Grad Slam

Grad Slam is a campus-wide competition for the best short-style research presentation aimed at a non-specialist audience. 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 consist of San José community members and SJSU staff, faculty, alumni, and students. With the exception of 2020, San José State University has held a Grad Slam annually since 2019.

Group photo of grad slam participants onstage

Participants from the 2019 Grad Slam

How to Apply

Applications for the SJSU Grad Slam are now closed for the 2021 year. Please check this page in early 2022 for information on next year's competition. If you have questions, contact for assistance.


  • Must be a matriculated graduate student at SJSU.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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].

Competition Format and Presentation Structure

  • Graduate students apply to compete as individuals.
  • Presentations must be 3 minutes or less.
  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted (no slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any kind; the slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration).
  • No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.
  • No props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are limited to three minutes maximum. Competitors exceeding three minutes are disqualified.
  • Presentations are to be delivered in traditional presentation style.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when presenters start their presentation through movement or speech.
  • Each presentation will be judged using a common Competition Scoring Rubric [pdf].

Overview: Benefits of Participating

Your participation in Grad Slam will not only advance the visibility of your research, but serve as an opportunity for you to deliver a professional presentation while representing SJSU. Grad Slam presenters develop strong communication skills that will be key to success in any career or discipline. This experience can also serve as a valuable addition to your CV or resume. Before the competition, Grad Slam participants will be given the opportunity to hone their public speaking skills by attending optional workshops. These workshops are helpful in preparing you for the event and also give students free, valuable, individualized training in public speaking. Those who participate in the SJSU Grad Slam may advance to a regional competition.

See what past students have said about their Grad Slam experiences and learn more about why you should apply.

Winners will receive cash prizes in the following amounts:

  • First Place: $1,200

  • Second Place: $800

  • Audience Choice: $500

View 2021 Grad Slam Winners