Student Advisory Council

plazak joetrantham_geneJoe Plazak, Illinois Wesleyan University, and 
Gene Trantham, Bowling Green State University

Co-Chairs, CMS Student Advisory Council


In 2015, the Student Advisory Council (SAC) continued towards fulfilling its mission “to serve in an advisory capacity to the Academic Career Committee and the Board of Directors concerning issues of importance to student members of The College Music Society.”  For the forthcoming year, the SAC has prioritized four initiatives, namely:

1. Maintain a high level of visibility at the national meetings in the form of student attendance, student presentations, and student forums

2. Explore ways to better communicate with SAC members, CMS Student Chapters and CMS Student Members through Webinars, Video Conferences and email

3. Develop channels through which the SAC can serve in a true advisory capacity to CMS, in particular the Committee on Academic Careers

4. Work with the CMS Fund to gather greater financial support for Student Travel Grants to the CMS National Conferences

student adv board student chapt pres









Student Advisory Board Members and CMS Student Chapter Presidents pictured above (from left to right): David Nelson, Brian Casey, Joanna Pepple, Patrick Jansen, Laney Boyd, Rachel McLaughlin, Gene Trantham, Patricia Burt, Doug Poteat, Greg Carroll, Reeves Shulstad


 Pre-Conference Webinar

When the Student Advisory Council met during the 2014 National Conference in St. Louis, we agreed that one of the ways in which we could better serve CMS student members would be to host a webinar specifically for new student members.  On November 3rd, the SAC presented a webinar entitled: CMS-101: The Student's Guide to the CMS National Conference.  Members from the Council discussed the following topics: student centered events and sessions at the conference, navigating the conference program and the Guidebook app, and tips for fostering meaningful mentor relationships.  The overall feedback from the webinar was positive, and all involved mentioned that they would be eager to put together another such webinar for the 2016 national conference.  


2015 National Meeting, Indianapolis

The 2015 national conference offered several opportunities for SAC members to reach out to student members.  Many of these students were attending for the first time and SAC maintained a constant effort to include these students in conference discussions and activities.  In addition, students were encouraged to “keep the dialog going” by participating in their regional chapter meetings, communicating with their Student Representatives and exploring ways that they could start a CMS student chapter on their campus.  

In consultation with the CMS Executive Office, several internships were offered to student members in order to help offset a portion of their travel costs.  In addition, registration waivers were given to student chapter presidents, as well as students that volunteered in some capacity during the conference (registration desk, concert assistance, logistics).  Seventeen students applied for and received Student Travel Grants through The CMS Fund to attend the national conference. With the assistance of the CMS Fund, we are exploring ways to generate increased contributions to the Student Travel Fund to attend National Conferences.

Three sessions, specifically geared towards student membership, were offered at the 2015 National Conference: 

1. Lightning Forum: Student & Faculty Perspectives on Technology within Higher Education

This lightning forum was comprised of two SAC faculty members, two SAC student members, and one faculty guest (David Brian Williams).  Panelists addressed seven topics including mobile technology in the classroom, automated feedback, online courses including “best practices”, textbooks in an open-source world and technology for lifelong learners.  In the time before the session began, audience members (and panelists) were able to vote on which of the seven topics they deemed as most interesting/valuable via  Polling results appeared instantly on the electronic display.  After the panelists commented on the topics (from most valuable to least), audience members also shared their thoughts.  The forum was well attended and generated a very lively discussion and exchange of ideas.  It was especially interesting to hear both student and faculty describe “best practices” especially with online courses.  

student lightning forum











Panelists pictured above (from left to right): Kevin Gerrity, Joanna Pepple, Reeves Shulstad, Brian Casey  


2. CMS Student Luncheon

Approximately 15 students, along with five faculty members, attended an informal lunch held in the food court at a nearby mall.  Similar to previous years, students discussed various programs of study, graduate school, teaching opportunities, and job applications.  Several students expressed their gratitude for this scheduled opportunity to connect and network toward the end of the conference.  For SAC members, the luncheon served as a convenient time to hear student reflections on their conference experience.   

student luncheon 













3. Research Presentations by Students and Recent Graduates 

For the fourth consecutive year, the SAC hosted a student research presentation session at the 2015 meeting.  As in 2014, a separate call was made for students and recent graduate to submit proposals for this special mentoring session. Several months before the conference, faculty members from the SAC, as well as from the CMS membership at large, were grouped with student presenters for research and presentation mentoring.  At the national conference, students delivered a ten-minute “mini-presentation” of their work followed by a five-minute question period. 

