By: JOHN REVAK
Unless you’ve been trapped in the caverns beneath Greenlawn Hall these last couple years, you’ve noticed the growth that’s recently occurred at IU South Bend.
The new Education and Arts building, the freshly dedicated performance hall in Northside, the demolition starting at Greenlawn, the new sculpture studio by student housing, and many other growths small and large around campus. But this recent growth spurt hasn’t only pertained to the physical layout of our campus. That same growth has occurred in other areas as well, namely, the undergraduate research conference.
For the last five years, IUSB’s best and brightest have been descending upon Wiekamp Hall every April with posters and power points at the ready, and this year’s conference should be a memorable one, as a record 120 students presented research on a diverse number of topics. This continues a trend of expansion of the URC at IU South Bend.
Dr. Grace Muna, an assistant professor of Chemistry and an organizer of the conference, says the conference has grown because students are beginning to recognize the benefits of research and presenting.
“They get information from peers, they share with peers. When they present it gives them confidence… that’s why we’re having this increase with time.” The increase that Muna is describing is the jump that occurred from around an annual average of approximately 60 students to the near 100 students that presented at last year’s conference.
The conference has not only grown in terms of participants but in terms of diversity of subject, something that the conference’s chair, James Smith, says has played a major factor in the conference’s overall growth.
“One thing we’ve tried to do in terms growth is not just about numbers but about diversity in terms of discipline, we define research broadly, we’re trying to expand which disciplines are coming in, we’re always encouraging arts, education, and business to make sure it’s a campus wide event.”
When asked to comment on the future of the URC Smith acknowledged that continued growth was a possibility, but it wasn’t something for which the organizers of the conference were necessarily aiming.
“Right now it’s probably at a pretty nice size, but I think if it were to get much bigger we’d probably have to start doing a more selective process in terms of what gets in, what doesn’t.”
It sounds like the mission of the conference is right in line with that of IU South Bend; to provide students everywhere with first-class opportunities without having to deal with the kind of bureaucracy found at other institutions.
Whether the size of the URC continues to expand along with the campus or not is really, in some ways, rather irrelevant. The real matter of importance is the amount of growth that’s occurring in all those participating. Students getting their first real taste of what their career’s might be like might be like, teachers basking in the delight that comes from witnessing their students grow, this is how the value of the URC should be measured.