How the Beacon Conference Works

  • Students work with faculty members to prepare academic papers.
  • Students submit their work to the conference by March 1.
  • Conference directors and their team anonymize the papers, divide the papers into groups based on topic and/or field, and send them to teams of faculty readers at two-year colleges in the region.
  • Readers rank the papers, and the writers of the top three papers are invited to prepare a 20-minute talk to participate as Panel Competitors in a field- or topic-specific panel at the conference, which is always held on the first Friday in June. Runners up and writers of great research that falls outside existing panel categories are invited to participate as Poster Presenters in a poster session.
  • Panel Competitors prepare their talk and any visual aids (a slide deck in PowerPoint, for example), and Poster Presenters prepare a short talk and a professional poster.
  • On the first Friday in June, the conference is held. Panel Competitors give their presentations before a judge — a full-time faculty member at a four-year college or university in the region — and anyone else attending the panel. After the competitors have given their talks, the judge has an opportunity to ask questions before opening the floor to questions from the audience.
  • Poster Presenters participate in an afternoon session to which all attendees of the conference are invited: a smorgasbord of research presentations, each of which is given several times to the small groups of people who gather according to their interests or whims.
  • After each panel session concludes, the session’s judge returns to the Judges’ Room to record comments on each competitor and to identify a Panel Award Winner.
  • Once judges have submitted their decisions and comments, the conference directors rapidly prepare materials for the concluding ceremony, then hold the concluding ceremony, recognizing participants and award winners, and participants and award winners leave with certificates in hand.
  • 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 and published on the conference’s website in June or early July.