One new idea that we implemented within this year’s Student Research Session was allowing students to request a specific CMS mentor.  In years past, the task of soliciting and assigning mentors had been handled by the SAC co-chairs.  This year, after acceptance letters had been sent to student presenters, they received an email informing them about the possibility of requesting a mentor.  One presenter utilized our new option, and we were happy that their requested mentor (Scott Lipscomb) agreed to fulfill the mentor role.  In addition to improving the student conference experience, this new option also encourages us to reach out to new potential CMS mentors to become involved with the SAC. We believe the new mentor request option could prove to be very valuable for growing the size of our Council, and we look forward to implementing this idea again for the 2016 national conference.  

While this mentoring opportunity again proved to be successful, further refinements are needed.  Mentors shared concerns about their difficulties communicating with students; many students sent their materials only a few days before the conference.  We still believe a student research session has potential for lasting impact on the students and mentors involved, but future iterations need to clearly articulate the parameters that make this impact possible.  Specifically, students will need to be better informed and commit to the mentoring process as a condition for inclusion in future sessions.  

student presentations











Presenters pictured above (from left to right): Ward Francis, Airdrie Kayln Robinson, Brian Casey, Clayton Dunaway, Justin Rito, Delphine Piguet, Brian Weidner


 Video Conferences and the Annual Meeting of the Student Advisory Council

In October, two SAC video conferences occurred. Because SAC has a large membership, we decided to have one video conference for SAC faculty members and one for Student Representatives.  In Indianapolis, all members of SAC met along with CMS Student Chapter Presidents and the chair of the Academic Careers Committee.    

Our video conferences focused on SAC activities for the Indianapolis conference (e.g., lightning forum, student research) and the pre-conference webinar. Similar to 2014, communication was a key topic of discussion during our Indianapolis in-person meeting.  The council had very positive reactions to our pre-conference webinar and video conferences. In the forthcoming year, we plan to use this new technology provided by CMS in several ways:

1. Video conferences for SAC members before and after national conferences

2. Video conference following the national conference with CMS Student Presidents

3. Video conference during regional chapter meetings with students who are attending that conference (designate a room and time for the conference with local arrangements)

4. Webinar in August explaining how to receive more funding to attend a national conference, how to use the roommate finder and explore how CMS student chapters could attend conferences.

5. Webinar (or a pdf handout) to help students navigate the CMS website so that they can submit an online proposal and use other CMS resources

6. Provide another pre-conference webinar to help students prepare for the conference

Student Representatives also plan to send email messages to CMS student members in their region through the national office.


SAC also discussed having a student reception on opening night (Thursday) in future years so that students can connect at the very beginning of the conference.  Student Representatives asked if it would be possible to have a ribbon or sticker to identify student members as belonging to a regional chapter.  This would help the Student Representatives identify which student attendees are from their regional chapter.  SAC also will explore posting student research presentations on YouTube and creating an Instagram account for CMS students to follow. 


The SAC discussed and selected topics for two 2016 national conference proposals: 

1. Faculty/Student Forum: “Service and Meaningful Service”

2. Lighting Panel: “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Music” to coincide with the Transformation theme of the conference.


The Council also agreed to keep all of the student conference activities that have been successful in the past, including the student research session and the student lunch gathering.  

SAC also received brief reports from CMS Student Representatives and CMS Student Chapter Presidents. Recruiting new members was the main topic of the student chapter reports.

The Student Advisory Council appreciates the continuing support of the CMS national office as we comminute with student members, address student concerns, provide student activities at national and regional conferences, develop student chapters and provide valuable professional development for our student members.