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SPARC Festival


Welcome to SPARC 2024

Mount St. Mary’s University faculty dedicate themselves to academic excellence in scholarship and teaching, and they integrate the latest developments of their disciplines into classroom instruction. Our students follow suit by presenting their work at the annual SPARC Festival, which celebrates Scholarship, Performance, Art, Research and Creativity.


At SPARC, we celebrate our excellence in the liberal arts by showcasing the scholarly and creative projects of our academic community who comprise the College of Liberal Arts, the Richard J. Bolte, Sr. School of Business, the School of Education, the School of Natural Science and Mathematics, and the University Honors Program. Our senior honors project presentations reflect our students’ year-long studies of work closely mentored by outstanding faculty on topics of shared interest. These projects serve both as capstone experiences in students’ majors and as springboards to graduate school or a profession. SPARC also features an astonishing array of academic prowess through lightning talks, student debates, poster sessions, concerts, and creative writings.

We look forward to seeing you at SPARC 2024.

Patrick Lombardi, Ph.D.
Co-chair, SPARC Festival

Solomon Tesfu, Ph.D.
Co-chair, SPARC Festival

Sarah Scott, Ph.D.
Director, Honors Program

Patrick Lombardi, Ph.D.
Co-chair, SPARC Festival

Solomon Tesfu, Ph.D.
Co-chair, SPARC Festival

Sarah Scott, Ph.D.
Director, Honors Program

Festival Schedule and Formats


  • Opening Celebration - Wednesday, 3:15 p.m. at Founder's Plaza
  • Address by President Timothy E. Trainor, Ph.D. - Wednesday, 4 p.m. at Founder's Plaza
  • SPARC Festival Begins - Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.
  • Academic Awards Ceremony - Friday, 3:30 p.m. at Knott Auditorium


As a student, you have the opportunity to present your work through a variety of formats, and chances are you've been preparing something exciting for months! Take a look at these options to see which one works best with your course of study.

Dates and Timeline

  • February 5-18: SPARC submission period
  • April 17-19: SPARC Festival
  • April 19: Academic Awards

Honors Presentations

An Honors Presentation is the final capstone presentation of an honors thesis, as per the requirements of the University Honors Program. If you're presenting your honors thesis, chances are you've already worked through many months of research and the SPARC Festival is when your findings are presented to the university and greater community.

Lightning Talks

A Lightning Talk is where you give a brief presentation to hit on the main points of an idea and express what matters most. Don't plan to read a speech or essay in its entirety. Be selective, condensing your talk to its essentials.

Lightning Talk Guidelines


When you submitted your proposal, you indicated your preferences for a one-hour time slot. About a week prior to the festival, you will be notified of your presentation time (15-minute window in that hour). Please arrive 5 minutes prior to your presentation time.


PowerPoint slides or other computer files can be projected on a laptop computer that will be set up prior to your presentation. PowerPoint is not required. Bring your computer and bring the file with you on a flash drive or email it to yourself.


Each presenter has 15 minutes, including time for questions & answers. Plan to speak no longer than 10 minutes. Please honor your time constraints in order to facilitate the presentations that precede or follow yours.


The most successful lightning talks show evidence of preparation, organization, enthusiasm and confidence. Avoid speaking too rapidly or too quietly. Remember to relax and breathe. For best results, practice your talk and ask a friend to time you.

Watch a Video on Lightning Talks

Panel Presentations

A Panel Presentation involves a small group of presenters (three to six) who talk about various angles on a specific theme. Panels are scheduled for 60-75 minutes and panelists usually speak for roughly 10 minutes each. If you have a panel idea, talk with one of your professors!

Watch a Video on Panel Presentations

Poster Presentations

A poster is a way to presents the result of your project visually, demonstrating your goals, methods and conclusions. Your poster should be self-explanatory, leaving you free to answer questions on the finer details of the project. Poster sessions are scheduled for two-hour blocks.

Guidelines for Creating a SPARC Festival Poster

Location and Time

Poster sessions last two hours and take place in Patriot Hall. You'll need to arrive 15 minutes early to set up.


Design your poster so that it can be tacked onto a 4 foot by 4-foot corkboard. Pushpins will be available. You may use PowerPoint to design a 4 x 4 poster that can be printed in the Center for Instructional Technology and tacked onto the mounting board or design a series of slides (letter-sized or smaller) that can be individually printed and tacked onto the mounting board. You may supplement your poster with a laptop presentation, though access to electric outlets will be limited. If you include audio, keep the volume to a reasonable level.


Present sufficient evidence to support your conclusions, and use illustrations, plots, small tables, or other visually-appealing content over text. If your project was initially in narrative form, then select representative excerpts. Limit yourself to four or five pages of text in a large font legible from a four-foot distance.


Provide background on your goals, methods, and conclusions. What is the underlying question, why is it important, what is the timeline, who were the participants, what activities went into the research, what conclusion did you reach? Share enough information to allow observers to respond with informed questions.


Sequence items on your poster in an intuitive way that allows observers to readily understand your project. Use left-to-right, top-to-bottom organization and include letters or arrows if necessary. Feature major points, leaving other findings for informal conversations with SPARC attendees. Provide clear labels for each section of your presentation. Use color to enhance comprehension.

Title and names

Choose a descriptive, catchy title. Include the names of the presenters.


Simplicity is key. Don't try to cover too much material. Say a lot about a little rather than a little about a lot. Rehearse a brief summary of your project. Before you make your poster, create a list of the visuals you would include if you were describing your project with only the visuals. Write the text after you have created the list of visuals.


For examples of poster sessions from previous SPARC festivals, visit our Facebook page.

Watch a Video on Poster Presentations

Performance Presentations

A Performance Presentation is where you will present a discussion of the process by which a performance of music, theater or performance art is prepared and then perform it. This 20-minute presentation session is followed by a Q&A session with attendants.

Watch a Video on Performance Presentations


More information on presentation times and locations will be available closer to SPARC.