Seventeen Eastern Illinois University students presented their research at one of the country's premier conferences, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, on the University of Montana campus.
Eastern Illinois University was well-represented when 17 students presented their research at one of the country's premier conferences this spring.
The students joined some of the nation's top scholars at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Missoula, Mt.
"Presenting their research orally at a national meeting such as NCUR, Eastern students gain confidence in their academic work and their speaking ability," said Bonnie Irwin, dean of the Honors College, who accompanied the students, along with three faculty members.
"NCUR is a multi-disciplinary conference, meaning that students have opportunity to speak to other students and faculty in their field, but they also must be able to explain their work to non-experts, an important skill to have in the workplace and beyond."
Approximately 2,500 undergraduates present at NCUR each year. At any given time, 100 posters were being explicated in the field house and a dozen oral presentations were being delivered at classrooms across the University of Montana campus.
In addition, speakers provided “big picture” presentations regarding sustainability, interdisciplinary education, the role of young people in the world today, and cross-cultural music.
Irwin said she let the students know they were expected to be "good conference citizens" by attending their fellow EIU students' presentations when possible, as well as other sessions.
"While faculty from some other institutions complained that their students were barely attending the conference, Eastern students were excellent role models for their peers," Irwin said. "Students valued their experiences both as presenters and audience members."
Students who attended told Irwin that the experience improved their speaking and teaching skills, improved their knowledge of their own research, and allowed them to realize new possibilities for their own research and future educational endeavors.
"I enjoyed being in the presence of people who genuinely wanted to learn from others’ expertise in highly specialized fields, and I also treasured having a receptive audience for my rather obscure research," said William Wolf, an EIU student from Erie.
The multidisciplinary approach proved eye-opening, as well.
"While in college or higher education, people’s view can be narrow, focusing on the majors," said Ayaka Hisanaga, an EIU student from Yokohama, Japan. "Having an opportunity to learn about research in different fields of study definitely widened my view."
The participating faculty members -- Bill Lovekamp, sociology; Sham Yunus, early childhood education; and Marita Gronnvoll, communication studies -- were also grateful for the opportunity to attend.
"They forged closer bonds with the students and returned armed with additional strategies for mentoring undergraduate research," Irwin said.
Lovekamp said the EIU students were "amazing."
"They were eager to participate, actively listening to others, and so very proud of their accomplishments once their presentations were done," Lovekamp said. "NCUR is an event to behold. I enjoyed listening to so many students present their research. The week made me reflect on how proud I am of EIU students and how grateful I am to have to the opportunity to work with and mentor these students. It is a true joy to see what amazing work they have done. The opportunity to participate in NCUR and mentor students is remarkable. I believe in the work and mentoring I do, and this trip has reinforced these beliefs."
Irwin said the connections that were made are an important part of the integrative learning component that is one of EIU's priorities.
"Over the past six years, I have had many occasions to discuss research with students, but the most rewarding experiences I have had as dean have been accompanying our students to research conferences and witnessing firsthand their intellectual and personal growth," Irwin said. "Even recreation acted as an opportunity for learning, personal growth, and experiences that the students have come to realize are significant for their future.
"Trips like this demonstrate that anyplace can foster learning, as long as our students are trained to recognize these learning moments when they encounter them."
Participating students are listed with their hometowns and presentation topics: