About the Beacon Conference

The Beacon Conference was established to recognize, celebrate, and showcase the academic achievements of outstanding students at community colleges in the mid-Atlantic region. It is held each year on the first Friday in June, and it encompasses a wide range of disciplines.

Origins of the Beacon Conference

The Beacon Conference was launched in 1993 thanks to a two-year grant from the American Association of Community Colleges and the Kellogg Foundation. Since 1995, the conference has been been funded by a coalition of two-year institutions in the mid-Atlantic region, and the following ten colleges have taken turns hosting this annual event:

How It Works

  • Students work with their faculty mentors to prepare high-quality academic papers.
  • By March 1, students submit their work electronically from the conference website at http://www.beaconconference.org.
  • Conference directors and their team anonymize the papers, divide the papers into categories based on topic and/or field, and send each batch to three community college faculty readers with expertise in the particular area.
  • Readers rank the submissions, and the authors of the top three papers in each category are invited to make twenty-minute presentations at the conference. Students work with their mentors to practice their delivery and design ways to enhance their talks by using such aids as PowerPoint, video clips, handouts, etc.
  • On the first Friday in June, the conference is held by the host institution.
  • Beacon 2023¬†will be held in-person at Rockland Community College:

  • There are typically three ninety-minute sessions during the day, each with several concurrent category panels.¬†
  • The ninety-minute period allows for three student presentations (twenty minutes each, sixty minutes total) and a question-and-answer segment (30 minutes).
  • After the last presentation, the first set of questions is asked by the panel judge -- a full-time faculty member from a four-year college or university in the region. Then, the floor is open to questions from the audience.
  • After each main session concludes, panel judges record comments on the presenters and identify a Panel Award Winner in their respective categories.
  • Judges submit their decisions and comments to the conference directors only.
  • While the directors assemble and organize judges' reports for the Awards Ceremony, the Poster Session, showcasing all students whose submissions were ranked 4th by category readers. The Poster Session is non-competitive. When the conference is held in person, each Poster Session presenter displays their work in the form of a professional poster and engages in informal interaction with those who choose to examine and discuss their poster.
  • The conference concludes with the much anticipated Awards Ceremony where all participants are recognized and panel award winners are formally announced.
  • Panel award winners and their mentors receive a monetary award/honorarium by mail, and papers by panel award winners are compiled into the conference proceedings published on the conference website by July that year.

Beacon Colleges

The annual Beacon Conference would not be possible without the active participation and financial support of its host and member institutions.