Students sixth nationally for NCUR

Western Carolina University students once again are listed among the nation’s leaders in the number of research projects accepted for presentation at the country’s most prestigious undergraduate research conference.

WCU students had a total of 50 project abstracts accepted by the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, an annual spring gathering that allows students from across the nation to present their best research. Among the 326 colleges and universities that will send students to this year’s conference, WCU ranks sixth in the total number of projects approved by the NCUR abstract review committee.

“The time and attention our faculty devote to undergraduate students is underscored by that fact that WCU has been among the top 10 universities in the nation, in terms of projects accepted at NCUR, for the last seven years,” said Brian Railsback, dean of WCU’s Honors College. The college oversees the participation of WCU students in NCUR each year.

NCUR provides a forum for undergraduate scholars to share results of their work through posters, presentations, performances and works of art. The WCU students will travel by plane to this year’s conference, which will be held Thursday, March 29, through Saturday, March 31, at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.

A total of 45 WCU students had their abstracts accepted for NCUR (some submitted more than one abstract) and about 37 of those students are expected to make the trip, Railsback said. The experience is provided mostly free to students, who only have to pay for some meals and incidental expenses, and for airfare costs if those exceed $500, he said.

Railsback said the students faced a “daunting challenge” in returning to NCUR again this year, considering major budget constraints and the long-distance trip it requires. Support is being provided through local tuition funds designated for undergraduate research and a special grant from the Division of Student Affairs. “Sending the team to Utah this year was truly a university-wide effort,” Railsback said.

Carol Burton, WCU’s assistant vice chancellor for undergraduate studies, said the university uses undergraduate research and experiences such as the trip to NCUR to help students develop the skills of critical thinking, problem-solving and effective communication – qualities that are essential if they are going to be successful and productive citizens.

The conference allows WCU students “to reap the benefits of presenting alongside college students from all over the United States, not just from North Carolina,” Burton said. “They become inspired to make lifelong learning a priority and to apply the skills necessary to compete at a national conference on research. We make it a priority because, for many of our students, this is the first and possibly only opportunity they will have to present at a national level.”

For more information about undergraduate research at WCU, contact Railsback at 828-227-7383.