Grad Slam

Grad Slam is a campus-wide competition for the best short-style research presentation aimed at a non-specialist audience.  This will be the second Grad Slam competition held at San José State University. Graduate students have three minutes to communicate the key concepts and significance of their research, and will be judged in part on their ability to engage their audiences. Competition judges will be composed of San José community members and San José State staff, faculty, alumni and students.

The competition will take place on Monday, May 4th, 2020 in the Student Union Theater from 5pm-8pm.

Competition Format

  • Graduate students apply to compete as individuals.
  • Presentations must be 3 minutes or less.
  • Participants can win one of these prizes:
  • Best Presentation - $600
  • 2nd Place - $300
  • 3rd Place - $150

Presentation Format

  • Presentations are to be spoken word. Poems, raps, and songs are allowed in place of spoken word if directly related to project.
  • There must be a short introduction that explains the work at the beginning of the presentation. The introduction is included in the total time allotted.
  • Students may provide one static slide to display throughout their talk. No slide transitions or animations are allowed. Presentations cannot use any supporting materials unless they have pre-approval from the Grad Slam Committee. Any use of props will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Speakers will receive three time markers during their presentations signaling when students are halfway through the allotted time, in the last 30 seconds of the allotted time, and at the end of the time allotted.
  • Each presentation will be judged using a common Competition Scoring Rubric [pdf].

Why Sign Up?

Grad Slam is an opportunity for you to network with fellow graduate students, alumni, staff and faculty. In addition, you will learn how to communicate your research concisely to a broad audience outside of your own field. Participation in the competition will provide lifelong public speaking skills which can be added on your C.V.

A series of workshops will be available for participating students to learn public speaking skills and prepare for the event. Students will refine their research and have the opportunity to learn valuable skills needed to communicate effectively and keep an audience engaged. 

  • Must be a matriculated graduate student to be eligible to apply.
  • Note: Undergraduates and members of the public are welcome to attend but are not invited to participate.
  • Graduate students can apply as an individual presenters
  • Speeches must be 3 minutes or less.
  • Applicants must submit original research from their thesis, dissertation, graduate project, or any other research-based projects they are working on. The research can focus on the development of new ideas, methods, or products, or it may focus on the application and revision of current methods or models. Students in MFA or other creative degree programs should focus on how their creative work applies to the broader exchange of ideas and the role it plays in providing new perspective or changing attitudes.
  • Speech workshops hosted by the Writing Center will be provided to finalists. The workshops are helpful in preparing you for the event and also give students free, valuable, individualized training in public speaking.
  • Previous winners of Grad Slam may not compete in subsequent Grad Slam competitions.
  • In the event of a tie, a representative from the College of Graduate Studies will break the tie.
  • Each presentation will be judged using a common Competition Scoring Rubric [pdf]

How to Apply

Apply through DocuSign - Applications are due Thursday, March 12, 2020
Preview Application [pdf]

Applications will only be accepted through Docusign. Applications must be completed (including Advisor's signature) by March 12, 2020.

Instructions and details on DocuSign can be found on the IT website. If you are experiencing issues with DocuSign please contact IT.
If the issue can't be resolved contact Cheryl Cowan 408-924-2427 or for assistance with the application.

Information Sessions
Attend an information session to learn more about Grad Slam and the application process. Sessions are in the Government Conference Room in the A.S. Government Suite, Student Union Building, 2nd Floor.

  • February 17th, 10:00am - 11:00am
  • February 20th, 4:00pm - 5:00pm
  • March 2nd, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
  • March 5th, 3:00pm - 4:00pm

If you've applied:

  1. Applications will be reviewed and finalists will be selected by the Grad Slam Committee.
  2. Finalists will then be notified with next steps.
  3. Presenters will have the opportunity to attend workshops organized by the Writing Center to prepare for the presentation on the day of Grad Slam.

Grad Slam 2019 Winners

Presentation Examples


Contact Cheryl Cowan at 408-924-2427 or
Contact the Events team at (408)924-6264 for queries.