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Photos, videos, winners from ISU’s Three Minute Thesis competition

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Illinois State University’s third annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition was a powerful showcase for #WomeninScience.

Eight of the nine participants and all three of the award winners were female graduate students presenting research across several disciplines. Stephanie Stephens, a master’s student in the School of Kinesiology and Recreation, took home first place for her speech focused on the use of cupping therapy to relieve neck pain.

Stephens drew in the audience by paying homage to her mother and the aches she suffered tending to seven children. “I kept looking at my mom,” Stephens said afterward. “She was a really big part of my speech. I was really glad to have her here.”

Stephens’ mother joined about 250 people at the Normal Theater the night of February 28 for the approximately hour-long event. They watched and applauded the scholars as they attempted to summarize hundreds of hours of research into 180 seconds for a general audience.

Stephens practiced her speech in her car on the four-minute ride home from work. “I’ve have never spoken in front of a crowd of people ever. The most I did was in a (communication) class, and that was 15 people. This is a first for me.”

The competitors were restricted to one static slide, and so they had to rely on verbal gymnastics to convey their research and to captivate the audience.

“I just kept thinking to myself, ‘I’m passionate about this and I want some people to feel my passion through the way I speak,’” Stephens said. “I think it’s really important to convey what we are doing in our research aspect to a general population and to make them care.”

(Click on the tweet to view Stephens’ presentation)

Stephens received $1,000 for first place and qualified for the Midwest Association of Graduate Schools’ competition, to be held in March, where she will face students from across the region, including participants from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University, Loyola University, and the University of Missouri.

Kristin L. Schoenback (watch her presentation here), a student in the School of Theatre and Dance, received $1,000 for winning the People’s Choice Award. Fatima Mohammed, of the Department of Agriculture, placed second and received $750.

(Click on the tweet to view Mohammed’s presentation)

The Graduate School organizes the event, which features a wide range of research. Participants represented the Departments of English, Psychology, and Sociology and Anthropology and the School of Communication in the College of Arts and Sciences; the Department of Agriculture and School of Kinesiology and Recreation in the College of Applied Science and Technology; and the School of Theatre and Dance in the College of Fine Arts.

The competition offers the students a unique opportunity to share the research they have been conducting throughout their graduate careers. “This is a signature event for our graduate students,” said Graduate School Interim Director Noelle Selkow.

A four-member panel judged the competition: State Rep. Dan Brady; Lisa Castleman ’96, principal, Olympia West Elementary, and vice president/president-elect, Illinois State University Alumni Association board of directors; Mark Daniel, superintendent, McLean County Unit 5; and Dana Karraker ’85, M.S. ’07, Ed.D. ’18, coordinator of faculty development, Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology.

WGLT reporter and producer Mary Cullen ’17 served as master of ceremonies, and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Jan Murphy presented the awards. Normal Theater and WGLT radio station co-sponsored the event.

3MT was developed by the University of Queensland in Australia and has spread to more than 60 countries worldwide.

Kevin Bersett can be reached at