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Three Minutes or Less
Three Minutes or Less

How the University of California pushes grad students to get to the point

By Elisa Wiseman

Robert Durrell, University of California

In 2016, for the second year in a row, the University of California challenged master's and doctoral students to sum up their years of research within three minutes. The Grad Slam is a systemwide competition drawing nearly 500 graduate students from the humanities to the hard sciences. Participants race a stopwatch to deliver the most interesting, easy-to-understand, and engaging talk.

Competitors start honing their public speaking skills in the fall by attending workshops or even working with the theater department on body language and projection. After each of the 10 campuses holds its Grad Slam contest, the first-place winners square off in the spring for the grand prize of $6,000.

"We hear from participants that when they zoom out and regard their research from a wider angle, they get a fresh perspective," says Pamela Jennings, director of graduate studies at the UC Office of the President. "They're better equipped to share their knowledge and expertise with people outside their field, to apply for grants, and to advance their long-term career prospects."

The biggest mistake a researcher can make? Using too much technical jargon. According to Jennings, the best presentations sell the audience on the research's value using analogies, visual aids, and humor.

About the Author Elisa Wiseman

Elisa Wiseman was a summer 2016 editorial intern for Currents.




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