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Voices in the Field Collaboration: McNair Scholar Teaches Creative Visual Data Presentations

Voices in the Field Collaboration: McNair Scholar Teaches Creative Visual Data Presentations

The second presentation of the week was done by McNair Scholars and led by Dr. Paige Morgan Dingess. McNair Scholars is a federally awarded TRIO grant focused on ensuring that students from underrepresented backgrounds (low-income and first-generation or from underrepresented ethnic background in higher education) are entering graduate school with a focus on obtaining doctoral degrees. The focus of McNair Scholars is working with research opportunities in the college environment, but Dr. Dingess noted how positive it is to connect with school communities to inspire that academic drive.

The presentation she conducted was focused on developing effective visual strategies in research presentations. The use of visual strategies in presenting research is an important part of the students’ yearlong experience as they will present to University of Wyoming professors as well as the ELA team when the capstone is completed. During her talk, Dr. Dingess mentioned that the research needs to be presented in a way that is effectively communicating what was discovered and also interests the observer. By not relying solely on words and utilizing images and pictures to convey some meaning, the researcher is also enabling the observer an opportunity to listen to the speaker. When there are so many words, it can be difficult to focus in on the meaning to the speaker’s words and often it can be viewed as less of a captivating story.

In the final section, she also highlighted some tricks for the students that she encourages to her undergraduate cohorts so that they succeed in the presentations that they are conducting. Some key takeaways for students included some anxiety being good for a speaker if it is something they care about and also the impact of practice at making public speaking a bit less scary. In addition, she discussed what to do when there is not a clear answer and encouraged students to be willing to say whether they can extrapolate the information or whether they would need to do more information to get an answer back to the person. Such tools for students can be crucial whether they are navigating public speaking in academic or professional domains.

This presentation helped students see how research could be presented and showcased and how different presentation styles can impact the audience in drastically diverging ways. Students were able to learn these pieces of information before the presentation to the professors, and some even applied the lessons when their presentation slides were shown. For students, presentations such as these can be helpful as they are learning how customizable PowerPoint and other public speaking devices can be.

Such a presentation is also helpful because it reminds educators and higher education staff of the resources that can be found throughout Wyoming. By reaching out to professionals focused on improving research skills of students, it creates opportunities for students to ask questions they might not be doing otherwise. Through this work, it is also hoped that students who observe the work of McNair Scholars will feel encouraged to take part in this program and develop the skills necessary to progress to graduate school. Indeed, it is also a necessary part of building onto the partnership model wherein education is continuously being connected and heightened through the resources and experiences of one another.

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