WCU’s research events merge into March 30-31 ‘Celebration’

Western Carolina University’s two springtime events that highlight student research, the Undergraduate Expo and Graduate Research Symposium, are being combined this year to create the 2016 Research and Scholarship Celebration that will be held Wednesday, March 30, and Thursday, March 31.

The merger of the two events, which had generally taken place in close proximity on the calendar, was the idea of Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar and Brian Kloeppel, interim dean of the Graduate School. In planning group meetings last fall, Jill Granger, dean of the Honors College, embraced the idea. “We’re working toward an integrated, university-wide celebration of research in all of its forms,” Granger said.

The merger comes during a year that would have brought the 18th presentation of the Undergraduate Expo and 24th edition of the Graduate Research Symposium.

According to April Tallant, associate dean of the Honors College, undergraduate participation in the new event will be very comparable to last year. This year, 135 posters have been submitted, 27 oral presentations will be given, and 64 faculty sponsors from 18 departments will be involved.

Kloeppel said this year’s event will include 24 graduate student posters, 44 graduate oral presentations and 11 research papers. “These numbers are comparable to last year’s,” he said.

Though participation is looking to be consistent, not everything about the combined event remains the same. “This year, we have added an undergraduate speaker to each of the graduate research sessions,” Granger said. “I’m especially excited about this because it will be such a great experience for the students.”

Another first of the celebration is the inclusion of faculty and staff sharing some of their research and works as well. “The idea was to integrate undergraduate, graduate and faculty scholarship rather than treating them all as separate,” Kloeppel said.

Lee Allen Dugatkin will deliver the keynote address, titled “The Evolution of Goodness, Justice and Empathy.” Dugatkin is a professor and distinguished university scholar in the Department of Biology at the University of Louisville who describes his interests as behavioral ecology, evolutionary biology and science history – a diversity of disciplines that reflects the diversity of the celebration’s showcased works.

Undergraduate oral presentations will take place throughout campus at various locations on March 30. Details will be posted at honors.wcu.edu one week prior to the event. Posters will be displayed at the Ramsey Center that day, beginning with a poster preview at 3 p.m. and speaking events initiated by the keynote address at 4 p.m. Faculty presentations will follow at 5 p.m., and a reception featuring the posters will take place at 6 p.m.

On March 31, graduate student oral presentations will be presented from 12:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. at various locations throughout the University Center. A reception and awards ceremony will take place at 5 p.m. in the University Center Grandroom.

“As a person who is new to WCU this year, I have been very impressed with the collaborative nature of the planning for this program,” Granger said. “So many people from across campus have been involved. What I’ve seen is a lot of energy and enthusiasm; people working to make sure that our students have a terrific venue for talking about their academic interests and work.”

Kloeppel agreed. “It’s been a great organizing team, and it has been wonderful to see such willing collaboration,” he said.

For more information about the event, contact the Honors College at 828-227-7383 or wcuhonors@wcu.edu, or the Graduate School at 828-227-7398 or grad@wcu.edu.