The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has required every person in the ISU community to be flexible, creative, and understanding, but that response looks different depending on a person’s role at the University.

While faculty focused on shifting classes online for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester, organizers of on-campus events had to quickly decide how to proceed. Would they cancel, postpone, or transition their event to an online format? The annual University Research Symposium, which typically features the work of hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students, is a notable in-person spring event that was affected.

“As soon as it was announced that classes would be online for the remainder of the semester, we knew we had to hold the Research Symposium online,” said John Baur, associate vice president for research.

While Milner Library personnel did their best to respond to the rapidly increased demand for electronic research materials, they also offered support for showcasing the research that is being done by the ISU community. The library manages ISU ReD: Research and eData, an online, open-access institutional repository that features the work of ISU faculty, students, and staff. Scholarly Communication Librarian Anne Shelley contacted Symposium organizers at the Graduate School to see if they would like to host an online Symposium in ISU ReD.

“After researching different delivery formats and debating the pros and cons of a public format and a campus-only format, the staff in the Graduate School worked with Milner to create the ISU ReD-hosted symposium,” Baur said.

For several weeks, Shelley worked closely with Kim Shennett, coordinator of graduate faculty services in the Graduate School, to create the Online University Research Symposium.

“In early March, the University Research Symposium was canceled due to the pandemic,” explained Shennett. “At that time, Anne reached out to our office with an offer to host it virtually on ISU ReD. She worked with the vendor to determine how the presentations could best be displayed in the system. Working with a tight timeline, she and her assistant Jordan Miller worked very diligently to upload abstracts, presentation files, and additional project information to the site, and the Online Symposium opened a couple of weeks before the end of the semester. Thank you so much, Anne and Jordan! Utilizing ISU ReD as the platform for the Online University Research Symposium was an awesome substitute for the event!”

“The University Research Symposium is a signature event on campus for our students. It allows all avenues of research, from lab-based experiments to theatrical performances; field research to works of art; and everything in-between, to be presented. The students look forward to this event each year to showcase their hard work,” said Interim Director of Graduate Studies Noelle Selkow. “With the unexpected circumstances this semester, we knew we had to create an alternative format, and Milner Library came to the rescue. Moving a symposium online is no easy feat, and through collaboration between the library and the Graduate School, the online symposium successfully launched in ISU ReD. Partnerships like this are an example of how important teamwork is.”

“I am proud of the work that Kim Shennett, Juma Armando, and Noelle Selkow of the Graduate School and Anne Shelley and Jordan Miller of Milner Library did to transition to a fully online format,” said Baur. “Although we had fewer presenters than we would have had in the in-person format, it was amazing—especially given the stress that students were under in March and April—that nearly 100 presentations were submitted. This response is a reflection of the importance of research to students and faculty at ISU.”

Milner Library’s Interim Dean Shari Zeck echoes their appreciation for collaboration that allowed this important event to continue. “The Research Symposium is an event many of us look forward to all year,” she said. “I am happy Milner could help the Symposium in these unexpected circumstances. ISU ReD is a great resource for researchers, and I thank Anne Shelley for all she does to help people find their way to using it.”

The 2020 Online University Research Symposium is archived in ISU ReD.