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Overcoming fears, preparing for careers

Posted 8 a.m. Thursday, April 20, 2023

Nicole Fry, a UWL graduate student studying physical therapy, presents during the 3 Minute Grad Project event March 22. The event, hosted by UWL Graduate & Extended Learning, challenges graduate students to condense months of work into a three-minute presentation for a general audience and panel of judges.

Graduate students thrive during 3 Minute Grad Project event

Nicole Novak has long been terrified of speaking in front of a crowd.

So that’s exactly what she did.

Novak, the academic department associate for UWL’s Music Department and a graduate student in the university’s Student Affairs Administration master’s program, was one of 10 participants in this year’s 3 Minute Grad Project (3MGP) event. (Novak will soon begin a new role as an advisor with the Academic Advising Center & Career Services.)

The event, hosted by UWL Graduate & Extended Learning, asks graduate students to condense months of work into a three-minute presentation for a general audience and panel of judges.

Nicole Novak faced her fear of public speaking by signing up to present. “I am proud,” she says, “that I was able to put myself out there and talk about a topic that is important to me.”

“I chose to apply to present at the 3MGP event to challenge myself to face that fear of public speaking,” says Novak, whose presentation explored resources and support systems for students with undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Novak herself was diagnosed with ADHD at age 30.

“I am proud,” she says, “that I was able to put myself out there and talk about a topic that is important to me.”

For Wylie Jackson, from UWL's School Psychology graduate program, the most difficult part of the project occurred long before she took the microphone.

“The most challenging part about preparing for the competition was selecting which aspects of my research I wanted to share in the short three-minute time limit,” she explains. “I had a lot of great data from my study but needed to greatly condense it. I also worked with my research advisor, Jocelyn Newton, to help ensure the language and results were engaging for the audience and not too school psychologist-oriented.”

Jackson discussed how a teacher’s rational and experiential system can interfere with their ability to implement crisis intervention plans at their school during stressful situations.

“Unfortunately, we know that school crises are not going to go away anytime soon, so that is why I wanted to continue studying how we can best support our educators in these difficult times,” she notes. “I am excited to begin implementing my findings in my first full-time position as a school psychologist starting this fall.”

Kelsey Berna, from UWL's Physical Therapy doctoral program, took first place for her presentation on reducing pain associated with Achilles tendinopathy, a common injury especially among athletes.

Berna’s research explored how a combination of blood flow restriction and exercise could improve painful symptoms.

“Throughout my graduate career, I have started to learn more about understanding pain and using non-pharmacological interventions in addressing pain,” Berna says. “As something that is already used in the clinic, I was interested in seeing how blood flow restriction could be further utilized in the field to help a wider variety of patients.”

Earning first place, along with the $500 prize, was rewarding — but not the most fulfilling part of the experience, she says.

“It was exciting to hear that I had won,” she explains. “However, the part that was most meaningful was having an incredible group of classmates and professors there supporting my classmate, Nicole Fry, and I as we took part in this event.”

It wasn’t just the presenters who had a memorable experience.

Jane Rada, a retired faculty member at Western Technical College and a former member of the UWL Foundation Board of Directors, says she had a “delightful experience” serving on the panel for the first time.

“I was impressed by the quality of the student presentations and the scope and complexity of research occurring throughout the campus,” she says. “The event was definitely high-energy and fast-paced and was an excellent opportunity for graduate students to thoughtfully and concisely explain their research to a general audience. It was evident they were thoroughly prepared to present well-organized, relevant information within the short time available.”

Panelists discuss the presentations before holding a final vote.

3MGP results

First place: Kelsey Berna, Physical Therapy
First runner-up: Madison Moore, Clinical Microbiology
Second runner-up: Nicole Fry, Physical Therapy
People’s choice: Wylie Jackson, School Psychology

About UWL Graduate & Extended Learning

UWL offers more than 20 graduate programs, including online, on-campus and blended programs in the areas of business and management; higher education; K-12 education; science, engineering and math; clinical fields; and health and wellness. Learn more about UWL’s graduate offerings.

Support the 3 Minute Grad Project award fund.


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