Faculty and staff within Troy University’s College of Education on Friday took to heart the words of the late P.T. Barnum, “The show must go on.”
The college’s annual Research and Scholarship Conference was set to take place on the University’s Montgomery Campus on Friday before the COVID-19 coronavirus shut down events. Not deterred, however, the conference team moved the event online, utilizing Microsoft Teams.
More than 180 participants registered for Friday’s conference. Participants heard a keynote address from Dr. Denise Green, Dean of TROY’s College of Health and Human Services, and taking part in various breakout sessions.
Dr. Dionne Rosser-Mims said the successful virtual conference was a milestone for the College of Education.
“It is with great pride and admiration that I congratulate the 2020 COE Research and Scholarship planning committee for hosting the inaugural virtual research conference. The use of Microsoft TEAMS was well-executed, serving as a significant milestone for College,” she said. “I applaud each member of the planning committee for upholding our commitment to excellence, teamwork, and our unwavering commitment to forging interdisciplinary collaborations.”
Dr. Rodney J. Maiden, Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling, Rehabilitation and Interpreter Training, chaired the conference planning committee and was pleased with the response to the virtual event.
“Based on the feedback from former attendees, this conference plays an essential role in aiding them with their research and scholarship tenure requirements. Therefore, we knew it was necessary to move forward with the conference,” Dr. Maiden said. “Fortunately, I was privileged to have some of the best committee members with a shared commitment to bring this conference to fruition.”
Dr. Maiden said there was initially some trepidation about the virtual conference expressed by those who had already registered or expressed interest in registering for the in-person event.
“After receiving training, administered by Dr. Shirley Farrell, Dr. Tammy Esteves, and Loubna Zahri, on the platform being used, for the most part, the skepticism began to dissipate,” he said. “During and after the conference, I received emails from participants indicating there were apprehensions in using the new platform before the conference, but they found it to be efficient and effective.”
Dr. Shirley J. Farrell, Gifted Education Program Coordinator and Assessment Co-Coordinator and a member of the conference planning committee, said the Microsoft Teams platform worked well for the conference.
“We wanted to try to keep our college life as normal as possible. Although the buildings are closed, we could still share with our colleagues and continue the conference,” Dr. Farrell said. “We were able to move it to the online platform in one week, and Microsoft Teams worked extremely well. The conference ran smoothly, and we had more people attend, I think, due to not having to travel.”
Many of those participants were grateful that College of Education chose to move the conference to an online environment rather than cancelling it.
“It is essential for the College of Education Research and Scholarship Conference to continue virtually because many faculty members are very concerned about how COVID-19 will affect the Tenure and Promotion process,” said Dr. Kanessa Doss, the college’s Director of Operations at the Montgomery Campus and an Associate Professor of Psychology. “Therefore, attending the conference is a tangible activity that actually helps them work toward the goal when many research activities have been suspended. Also, virtually attending this conference brings some sense of normalcy to a very difficult and uncertain time. I appreciate this opportunity to engage in virtual professional development with my colleagues and discover ideas to enhance my research agenda.”
Moving to a virtual environment wasn’t the only change to this year’s conference. This year’s event welcomed participation from across the University.
“I am pleased that this year we were able to take an interdisciplinary approach by offering breakout sessions from colleges outside of the College of Education,” Dr. Maiden said. “The fluidity in the movement between sessions was astonishing. Overall, I am overcome with joy and appreciation to my amazing committee members that contributed to the delivery of a phenomenal research conference.”
Dr. Pamela A. Gibson, an Associate Professor from the University’s College of Arts and Science, was one of those from outside of the College of Education to play a role in Friday’s conference. Dr. Gibson, who led the session, “The Research Journey: Agenda, Planning and Publishing,” was impressed by the participation in the event.
“It’s a testament to the leadership of Dr. Rosser-Mims and the planning committee to bring all these folks together and to have such a great turnout,” Dr. Gibson said. “I dare say, there are very few institutions that could have managed such a feat during these challenging times.”