Work that is appropriate for Science, Society, and the Arts:

Research or creative work in any discipline is acceptable. The primary purpose of Science, Society, and the Arts is to provide the W&L community a chance to share the fruits of the tough days and long nights devoted to academic endeavors that are usually seen only by a single professor. What is important is that the work demonstrates your independent thinking and serious effort to do quality work.

For example, a senior thesis or capstone project, a law review article, summer research results, or work generated from an independent study project with a faculty advisor are all appropriate for SSA. Students might consider presenting work from a significant term paper, class group projects, or papers from seminars for 2L's. A paper written for a class that could someday be good thesis or law review article would be a great basis for a presentation. Your work does not need to be perfect, if is thoughtful and carefully executed. Conferences are designed to give scholars a chance to share work that is not yet in its most complete form so that you can benefit from exchanging ideas with others who are interested in your area of scholarship.

Painting, sculpture, or photography are great for SSA. Similarly, short story and poetry readings, musical and dramatic performances, a capella and individual pieces are all appropriate for submission to SSA.

Presentations that demonstrate how what you are learning in the classroom can be applied in "real" life are also appropriate for SSA. Think about whether you might be able to make a poster or give a short talk about your work in law clinics, poverty program internships, or as part of other service endeavors.

If you are unsure about whether your work is suitable for presentation, ask a professor for their thoughts on your idea. Remember the main objective of the conference is to create an opportunity to share the best of our intellectual and creative selves. You are likely to have something to share with our community and you will benefit from learning from your peers and other W&L community members.

About Colloquia

The colloquia occur during one of the Friday morning sessions of SSA. In these colloquia you will have a chance to discuss with a relatively small group a reading or film that interests and fascinates you. The colloquium part of the conference is sort of like a simultaneous meeting of many different book or film clubs - a festival! Interested students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to select readings (novels, essays, poems, biographies, scholarly articles, etc.) or films (movies, documentaries, etc.) they would like to share with others. There are no fixed limits on the sorts of readings or films to be considered. The deadline for submission of proposals for books or films is Friday, October 14th, 2016.

As part of your proposal, you will be asked to give a short description of the reading or film and then you will need to provide a sentence or two explaining why the reading or film will be a good one for group discussion The conference organizers will choose approximately 25 suggested texts/films to be the topics of 75-minute, small-group discussions. Generally those who have suggested the selected book or film will open and moderate the discussions, but it is also acceptable to offer a joint colloquium proposal in which two or three individuals work together to propose and moderate the conference discussion of it. To submit a reading colloquia proposal, complete the proposal form by Friday, October 14, 2016.

The list of proposed colloquium texts or films will be posted at the SSA site shortly after the submission deadline. Students, faculty or staff are then welcome to register for one of the colloquium. Any colloquium that has six or more people register by Friday, November 11, 2016 will then receive either the reading or access to the film before winter break, December 16, 2016. On morning of Friday, March 17, 2017, you will then gather in the assigned room with all of those who have registered for you colloquium and then the discussion will begin! Note that you do not have to be presenting anywhere else in the conference in order to participate in one of the colloquia.

About Presentations and Their Proposals

Students will be selected to participate in the conference on the basis of presentation proposals they submit. These are short summaries of the work potential presenters have done. Proposals give organizers a means of evaluating how serious presenters are about their work. Proposals also help organizers arrange a conference program in which different types of work are presented at the best times, with the most appropriate and relevant works, and in the best venue. Students don't need to have their work in its final shape at proposal time because there will still be opportunities for changing it before the March 17, 2017 conference. A good rule is that you should be done with all the work for the proposal by Friday, March 10, 2017. Remember that this does not mean that your project is complete (for example, if it is a capstone project due at the end of the term), only that you are giving yourself enough time to present you work well.

Proposal applications will require your contact information and a brief description of the work you wish to present (150 words). On the application form, presenters may request to make their presentations in a few different formats.

If you would like to present a paper, you should choose "Paper" under the "Types of Presentation" of the application form. The SSA organizers will do their best to combine your paper with other, thematically similar papers to form one of several panels. The panels typically are comprised of 4-5 students who will give 15 minute talks on their work. Each presentation should plan to leave a few minutes for the audience to ask questions. There are no strict rules about which presentation format is most appropriate for different types of work, so think about what would work best for you. Another type of presentation is a "Poster". In this case, the presenter(s) stand by their posters and explaining their work to an audience moving freely around a room in which a number of other posters are set up. Finally, if you check "Art Showing" or "Performance" under "Types of Presentation" you will be prompted to tell us what you display space needs are or what specifications you need for performance venues.

