Students to share ideas at WCU Discovery Forum

Western Carolina University will host its inaugural Discovery Forum, an event designed to encourage young people to share innovative ideas for making their communities better places to live, on Monday, April 22.

Hosted by the Office of the Provost and the Honors College, the event will be held from 5:30 until 8 p.m. in the conference center of Blue Ridge Hall on the WCU campus.

The WCU Discovery Forum is part of an initiative launched by the N.C. State University-based Institute for Emerging Issues and BB&T. During the forum, nine student teams selected by a special campus committee will share results of their research projects with an audience composed of students, faculty and community members in a series of five-minute presentations.

“Our provost, Angi Brenton, brought this idea to our campus and it will be exciting to see how this new event for us, which features identification of significant problems and solutions through innovation and research, will play out in Western North Carolina,” said Brian Railsback, dean of the WCU Honors College and chair of the selection committee. “This is our pilot run of a program that has been very successful in Raleigh.”

N.C. State’s Institute for Emerging Issues is a think tank devoted to developing leadership and economic development for the state, and the IEI created the Discovery Forum to promote young leaders and community interaction, said Jason Coggin, emerging leaders fellow at IEI.

“The spirit of IEI’s Discovery Forum is to find new and exciting ways to address the challenges facing North Carolina today and in the future,” said Coggin.

Participating WCU students will present their ideas to peers, faculty and community members during the forum. “It’s a unique opportunity for innovative students, civic problem solvers and entrepreneurs to learn from one another,” said Railsback.  “Dr. Brenton added the concept of choosing the top two presentations, which will be named at the end of the evening.  I am very grateful for the leadership of the inaugural committee members.”

The top presenters will be invited to be part of a regional economic and community development conference at WCU on the theme “Connecting to Opportunity: How Regional Networks Shape Our Future” on Friday, Sept. 27.

Scheduled to participate in the inaugural forum at WCU:

From Environmental Studies and Sciences – “The Human Population Problem and Its Environmental Impact,” student presenter Derrick Ellen and faculty sponsor David Henderson, assistant professor of philosophy and religion; and “Challenges to Oak Regeneration in Western North Carolina: Investigating the Role of Deer,” student presenters Mike McCloy, George Hahn, Gabriella Hovis, Ashley Mendenhall and Michael Mustin and faculty sponsor Peter Bates, associate professor of natural resource conservation and management.

Interdisciplinary – “Whee Turn the Page: Cullowhee Community Reading Program,” student presenter Leah Rhodes, and “Student-led Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Network,” student presenter Jared McMillan, both sponsored by Brian Railsback, Honors College dean.

International – “Mitigating Bad Aid: The Use of Technological Interventions and Mid-Level Medical Care Professionals to Advance Care in the Third World,” student presenter Aaron Marshall and faculty sponsor Jill Manners, associate professor of athletic training.

Law and Legal Studies – “International Promotions on Mobile Devices: Existing Law and a Proposed Model for the Future,” student presenter Christopher Horn and faculty sponsor Anne B. Downing, assistant professor of business law.

Literature – “Barbed Wire in Heartwood: The Endurance of Appalachian Stereotypes from Horace Kephart to Ron Rash,” student presenter Andrew Benton and faculty sponsor Mae Claxton, associate professor of English.

Psychology – “Military Families: Deployment Impact on College Students,” student presenters David Chandler, Meridia Sanders and Isabel Leavitt, and faculty sponsors Candace Boan, associate professor of psychology, and Mickey Randolph, professor of psychology.

Sociology – “Contributing Factors to Rape Culture on College Campuses: Small Rural University,” student presenter Caitlin Armer and faculty sponsor Marilyn Chamberlin, associate professor of sociology.

Anita Brown-Graham, director of the Institute of Emerging Issues, said she was pleased at the quality and broad spectrum of ideas submitted for Western Carolina’s first Discovery Forum.

“We believe strongly in finding creative and unique ways to approach civic and community challenges, and there is no better place for innovative thinkers and doers to come together than the IEI Discovery Forum,” Brown-Graham said. “The ideas and perspective shared by our contributors are inspiring, and I’m especially glad that the administration of Western Carolina has sponsored this opportunity to take the previously Raleigh-based event to the students in Cullowhee.”

For more information about the forum, call the WCU Honors College at 828-227-7383.