WCU students are fourth nationally for undergraduate research conference

Western Carolina University students once again rank among the nation’s leaders in the number of their research projects that have been accepted for presentation at the country’s most prestigious undergraduate research conference.

WCU students had a total of 69 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 356 colleges and universities that will send students to this year’s conference, WCU ranks fourth 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 six consecutive years, and the students from Cullowhee lead all North Carolina colleges and schools with their participation, said Brian Railsback, dean of WCU’s Honors College. The college oversees WCU’s NCUR involvement each year.

“Judging by the higher number of rejected abstracts relative to other years, this particular conference was very selective,” Railsback said. “WCU faculty and staff sponsors did a great job mentoring students and helping them complete the submitted abstracts. Projects accepted for NCUR must be interesting and innovative. Each year, it seems, WCU has more and more excellent undergraduate researchers.”

Undergraduate research 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.

“Our outstanding performance at NCUR is another clear indication that the faculty’s commitment to undergraduate education is real at WCU,” he said. “It takes a lot of attention to one student to move that student’s idea from conception to development, and finally to presentation at the national level.”

The WCU contingent will travel by charter bus to the March 31-April 2 conference at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y. Aside from the cost of a few meals, the trip is provided free to the 54 students who have signed on to make the trip. It will be the largest group of undergraduates WCU has ever sent to an out-of-state NCUR, Railsback said.

During 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 university funds designated for undergraduate research.