What is a plenary? In a conference that is ordinarily divided by department or discipline, a plenary is a session that students and faculty from all fields are welcome to participate in.

The Academic Excellence Showcase hosted the first Presidential Plenary, a themed interdisciplinary session welcoming submissions from all departments in 2017. PURE and President Fuller, in collaboration with co-chairs Laurie Burton and Melinda Shimizu, invited submissions to the special Academic Excellence Showcase Plenary Session. The theme was solar eclipses, and the plenary included student presentations ranging from mathematics to poetry as well as a special introductory lecture by Melinda Shimizu.

The Showcase team hopes to continue this tradition in future showcases. If you have an idea for future Presidential Plenaries, please fill out this suggestion form: Plenary Theme Suggestions.

2019 Presidential Plenary Theme: The Interrelationship of the Arts and Sciences

This theme hopes to encourage the interaction of the Arts and Sciences via the inspiration of the STEAM program. Check back later to hear more about the plenary portion of the 2019 showcase.


2018 Presidential Plenary Theme: Power

“Power” means many things and is something we interact with every day. We take power for granted when we flick a switch and the lights in the room turn on or we walk into a building that is a comfortable 72 degrees when it is 35 outside. Power in political, social and personal interactions shapes our relationships and our emotions. Sometimes power is all around us but easy to forget and sometimes it is as scary as a category 5 hurricane. At this year’s 2018 Academic Excellence Showcase we will explore the various meanings of the word “Power” through the lens of academic disciplines that span the breadth of Western’s academic programming. Please join us on Showcase day at 11:30 am in the Pacific Room, Werner University Center, Western Oregon University, for a program of outstanding works exploring the nature and meaning of POWER.


PURE and President Fuller, collaborated in 2017 with co-chairs Laurie Burton and Melinda Shimizu, to invite student submissions to participate in the special Academic Excellence Showcase Plenary Session on Solar Eclipses. Presentations of all formats were welcome, by students of all disciplines, as long as it addressed the topic of solar eclipses. The range of opportunities brought information on their history, cultural significance, scientific understanding, mathematical predictions, and aesthetic inspiration. Since Western Oregon University’s founding in 1856 there have been only two total solar eclipse visible from campus, one wh  

ich took place February 26, 1979 and one that happened August of 2017. Solar eclipses occur about every 18 months somewhere on Earth, but occur far less regularly in any one specific place, and Total Solar Eclipses are especially rare. During a Total Solar Eclipse, locations in the path experience total darkness, the temperature may drop 20 degrees, stars become visible, and the corona of the sun may be viewed. People who have viewed Total Solar Eclipses have described the experience as spiritual,memorable, and with feelings that it is an once-in-a-lifetime event. Such an event also inspires great curiosity into the science and history behind what we experience today and how people have experienced similar events in the past. We invited all Western students to submit a proposal to present in the Eclipse Plenary Session to explore this theme and the event took place on June 1st, 2017.