SOUTHFIELD—Six months ago, Lawrence Technological University planned to host the annual conference of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters (MASAL) Annual Conference for the first time.
The coronavirus pandemic had other ideas.
Back in March, the conference was postponed to Saturday, Sept. 26, with hopes that an in-person event on LTU’s campus would be possible by then. But due to the continuing pandemic, the conference will now be conducted online.
MASAL is a professional academic organization to support research and disseminate knowledge through annual conferences and the publication of a quarterly peer-reviewed journal, the Michigan Academician. It also awards an annual prize for outstanding undergraduate research. Most of its members are faculty or students at colleges and universities in Michigan, along with independent scholars and researchers. Shannon Timmons, director of the Honors and Quest programs in the LTU Department of Natural Sciences, is MASAL’s current president.
Timmons said LTU is well positioned to provide the technological tools for MASAL’s first-ever virtual conference. LTU was one of the first universities in the country to establish a campus wide WiFi network, and has distributed high-end laptops to undergraduates—containing all the software they’ll need for their courses—for 20 years. The university transitioned nearly 700 classes from in-person to online format within two weeks when the pandemic hit in March.
“The Academy is grateful to LTU for taking the lead to efficiently transition the annual conference to a virtual format,” Timmons said. “Our current Zoom, Canvas, and Google Drive capabilities, along with the expert assistance of our eLearning staff, have facilitated an excellent platform for a virtual conference. More than two dozen LTU faculty and staff members have also generously donated their time to assist in hosting Zoom sessions on the day of the conference to ensure a fulfilling experience for all attendees.”
The Sept. 26 conference will feature 31 interdisciplinary sessions and 296 oral presentations—99 undergraduate students, 73 graduate students, 110 faculty members, and 14 retired faculty or independent scholars—representing 73 colleges and universities. More than 300 people have registered to attend. Sibrina Collins, executive director of LTU’s Marburger STEM Center, will serve as the keynote speaker; her presentation will highlight a documentary film produced by LTU students, “Women Untold,” which celebrates inclusion in STEM.
LTU President Virinder Moudgil said the event “offers Lawrence Tech the opportunity to showcase our increasing emphasis on undergraduate research, which sets us apart from many institutions of higher education. Undergraduates at LTU are working in meaningful, groundbreaking research—both federally funded, and research that is sponsored by employers large and small that work closely with our faculty on solving society’s challenges.”
MASAL is housed at Alma College. More about the organization at www.alma.edu/offices/michigan-academy/. Registration for the event is open through Friday, Sept. 18.
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.