WCU No. 2 for national conference

Western Carolina University students rank second in the nation in the number of research projects accepted for presentation at the country’s most prestigious undergraduate research conference.

Seventy-five WCU students had a total of 80 project abstracts accepted by the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, an annual springtime gathering where students from across the nation present their best research. Among the 319 colleges and universities that will send students to this year’s conference, WCU is second only to the host school, the University of Montana, in the total number of projects approved by the NCUR abstract review committee.

WCU students have ranked in the top 10 in projects accepted for the conference for five consecutive years, and the students from Cullowhee continue to lead all University of North Carolina institutions with their participation, said Brian Railsback, dean of WCU’s Honors College. The college oversees WCU’s NCUR involvement each year.

“Behind every undergraduate student who completes a research project that meets the NCUR’s high standards, there is a dedicated faculty sponsor who takes mentoring undergraduate research very seriously,” Railsback said. “Over the years, undergraduate research has become an important part of the academic culture at WCU.”

Railsback said other factors contributing to the strength of the university’s undergraduate research are the Honors College’s Undergraduate Academic Projects Grant Program, the Undergraduate Expo research exhibition held each spring, and the Honors College magazine, Imagine, which focuses on undergraduate research, creative work and service.

Undergraduate research also is an important component of WCU’s Quality Enhancement Plan, a comprehensive plan to improve student learning developed as part of the university’s process of gaining re-accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Railsback said.

The WCU contingent will fly to the April 15-17 conference in Missoula, Mont., and aside from the cost of meals, the trip is provided free to the students. At the conference, the students will present their research in front of students and college faculty members from across the nation.

Funding for the trip is being provided through the Honors College and the office of WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo, but Railsback said the trip to NCUR would not have been possible without the financial support of the Honors College’s Highlands Advisory Board, a group of Highlands residents who provide mentoring and support for the college’s students.

“Led by Honors College alumnus James Hogan and advisory board members Judy Brinson, Carole Light, Jack and Evie Miller, E.J. and Nancy Tarbox, and Mark and Kathy Whitehead, the college has received more than $19,000 to help us send WCU students to this national conference,” Railsback said.

For more information about undergraduate research at WCU, contact Railsback at 828-227-7383. Click here to see the complete list of student presenters and faculty sponsors.