WCU students in upper echelon for presentations at national research conference

Art meets trash, as Grace Woodard prepares a presentation on environmental damage caused by garbage that draws upon her artistic ability, for the upcoming National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Research projects by Western Carolina University students numbered fourth highest in the nation and first in the state among higher education institutions having entries accepted for presentation at the prestigious National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

The annual spring gathering will take place Thursday, April 11, through Saturday, April 13, at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

“Students who attend the conference have opportunities to meet and interact with other NCUR-accepted students in their disciplines,” said Kloo Hansen, WCU undergraduate research coordinator. “This is the largest national conference for undergraduate students to disseminate their work and have the chance to engage with scholarly activities across all disciplines. Students come away with a larger networking pool and can be inspired and encouraged to do more with their own research and scholarly activities.”

WCU had 76 projects accepted, ranging from topics in biology, criminal justice and diversity studies to literature and environmental science and others. Sixty-seven students will be attending the event with four faculty and staff members.

“My presentation topic is ‘Our Global Trash Problem’ and I will talk about the reality of our situation and what we can do on an individual level to reduce our footprint,” said Grace Woodard, a WCU senior. “I was prompted in an art history class to research a specific art movement or topic and then to creatively express this research. I chose to look into environmental art, due to my interest in being more environmentally conscious and how my work as an artist could tie into this area. As I did my research, I was taken back by just how much trash an individual accumulates in a lifetime ― 102 tons ― as well as the other staggering statistics. I took this research and other compiled research and created an art installation.

“I will also be talking about my artwork within the presentation,” Woodard said. “I believe that the National Conference on Undergraduate Research will provide a positive professional experience of both talking about my artwork and a topic that I am passionate about. This conference also will provide the platform for me to communicate important ideas and information regarding this issue that is relevant to everyone.”

This marks 14 consecutive years that the university’s students have placed in the top 10 for bringing presentations to the conference.

“This is both a tremendous recognition of WCU academic capabilities in a variety of disciplines and an opportunity for participating students to have a higher level of involvement with their research,” said Jill Granger, dean of WCU’s Honors College, which had 41 students enter works. “NCUR takes the student one step beyond participation in research to the point at which the student interacts with others in academic discourse and begins to see himself or herself as a practicing scholar.”

The majority of funding to cover conference registration, hotel accommodations and meals for the WCU contingent is being provided through the Office of the Chancellor, with coordination efforts being led by the Office of the Provost and the Honors College. For more information about WCU’s participation in NCUR, contact the Honors College at 828-227-7383.