For the past two years, the SACRAO (Southern Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers) Annual Meeting has been abuzz with conversations about members’ research, thanks to the “poster sessions” introduced at their 2013 conference.
“We were trying to think of ways to enhance SACRAO,” said Dr. Jacquelyn D. Elliott, International Liaison Specialist, University of Missouri—St. Louis & Gulf University for Science and Technology, Kuwait, and Chief Enrollment Specialist, Marion Military Institute—who was SACRAO’s Vice President for Professional Development in 2012, when she and Dr. Rodney Parks, Registrar at Elon University, worked together on the idea for poster sessions.
Beating the drum
As VP for professional development, Elliott did much of the legwork to promote the new sessions and recruit potential presenters. To get the word out, she published information about the poster session concept in the SACRAO newsletter, contacted department heads at individual schools to disseminate the call, contacted state presidents to notify their membership, and reached out to authors of journal articles.
“For the pilot year, we tried to exhaust all avenues to get people to apply,” Elliott said. “We wanted the sessions to be varied but selective.” From the applicants, the professional development committee selected a handful of proposals for presentation at SACRAO’s Annual Meeting.
Engagement for presenters and attendees
Proposals selected for the sessions are then translated into a poster-sized visual representation of the basic information traditionally found in a peer-reviewed article—methodology, results and findings—and displayed on a wall or easel. The researcher stands with the poster to offer explanation and answer questions, but he or she doesn’t give a formal presentation.
Poster sessions give conference attendees a quick snapshot of the contents of a lengthy journal article, as well as the opportunity for one-on-one dialogue with the researcher. And the sessions give presenters an intimate setting to gain confidence talking about their research.
“We thought this could be a ‘dry run’ for researchers,” Elliott said. “It’s a great way for people to share their research in a safe environment with people who understand the topic, get feedback, and prepare to take their research to a larger platform.” The sessions, which have included topics such as veterans returning to college, dining services and vegan students, and transgendered students, have been featured at the last two SACRAO Annual Meetings, and will continue to be an integral part of SACRAO’s professional development. “The poster sessions helped us to engage mid-level professionals. A lot of our colleagues are in doctoral and master’s programs, doing research, and we wanted to reach out to those professionals and recognize their work.”
Thanks to the innovative poster sessions, SACRAO earned the Elbert W. Ockerman State and Regional Professional Activity Award, which recognizes outstanding professional activities of the state/regional associations, at AACRAO’s 2014 Annual Meeting.