By Lévana Eckert & Tiffany Robert (2016)
The fifth anniversary edition of “LERMAstériales” was held this year on Friday 4th March 2016. It was an all-day workshop organised and held by the second-year Master students of the English department at Aix-Marseille University. Launched in 2011 on Professor Anne Page’s initiative, the project always looms as a terrifying challenge for ACMA students who stand both on and off stage all day long – however it seems that it was not an impossible task and we unexpectedly enjoyed it.
While students are encouraged to attend academic events organised by their professors during the year, the LERMAstériales offers a unique and new perspective on all the work and effort that go into such events. So the big day, as Mme Monique De Mattia-Viviès pointed out in her introductory speech, gave the students the opportunity to become researchers. In the professor’s experience, it is a transformation that happens every year on this occasion, when those who are usually only part of the academic audience become active professionals in the spotlight.
First thoughts of gratitude go to the seven members of the organizational committee who put an impressive amount of work into the preparation of the day. However, no student was without their task: everyone had to take part in the event by exploring its theme, answering the call for papers on “Confluence(s)” as well as writing and timing a ten-minute communication for the big day. This implied not only individual work, but rehearsing the presentation with members from the same working group in order to do one’s best, both as a single speaker and within a group.
When facing multiple challenges such as having to make a program, create posters, prepare lunch and so on, one becomes aware of all the mechanics involved in setting up an academic event.
While the whole day revolved around the central notion of Confluence(s),—the theme of the annual conference of the Société des Anglicistes de l’Enseignement Supérieur—the students kept switching places, either to speak or to listen, to take notes or to raise hands, to either ask or answer questions.
Being part of the university curriculum, the LERMAstériales are not a one-sided process where students are in charge of everything and receive nothing in return. In fact, as a student, an organiser and a speaker, you are truly rewarded as you learn much from and about the research of others, their methods and their points of view. So in the end, one gets as much out of the LERMAstériales as one puts into it.
One of the most delicate parts of this academic challenge consisted in being able to confront and deal with the main topic in a professional and appropriate manner. The notion of Confluence(s) was not to be used as an excuse to expound one’s own personal research. On the contrary, the exercise aims at focusing primarily on the given topic, exploring it in depth and using one’s research only as a tool to shed some original light on the subject matter. This implied fine analysis, impeccable structure, coherence, writing and rewriting – all achieved thanks to the precious help from the doctorate students of the LERMA.