Thursday, March 31, 2011

NCUR at Ithaca College

IMG_1849IC hosted the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) this year. According to their website, 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." 
IMG_1841We expected 3,000 people to arrive on campus. Most of the students and faculty were scared away by the frequent parking updates basically telling us that few spaces would be available. I was sponsoring a student giving a presentation, so I knew that I'd be braving the mob. I arrived about 8:15 a.m. or so and had no problem parking in the Y-lot and catching a shuttle bus to the Textor flag, which is right by the School of Business. I was so worried that the cafe kiosks would be overwhelmed, I brought several bottles of Diet Coke with me. Alas, for most of the day, campus seemed quiet.
IMG_1846IMG_1844I volunteered to moderate a poster session, and the latest available slot was at 2:45 p.m. I thought this would be an easier responsibility for an introvert than moderating an oral session. Things didn't start off well for me: I was clearly told to go to the fitness center gyms, but I read "Hill Center." Unfortunately, the two buildings are on opposite sides of campus. When I finally arrived at the fitness center, I realized that all NCUR attendees were squeezed in the very small space for which I was responsible.

In the crowed space with my coat and giant bag (and looking much less professional than the students attached to posters), I was regretting having volunteered. But, I tried to make the best of it, checking to make sure that all the posters and presenters for my 20 tripods were actually in attendance. We'd also been told to ask the students if they'd like us to take their picture with their posters. I would never have thought of that, but the students really seemed to appreciate it. Finally, we were tasked with engaging the students, especially when there wasn't much traffic at their location. Some of the research was beyond me - so I had to tell the students: I don't recognize any words in your paper's title, but why don't you explain your research to me? Others were really interesting to me, particularly a study on obedience inspired by Milgram, a study on gender and depression, and other business and psychology related topics. Plus, I ran into a couple of my favorite students and enjoyed chatting with them.

While I ended up enjoying my time moderating the session, I was tired. It was not the ideal environment for an introvert that I anticipated, but I wouldn't be a professor if I didn't love seeing how excited students can get when something resonates for them.

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