WCU ranks 18th in papers accepted at national research conference

CULLOWHEE — Western Carolina University students ranked 18th in the country in the number of research papers accepted for presentation at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, held at the University of Montana in Missoula.

Twenty-two Western undergraduate students had their papers accepted, and 18 of those students, accompanied by two WCU faculty members, traveled to Montana for the 14th annual conference, held April 27-29.

Representatives of more than 200 schools attended the conference, which was established in 1987 to promote undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activity as a vital component of higher education. The conference included six two-hour oral presentation sessions.

The WCU students’ 18th-place showing marked the third year in a row that Western undergraduates have ranked in the top 20 in the number of papers accepted at the conference, said Brian Railsback, acting dean of WCU’s Honors College.

“Other conference attendees are beginning to ask questions about Western Carolina University because such big groups of our undergraduates keep showing up at this conference,” said Railsback, who accompanied the students to Montana with Marilyn Chamberlin, assistant professor in WCU’s department of anthropology and sociology.

This year’s group of undergraduates included a freshman, Claire Hawley of Cullowhee. Railsback said it is “quite remarkable” for a freshman to produce a paper that qualifies for the national conference.

While in Montana, the students and faculty members visited Glacier National Park and bison ranges, and enjoyed local shopping and cuisine, Railsback said.