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BSU Student Scholarship & Creative Achievement Conference showcases student talent, creativity

Bemidji State University was buzzing with energy Wednesday as hundreds of students took part in the Student Scholarship & Creative Achievement Conference.

The conference featured a variety of undergraduate and graduate student presentations ranging from social networking website studies to software engineering to porcupine behavior. Student artwork was also put on display.

BSU senior Geoffrey McIver, a political science major, had a packed room in Hagg-Sauer Hall for his presentation, "Nonvoters: Doing nothing to change the government they hate."

This was McIver's first time being a presenter at the conference, but has attended the last three years to view other student presentations. He said it took him one year to research his topic and several months to prepare for his presentation.

McIver, who hopes to go to law school after he graduates from BSU, chose his presentation topic after learning about the large number of United States citizens who do not vote.

With the exception of some students who attended the conference for extra credit, McIver said he drew a lot of interest because many college students could relate to his topic.

"They are, statistically-speaking, the non-voters and they are interested in a different voice, especially a younger voice, talking about them," McIver said. "Those non-voters are quietly in the majority. I think most (student attendees) raised their hand that they voted, but I don't think they vote regularly."

In Bridgeman Hall, Pil Kwon, also a senior at BSU, stood by his presentation board titled, "A site analysis of artillery shelters in Seoul, South Korea."

The poster board featured a map of all of the bomb shelters in Seoul. His research focused on whether people living in Seoul would be safe if the country were attacked from the north.

Kwon said he thought of the topic idea in November, when North Korean artillery shells hit Yeonpyeong, a South Korean island located a few miles off the North Korean coast.

"There are a lot of people living in Seoul, so I thought what the worst case scenario would be if anything were to happen between North Korea and South Korea," Kwon said.

Kwon, a geography major who hopes to go to graduate school for Geographical Information Systems, a computer mapping program, said he spent months collecting information on artillery shelters in South Korea.

"I had to ask one Korean university professor for help," he said."

Also interested in computer mapping programs was BSU student Jennifer Hardy, a biology student, who presented an overview of Sandhill crane hunting in Northwestern Minnesota.

Hardy made her own maps for her poster board using GIS that showed the different populations of Sandhill cranes and hunting zones throughout the Midwest. She said she finds mapping programs easy to use and fun and wants to go into cartography in the future.

Other conference events included a Mock Trial by the BSU's Pre-Law Society and the Beaver Film Festival.

A news literacy panel and open forum culminated the conference. Alan Miller, the conference's keynote speaker, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and founder of the News Literacy Project, gathered with other local media representatives and answered questions from the audience.

Nancy Erickson, BSU's interim vice president for academic affairs, said she was pleased to see the conference had a "marvelous turnout."

Conference committee coordinator Carla Norris-Raynbird said the attendance has improved over the years.

"I think the attendance was good," she said. "The closing ceremony was much improved. The talk back is an excellent way of closing off. We are going to do it again next year."