A 3MT judge reflects

The ask was simple. Would I be a judge in the Faculty of Arts' Three Minute Thesis competition? I knew about it — that graduate students presented their thesis in three minutes — but had never attended.

I was interested but hesitated. In fifty years of post-secondary teaching I had been constantly judging. The obvious — essays, examinations, class presentations — were accompanied by the appraising of grant applications and manuscripts, and writing of book reviews. Academically-focussed judging had been my life.

I wondered if the Three Minute Thesis competition was akin to shows such as “America’s Got Talent” — the emphasis being on theatrics rather than substance, performative talent rather than intellectual weight.

"I put my reservations aside, and am so pleased that I did."

The format is straightforward. Each participant poses a research question, explains its intellectual importance, and discusses how they will proceed. The timing is tight — go over three minutes and you are done.

My two companions and I, independently, judge the presentations by assigning scores for various criteria. When the presentations are completed the score sheets are collected and the top three are determined.

As a member of the political science department, my experience was necessarily limited. What were students across the Faculty of Arts exploring? I knew little about what students in, say, Religious Studies or Fine Arts, thought was intellectually engaging.

Peter Woolstencroft having his photo takenI found myself listening to issues as varied as the development of children’s language through nonsense verses, performance art, restorative justice, smart watches and globalization. Each of the students presented thoughtful expositions (and within the prescribed time). All in all, a stimulating experience.

Moreover, in my post-judge life, I come across materials that are of interest because I listened to presentations about this or that.

The Three Minute Thesis competition shows young people and their intellectual development. It also allows those who are there as judges or attendees to grow.

Join us for 3MT 2019: The Faculty of Arts heat happens in February — keep an eye on Waterloo Arts Events for the date.

Top photo: Jason Lajoie, PhD candidate in English, won first prize in the Arts Three Minute Thesis heat in February, 2018. Photo just above: Professor Emeritus Peter Woolstencroft stands beside the Hagey Hall Hub Donor Wall of Honour plaque, which includes his name.