Students ready for 12th Annual URC


Michael McCormick '14 at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, held recently in Lexington, Ky.

From an examination of the effects of music and personality on creativity to an analysis of strategies used by abolitionists and antislavery politicians in Antebellum America, MCLA students are ready to share their research at the 12th Annual Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) next Thursday, April 17, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in Venable Gym.

Held each year in April, this campus-wide celebration of MCLA students' talent and dedication welcomes undergraduate scholarship and creative activity in all fields of scholarly activity, including that in the arts, the humanities and in the sciences.

Psychology major Michael McCormick '14, a Berkshire County native, will submit not one, but two projects this year. In addition to looking at the relationship between students' beliefs about the nature of knowledge and where knowledge comes from, as well as academic success as measured by GPA, he's also examining the effects of music and personality on creativity.

The URC, he explained, is an opportunity not only to share the work he's passionate about, but to learn from others.

"Being able to conduct research has been the bedrock of my experience at MCLA. It fosters skills important for any college student, not least of which is the ability to support and defend one's conclusion," McCormick said.

Undergraduate research isn't new to Martha Pratt '15 (right) of Denver, Colo., a double major in elementary education and interdisciplinary studies: as a freshman she presented two projects at the URC.

Through the process of doing this year's project, Pratt found she's learned how to facilitate her own learning. Her topic? How to teach future students science with argumentation, which is part of inquiry learning and a teaching strategy where students are encouraged to discover scientific knowledge.

An English major with a concentration in writing, Rachel Maher '14 (left) of North Bennington, Vt., chose to focus her research on Toni Morrison's book, Jazz.

"In my paper, I investigate dualities within the novel and also within Morrison, herself.  I really enjoyed the novel's main character, Violet, and I was intrigued by Toni Morrison, who is just a phenomenal writer," Maher said.

"After learning more about [Morrison] as a writer, I have found myself researching other writers, as well.  The more I learn about Morrison or Mark Twain, or even Walt Whitman, the more fearless I feel about my own writing," Maher explained.

A philosophy major with a minor in history, Sean Edwards '14 of Stockbridge, Mass., (right) will present a paper in which he analyzes the various strategies employed by abolitionists and antislavery politicians in Antebellum America. 

"More specifically, I'm contrasting the goals and tactics of Abraham Lincoln and William Lloyd Garrison as two individuals who really personify the differences between the two groups," Edwards said. 

"It's nice to be able to combine elements of philosophy and history in a meaningful way," he continued.  "I try to investigate the actions and supposed intentions of real, historical individuals through the lens of moral philosophy. It brings together subject matter from my 'Lincoln's Ethics' class (philosophy) and my 'Civil War and Reconstruction' class (history). ... I've really enjoyed the chance to dig deeper into a subject that is relevant to both my areas of study."

For more information about this year's URC, go to Experience/undergraduateresearch/conference.