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Kalamazoo College

An Introduction

Society of Conversations in Advanced Research provides a supportive environment for students who are passionate about the work that is advancing the boundaries in their fields. Be it the emergence of neuroparasitology, the slow retraction of classical physics, or the philosophical undertakings of actualism and 'non-identity' problems, your academic interest has a place here. We recognize the fact that the vital ingredient for great, profound research is not only the uninterrupted focus on a single-faceted issue, but also the appreciation of the larger, holistic picture. This appreciation of the roles that different, distinct fields plays in our academic and personal lives is exactly what SCAR will nurture.

While most of our routine activities and areas of discussion are decided unanimously by the conference, we do have a preliminary framework to follow. Here is a nice breakdown.

1) We meet once a week for not more than an hour. 

2) Each week, one student gives a 15-20 minute presentation of an original work. This work might be a journal article she read, an independent research project she completed, or the work of a professor or scientist she loves! The prerequisite for student presentations is simplicity. Using slides or whiteboards (you don't HAVE to do Powerpoint!), and eloquent articulation, a student presenting an abstruse concept in simple understandable terms not only helps everyone learn something new, but gains herself a deeper, nuanced understanding. 

3) After each presentation, we allow 5-15 minutes for questions and explanations.

4) The Q&A is followed by a 5-10 minute feedback-forum. The non-presenting members bring out critical advice which help the presenter improve oratorical and explanatory skills; they point to parts of the lecture that might have been ambiguous, and as a group, consider how the concepts could have been made more simple.

5) The next section is open, group discussion. This should last from 10 to 15 minutes. For every meeting, each member is encouraged to read, discover, or even individually develop an original concept. This could be an idea posed by a peer-reviewed scientific article, or a critical philosophical idea launched by a weekend spent in painting and writing poetry. Each of us promulgates the ideas to the group, and through critical discussion, we build and shape them. Do remember, all ideas are beautiful; none can supercede the other. If you find something that fascinates you, feel free to share it with us. The society promises to be a non judgemental atmosphere.

6) We then discuss the weekly question. Every week has a unique question that hasn't an immediate answer. There are no conditions to the question except, maybe, that it deserves answering. For 5 to 10 minutes we discuss the answers to the weekly question, contemplate possible ramifications of the answers, and synthesise a new question for next week. For instance, in our first week, we did a philosophical one - "Does Darwinian evolution - evolution by natural selection - by its very nature rescind religion?"
Here's a Richard Dawkins TED talk to get you thinking:

7) Finally, we decide on a future presenter (presenters are given a two week notice), and break off to live a week with renewed ideas, afresh with passion.