MCLA Students Present Work at National Conference on Undergraduate Research


 NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - Eight Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) students recently participated in this year's National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at the University of Kentucky.

In total, 13 MCLA students were screened and selected for this year's national conference by NCUR's faculty panel. It's an occurrence which Dr. Ann Billetz, chair of the biology department, called "very prestigious."

"Many of the schools that present there are actually research institutes. For 13 of our students to be selected was highly impressive," said Billetz, who accompanied the students to the conference, along with Dr. Graziana Ramsden, who directs MCLA's modern languages program.

At NCUR, undergraduate students from across the country present their research through posters, oral presentations, visual arts and performances.

"There was so much to learn every single second we were there," said Ashley White '14, who presented her senior thesis research project on "The Importance of Parental Communication and Sexual Education in Adolescence on Predicting College Students' Sexual Activity."

"I just tried to be like a sponge and absorb everything I could. I enjoyed meeting students from all over the country and learning from them," White said.

After presenting their research at the NCUR conference April 3-5, the students went on to show their work at MCLA's Annual Undergraduate Research Conference (URC). Held this year on April 17, the URC is a campus-wide celebration of the talent and dedication of MCLA students. Part of the College's Undergraduate Research Program, the conference encompasses a broad definition of "research," and welcomes scholarship and creativity in all fields of study.

 "Educational research is something I plan to continue, and MCLA's commitment to undergraduate research will most certainly give me a leg up in that pursuit," said Michael McCormick '14.

In addition to his senior thesis project, "How to Do College: Reflective Judgment in Academia," McCormick presented a poster at NCUR with Bentley Munsell '15, based on their survey of MCLA students as to their motivation in the core curriculum and how it relates to academic performance.

"Being accepted is one thing, but having the support of MCLA and the Undergraduate Research Program that afforded me the opportunity to travel is truly wonderful," McCormick said. "At MCLA, it really is the students who drive the research, and that's what makes it special. The same can't be said of all the presentations at NCUR."

According to Billetz, the opportunity for students to present their research elsewhere lets them know how good their work is.

"It's one thing when your mentor tells you, 'This is really great work,' but the fact they were selected for NCUR, and had people in attendance who were impressed with the work they did, was outside validation of the quality of their research," Billetz said.

Established in 1987, NCUR is dedicated to promoting undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity in all fields of study by sponsoring an annual conference for students. Unlike meetings of academic professional organizations, this gathering of young scholars welcomes presenters from all institutions of higher learning and from all corners of the academic curriculum.

Through this annual conference, NCUR creates a unique environment for the celebration and promotion of undergraduate student achievement, provides models of exemplary research and scholarship, and helps to improve the state of undergraduate education.

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