Western Carolina University once again ranked in the top five in the 27th National Conference on Undergraduate Research. This year, NCUR was held at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse from April 11-13, with over 400 universities represented.
Every year, a different university hosts NCUR to celebrate excellence in undergraduate research through posters, oral presentations, visual arts and performances. According to the Council on Undergraduate Research website, the first NCUR took place at the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 1987.
“Last year we tied for fifth in the country out of about 308 universities,” said Dean of the Honors College Dr. Brian Railsback, who has now attended his 14th NCUR. “This year, we had one of the biggest NCUR’s, and yet we still tied for third.”
Although over 60 projects were accepted, 47 WCU students travelled for 16 hours by a 56-seat charter bus to reach UW-La Crosse in just two days. The students spent Thursday and Friday all day at the conference then returned to Cullowhee on Saturday morning. The bus arrived back on WCU’s campus at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. The students stayed at the Radisson Hotel, which is located on the banks of the Mississippi River. Through the conference, students were offered several activities like Mississippi River cruises on the La Crosse Queen and the International Fair. While the weather was less than pleasant with a constant light snowfall, students still enjoyed exploring the campus and downtown La Crosse.
Sophomore Melissa Bradley, a double-major in philosophy and history, said, “I loved being able to do the research and meeting so many exciting people! The Honors College was really helpful, too.”
Senior biology major Kelsey Stover agreed, “It was a great interaction with students from other colleges, and it was great to learn about the different research projects going on elsewhere in the nation. It also gives you experience in presenting research in a professional manner to peers.”
Adam Ray, another senior double-majoring in social science education and history, said, “Having the chance to network with other students who presented material similar to my own was one of the highlights of the trip. And, the question and answer session after my presentation was both challenging and helpful. It allowed me to critically analyze my topic and be better prepared for future presentations.”
All three presenters said that they would love to submit again and that they encouraged other students to do so, as well.
Any student can submit an abstract to NCUR with the support of a faculty sponsor. It is an interdisciplinary conference, and all transportation, registration and lodging are paid for by part of the WCU Quality Enhancement Plan.
For students considering submitting to NCUR in the fall, Dr. Railsback remarked, “When you look at the whole population of people who graduate, very few in terms of percentages have actually accomplished any undergraduate research or presented work off-campus. It really is meaningful to an employer or a graduate school if you have research experience or if you have published or presented at a regional or national conference.
“It’s also fully interdisciplinary,” he added. “We have art majors, music majors, psychology majors and engineering students all on the same bus talking. That’s a really neat thing. Plus, not all our students are big travelers. NCUR can be a good opportunity to see another part of the country.”
If you are interested in submitting to NCUR, you can learn more at http://www.cur.org/ or contact the Honors College at 828-227-7383. Next year’s NCUR will be in Lexington, Kentucky.