Western Carolina University students have traveled to the distant corners of the U.S. over the years as they built and maintained a strong presence at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, the nation’s most prestigious undergraduate research gathering.
Past groups of students from Cullowhee have journeyed to such states as New York, Utah and Washington to present their research projects at the annual event. The students who attended the conference in 2010 endured a 90-hour roundtrip bus ride to Montana and back. This year’s trip will not be nearly as long, however, as the conference is taking place in Asheville from Thursday, April 7, through Saturday, April 9.
Even though they will not be going far, WCU students will still be among the nation’s leaders in their participation in NCUR, said Jill Granger, dean of the university’s Honors College. The conference’s abstract review committee accepted 121 projects from WCU, the second-most among the 383 participating colleges and universities. WCU students have now placed in the top 10 in number of projects accepted for NCUR for 11 consecutive years.
The Honors College works with the provost’s office to help facilitate WCU students’ participation in NCUR each year. Their submissions for this year’s event include poster projects and oral presentations, and the rate of acceptance for those was high, compared to NCUR’s overall acceptance rate, Granger said. All the poster projects from WCU were accepted and 88 percent of the oral presentations were judged as NCUR-worthy, she said. Sixteen WCU academic departments will be represented and more than 60 faculty members served as mentors for the students as they developed their projects.
Nearly 100 WCU students will be riding a charter bus to Asheville each day to present at the conference, which is being held on the campus of the University of North Carolina Asheville. Attending NCUR provides students with an “appreciation of what research and scholarship looks and sounds like in a variety of disciplines,” Granger said.
“Experiences like NCUR are known, among high-impact practices, as being particularly transformative for the student,” she said. “It takes the student one step beyond participation in research to the point at which the student interacts with others in academic discourse and begins to see himself or herself as a practicing scholar.”
The WCU students will be joined in Asheville by a group of the university’s faculty and staff. April Tallant, associate dean of the Honors College, will collaborate with John Williams, professor of anthropology, and Stephen LeBeau, instructional developer in Coulter Faculty Commons, to present “Undergraduate Course Redesign for Engagement” as a part of NCUR’s professional development sessions for faculty and administrators. Eleven others, including Honors College staff and faculty mentors from across the WCU departments, also will attend.
For more information about WCU’s participation in NCUR, contact the Honors College at 828-227-7383.
By Randall Holcombe