.

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What if my college is not involved with Beacon?

Contact the Beacon Conference co-directors for information about becoming a sponsoring college. As soon as you get information about Beacon, go immediately to your college's President, Provost, or Dean and sing Beacon's praises. For an annual contribution of $500 or more (that helps pay for the annual conference), your institution can become a sponsoring college - and you might even become part of the Steering Committee.

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Can my students submit papers even if our college is not a Beacon sponsor?

Yes. Submissions are welcome from all community colleges in the mid-Atlantic region.

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