During the next few weeks, scores of Samford University undergraduate students will present results of projects that have taken them down many avenues of research and discovery. The annual series of scholarly poster and oral presentations began on April 20 and will conclude in mid-May.
Research topics cross many academic units: math and computer science, psychology, sociology, world languages and cultures, human development and family life education, kinesiology, art and design, theatre and dance, nursing and others.
Presentations will run the gamut from a report on the effect of treadmill speed on cognition level by kinesiology students to the recitation of an original poem in Spanish by a Spanish major.
The wealth of undergraduate research underscores the commitment of Samford students, as well as to that of faculty members who spend extra hours helping them through each stage of research.
“Many students choose Samford because they want to be mentored by dedicated faculty who care deeply about undergraduate education,” said Samford Associate Provost for Academics Chris Metress. “At its best, undergraduate research represents that moment when students and faculty become equally dedicated to the same enterprise, exploring and learning together in search of something new.”
While most students will present in sessions attended primarily by faculty and peers from their particular academic department, the psychology and sociology departments will hold joint presentations.
Over the course of two days, May 3 and May 5, those students — in teams or individually — will showcase their work on 20 topics that include “Attitudes Toward Capital Punishment” (sociology) and “Implicit Egotism and Social Attraction” (psychology).
It makes sense, says psychology department chair Stephen Chew, that students in the two departments would benefit from joint presentations.
“The two fields complement each other in terms of research focus and methods, but are united by a drive to understand human behavior,” Chew said. “It broadens the education of students in both departments to hear about the research in the other field.”
The two departments have long supported the integration of rigorous student research at Samford, Chew notes, and have a strong tradition of sending students to present papers at national student research conferences.
Recently, Chew said, “Students have conducted such high-quality research that they have presented their results as professional papers at national conferences such as the American Psychological Association.”
The benefits of presenting research to audiences beyond the Samford campus is recognized by faculty and students in other academic disciplines, as well.
When Brock School of Business student researchers present in mid-May, Brock Scholars Laura Bean and Rachel Fox will have already been through a dress rehearsal, of sorts.
The two were chosen by the Association of Private Enterprise Education to make poster presentations at its national conference in Las Vega, Nevada, earlier in April. Answering questions while standing beside posters that described their research and results was good preparation for the oral presentations they will make in their Samford classrooms, Bean and Fox say.
Bean said she received helpful feedback from other students and scholars at the conference.
“Since I’ve been working on the project for so long, it was good to hear a fresh perspective from someone just encountering my results. It also helped to learn how to condense the massive amount of information I had collected into a quick summary that was easily accessible for everyone,” Bean said.
Bean chose her topic, “Affecting Ambitions: An Empirical Analysis of Teen Girls’ Aspirations in India,” she said, because she is passionate about gender equality.
“This project provided me with the unique opportunity to look at some of the factors that affect what girls believe they are capable of. I also enjoyed combining my interests in sociology, psychology and economics while working on this thesis,” said Bean, a senior business major and University Fellow from Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Fox agrees that the earlier experience will be helpful when she presents at Samford.
“It was challenging to present to so many people who were experts in my topic, but it helped me to refine my thinking and practice fielding questions,” said Fox, adding that having some of the people who did the original study on her topic there made for “a difficult but exciting experience.”
She developed her paper, “Examining the Hayek-Friedman Hypothesis: How Economic Freedom Impacts Women’s Political Rights,” from a study she did on domestic violence and women’s economic rights for an econometrics class last fall.
“I am very interested in women’s rights, and in my paper I am exploring ways that women’s rights can be increased by having free markets in place,” said Fox, a senior business major and University Fellow from Huntsville, Alabama.
“Every spring,” noted Metress, “our departments showcase their best and brightest students through these research presentations. It’s a great opportunity for the Samford community to celebrate the accomplishments of our students and the dedication of our faculty.”