Graduate students condense research topics in first “3-Minute Thesis” challenge

Novel competition draws eight master’s and doctoral students for Kennesaw State debut…

Georgia (Apr 29, 2015)

Novel competition draws eight master’s and doctoral students for Kennesaw State debut

KENNESAW, Ga., (April 29, 2015) -- A student in Kennesaw State’s Ph.D. in International Conflict Management program triumphed over seven other graduate students who took on the challenge of synthesizing years of research into a three-minute presentation during the University’s first Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition April 27.

The competition, developed by the University of Queensland in Australia and organized on campus by Kennesaw State’s Graduate College, engages master’s and doctoral students in a contest to present compelling oration on their thesis or dissertation topics and their significance. KSU has joined more than 200 universities sponsoring the competition in more than 18 countries. 

Winner Melvin “Wim” Laven drew the audience and judges in early during his rapid-fire recitation of 14 years of research into the relationship between forgiveness behaviors and personality types. His engaging introduction solicited hands from those who have given or asked for forgiveness. With the one static slide permitted under contest rules — meaning no transitions, movement, animations, video or sound — he used multi-colored diagrams to demonstrate the complexity of his research and a clear rationale for it. His command of the topic and organized attack netted him $500, the highest of the competition’s three prizes.

“Forgiveness behaviors are important to the ways we think about both the settling of conflicts and the durability of peace,” said Laven, who described his presentation topic as the “current formation” of his dissertation topic. “I’ve found that at a practical level, forgiveness helps in responding to strong emotions like anger, and it looks like it may be the only reliable tool for addressing hatred. But forgiveness is not always possible. I really want to know more about why some people can and others cannot find ways to forgive.”

Other contest winners included runner-up Kelly Merwitz, a master of applied exercise and health science student, who won $300; and Natalia Meneses, a Ph.D. student in international conflict management, who won a “people’s choice” prize of $200.  Merwitz’s research is an investigation of the relationship between exercise motivations, social physique anxiety and body fat distribution. Meneses’ research examined the extent to which women have been excluded from international peace negotiations.

In addition to the winners, students participating in the competition included Kyle Marlow, master’s in applied exercise and health science; DeAnne Young, educational doctorate in middle grades math; Ngozi Maduoma, master’s in integrated global communication; John Phillips, master’s in computer science; and Ashley Wooton; master’s in criminal justice.

The competition’s judges evaluated the presentations on two sets of criteria: comprehension and content and engagement and communication. The votes of audience members determined the people’s choice winner. Participating as judges were Amy Buddie, associate director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and professor of psychology; Elisabeth Shields, graduate librarian and professor of library science; and Mike Dishman, associate dean of the Graduate College and professor of education policy and governance.

David Baugher, Graduate College assistant dean and host of the event, said the competition is a way to showcase the great things graduate students are doing.

“We saw a 3MT competition at a regional conference two years ago and were impressed by not only the presentations and professionalism of the students, but also by the ability to see a wide range of research in short presentations,” Baugher explained. “I wanted KSU to get involved so that we can send our winners out to state and regional competitions to spread the word of our good work.”

Participants concur with Baugher that students in the competition learn how to speak to a non-specific but still intelligent audience about their work in a short period of time, basically perfecting the "elevator speech."

“My advisor, [professor of conflict management] Volker Franke, has been pushing me on getting my elevator speech ready for almost three years, so I thought condensing my idea down to three minutes was good progress towards 30 seconds,” said Laven. 

The competition had even more benefits, some immediate and others longer-term, Laven noted.  “The best part was hearing about everyone else’s research; I always get excited about my own work when I hear about what other people are up to. I also found it very helpful. I feel better focused now than I was two weeks ago. [It was] a tremendous opportunity for me because my research is now “award winning,” and I hope to use this to help leverage research funding and enthusiasm.”

— Sabbaye McGriff




A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit