Be a Mentor
Many students submit papers to Beacon because a faculty member encourages them to do so.
Encourage students who produce excellent research papers, lab reports, or projects in your classes to consider submitting their work to Beacon. Work with them to polish up their work for submission and, if the papers are chosen, for presentation at the conference.
Most faculty and students report that the time spent is very rewarding. In addition, faculty mentors of students who win Panel Awards receive Outstanding Mentor Awards, including a $100 honorarium.
Keep Beacon in Mind When Creating Assignments
- Craft prompts and assign 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.
- Consider the conference's list of categories and think about how assignments for your courses might fit one or more of them.
- Develop assignments so that they are more likely to produce sustained academic writing. While there is no minimum length for Beacon papers, there is a maximum length for submissions: 5000 words or about 20 typed, double-spaced pages.
- Teach the documentation style appropriate for your discipline and help students ensure that their work properly acknowledges resources.
Communicate with Your Students about the Conference
Take initiative. That's the theme for this entire page.
Make students aware of the conference and its goals and guidelines. Put Beacon information in 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 who wrote them, encouraging them to refine, revise, and consider submitting the papers. Give them specific suggestions and instructions on how to improve their work.
Keep in contact. Encourage students to keep in touch with you about the paper and submission. 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 days and times you are available to answer their questions.
Guide and Support Your Students
Help students improve and polish papers for submission. Mentors should read the papers carefully, advise students on specific 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 for the quality of the student's work, too.
Guide the preparation of the final draft. Make sure the student follows the submission guidelines and remind the student of the March 1 deadline.
If your student is selected to participate in a conference panel, help them prepare for the presentation. It is important that students are prepared for the experience. Many students have not presented at a conference before, so be sure to give your student the benefit of your experience. Make them aware of ways to present themselves and their papers 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 or Keynote presentations, 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, not just the written paper, is an important part of what is judged at the conference. 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.
Finally, attend the conference to support the students and share in the experience. Be the friendly, supportive face in the audience for your student. You will be proud to see your student's presentations and the presentations of other students on the panel.
What if my college is not involved with Beacon?
Contact the Beacon Conference co-directors for information about how your college can become 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.
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.