In general, a good proposal briefly summarizes what the research or creative work you are presenting is about, including a preview of the findings you expect to present. Offer one or two sentences explaining why you think your research question or creative theme is important and to whom you think it would be most significant. For example, here are the sorts of questions a student presenting biology research might want to answer in her proposal: What is the subject of this research? Presumably, biologists would find this work interesting, but specifically why? Would students/scholars from other disciplines find the work helpful for some reason? What, in specific, about the research project do you hope to be able to present at the conference? A poet who seeks to present some of his work might answer the following questions: How many poems will be read? What is nature of the poetic project the author wishes to share? In other words, are the poems linked by a theme? By a technique? Will the author also offer a commentary on the poems? Good presentation proposals can be written in a variety of ways, but the best proposals will always tell the conference organizers what kind of work is being proposed and why the right audience might have something to learn from it.

Poster Presentation Suggestions

Poster sessions involve many people milling around, listening, discussing and learning about the work, while sharing their ideas and experiences with presenters. When designing your poster, aim to catch the interest of persons walking by and focus on clearly showing or explaining the main points of your research clearly and effectively. Posters are very visual and should not just contain text. Consider including interesting images, figures. Make sure your title conveys the main point(s) of your research. You will also need to have a logical flow for the poster that allows it to be read by others without your input. As you practice your presentation, if you find you need a figure then put it in the poster.


The arrangement of concepts, content, and visual elements of your poster should be displayed in a neat and orderly manner with a logical progression of ideas, just as you would with a PowerPoint presentation.

The poster should be as concise as possible while conveying all information necessary to the understanding of the project. Less writing and more visualization is best.

Typical poster headings will vary depending on whether your work is experimental, theoretical, modeling, or synthesis/interpretive work. Nonetheless, good posters generally include most of the following headings: names and affiliation of investigators, abstract, objective/purpose, background/introduction (relevant theory, previous work, regional setting), hypothesis, methods (experimental procedure, approach, field or laboratory techniques), results (experimental results, analysis, comparison of models observed), the most important conclusions (relevance for the science, implications for further work), acknowledgements, and references.

Make sure that the writing on the poster is visible from about 5 feet away. Your audience will not necessarily be close to the poster. This will probably mean a 30 pt minimum for text.

Figures should have captions that plainly explain the figure. Many of your audience will only look at the abstract and figures in your poster. The results section should include graphs (with axes labeled) or other visual representations of actual data. Models should emphasize the scientific importance, not your proclivity to make things look pretty. If you have done field work, then field photos are useful (people want to see the actual area). If you have conducted field work, you should have a location map. The suggestions above may be useful, but there is no substitute for a mentor, advisor, or just a respected faculty member close to your field of scholarship for advice and guidance, especially if this is your first poster.

If you have any questions along these lines, please also feel free to contact Matt Tuchler or another member of the SSA organizing committee.

Practice and Presentation

It is recommended that the poster be completed at least one week prior to the presentation date so you can fine tune the poster appearance, keeping in mind size, readability and organization. You can then find out what you need to change/add.

You should practice presenting the poster and become comfortable with all aspects of the presentation so you are best able to explain the study by utilizing the different elements of your poster. Be prepared to elaborate on any aspect of the study, to answer questions about the project, and to articulate the study's relevance to your discipline. Familiarity with the applications of the project is also useful knowledge. Presenters should also be prepared to discuss future work that might be useful to advance our understanding of this field.

Be prepared for the question, "What is the bottom line?" What people mean is "give me a quick summary of what you did, what you learned and why it is important." If you answer well and briefly (in a couple of sentences), then they may want to hear/read more.

The presentation should be set up in plenty of time before the actual presentations are to begin.

Finally, consider your audience when discussing your poster. For example, if you are a geologist and you are speaking with someone who has a science background, then jump right in with the work and use the vernacular of your field at will. However if you are explaining the same poster to someone from outside of the sciences, you will want to give more background and simplify or define your terms and concepts. You impress no one by using terms they don't know.

Important Dates

  • Conference: Thursday, March 16 (evening) and Friday, March 17, 2017 (undergraduate classes cancelled on Friday)
  • Deadline for Colloquium Proposals: Proposals will be accepted with full consideration until October 14, 2016.
  • Deadline for Colloquia Registration: Colloquium sessions will be open for enrollment on November 11, 2016, whichever comes first.
  • Deadline for Performing and Visual Arts Proposals: February 3rd, 2017
  • Deadline to Submit Visual Art for Display: February 13th, 2017
  • Deadline for Research Papers, Creative Writing or Poster Proposals: Friday, February 17, 2017.
  • Performing Arts Dress Rehearsal: TBD


Any member of the Washington and Lee University student body (Law and Undergraduate). Faculty and staff may register and volunteer for one of many supporting roles for SSA.