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Transcending the classroom through research

Salisbury University prides itself on encouraging students to take what they learn inside the classroom and expand those ideas into endless possibilities.

36 students from various areas of study will be traveling to the University of Central Oklahoma next week to present at the 2018 National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). Four chaperones will be accompanying the students on their travels.

SU has hosted the NCUR twice before and recently applied to host the conference for a third time in 2022, Co-Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (OURCA) and communication arts professor Dr. Chrys Egan said. If selected, SU would be the first university to host the conference more than twice.

According to the Council on Undergraduate Research website, the theme for this year’s conference is “Connection to Place.” Research topics being presented by SU students include but are not limited to, topics in the business, science, music, art, education and social work fields.

Students submitted a formal proposal to the conference management team and those selected were afforded the opportunity to travel to the conference to present their ideas to an audience from all over the nation. Not all SU students who applied were chosen.

“Presenting research is beneficial to the students because they learn to talk about their research with the general population,” Co-Director of OURCA and biology professor Dr. Jessica Clark said. “It helps not only with disseminating that information, but it also a lot of times will help clarify their project in their own brain because they are talking about it on a different level then what they’re used to so sometimes it will help give them ideas and directions on ways to move their research forward.”

The NCUR is just one of many examples of outlets for students to share their passion for a chosen topic. Students who conduct research on campus typically do so with the mentor of a faculty member, and it could either be by hopping in on research currently being performed by their mentor or developing the student’s own research question with the supervision and guidance of the adviser.

Junior psychology major Gina Santoriello started her research journey by applying to become Dr. Osman’s research assistant and recently completed her first project studying rape empathy titled “Sexual Victimization Experience Predicting Empathy with an Unspecified or Date Rape Victim,” which studied language and word choice commonly used in discussions surrounding rape and seeing if those words could influence empathy with a date rape victim. Santoriello recently presented her research in early March at the Eastern Psychological Association (EPA) Research Conference in downtown Philadelphia.

“The biggest take away from presenting my research was a sense of overall confidence in myself,” Santoriello said. “Going into the conference I was a little nervous not knowing what to expect since it was my first professional presentation, but when I left I felt accomplished and excited for the next presentation to come.”

At the start of this spring semester, SU introduced a new group called the Undergraduate Research Fellows which is comprised of 13 students who have all conducted extensive research and gained significant practice in presenting their work during their time as an undergraduate student. The fellows help spread the word about undergraduate research by serving as ambassadors for OURCA and going to different classrooms to educate students on the opportunities they can obtain if they just reach a little further.

Psychology major Juliet Vapsva works as one of OURCA’s undergraduate research fellows and has performed several different research endeavors including projects with Dr. Schlesinger in the psychology department titled “Predictors of Allyship for LGBTQ Communities,” “Parent’s Interpretation of and Response to a Child’s Emerging TGNC Identity” and “Experiences of Parents of Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Pre-Adolescents.”

Vapsva has also designed and executed her honors thesis project titled “Ambivalent Sexisms Role in Determining Responsibility for Gender Differentiated Negative Events,” and has attended multiple conferences to share her various research topics.

“The networking alone is so helpful,” Vapsva said. “You get to meet individuals in your field that you might otherwise not come in contact with and learn all about their research and their program.”

Presenting research can bring many advantages to students including building a resume and demonstrating key communication skills that might be valued by potential employers. It shows true initiative in taking learning outside the classroom.

“[Research] encourages students to be more active in their education because it’s not something a teacher made you come into the room and passively learn and present back for a grade,” Egan said. “This is something that you took above and beyond. You took it outside of class and you are doing something with it, and to me that’s a lot more exciting and kind of what college should be, getting inspired by ideas.”

SU will host its 17th annual student research conference on April 27, giving students an opportunity to present their research on a smaller scale right here on campus.



Gull Life editor

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