Giving Back: The URC
By Chris O’Connell ’13
Maya Bam didn’t expect to be able to attend the largest conference in the field of Mathematics of Operations Research and Management Science without paying for it. But with the creation of the Undergraduate Research Council, the Gordon College Student Association ensured that academic success for students like Bam goes far beyond the classroom.
“It was really great,” said Bam, “It was really nice to get a glimpse at the professional world out there.”
Bam ‘12 was one of the first students to receive money from the Undergraduate Research and Grant Committee (URGC). The URGC reviews all Undergraduate Research and Grants Applications (URGA) on a case-by-case basis and awards students the money they need to travel to conferences and share their work. Bam was awarded $687 to attend the conference in Charlotte, N.C.
“Before going I thought it will be overwhelming and tiring, but I enjoyed every minute of it and I wish I had stayed longer,” she said.
At the end of the 2010-2011 academic year, representatives Jorge Juan Rodriguez IV ‘14 and Alyssa Maine ‘11 proposed the Undergraduate Research and Grant Application (URGA) to the student government Forum.
“In my original thought, I merely wanted a fund to be put in place to subsidize the expenses of students accepted into Academic conferences,” said Rodriguez.
For many academically minded students, being able to present their original work at a conference is a life changing, career affirming experience. But undergraduate departments at Gordon have limited funds to give to students to go to conferences.
The Forum agreed with Rodriguez’s and Maine’s vision and awarded the application $25,000 dollars for the 2011-2012 school year. Vice President of Academic Affairs Cassie Larson ’13 was charged with overseeing the Committee that ran URGA. But for Larson, URGA was only the first step into unifying and streamlining undergraduate research.
“At first, I envisioned (URGA) to be the small grant funding students who wanted to take their research to conferences,” said Larson, “but it soon became a huge design for something bigger to help students out.”
Larson is referring to the creation of the Undergraduate Research Council (URC). The URC was created to oversee three major facets of undergraduate research: the Faculty Student Collaboration Committee, the Undergraduate Research and Grant Committee, and the Princemere Academic Journal. The Collaboration Committee is designed to promote dialogue and research between staff and students, URGC awards money to students to present research atconferences and the Princemere publishes student research in an on-campus periodical. This year’s GCSA forum awarded the URC $15,000 every year for the next five years to help facilitate undergraduate research.
“What the members of the URC have done is something I would never have imagined but am ecstatic about,” said Rodriguez.
The new council has become such a large project that a new position was created to help Cassie Larson run the program. Hilary Sherratt ‘12 will be serving as the director of the URC starting officially in the spring semester and already has plans to expand the URC.
“We look forward to partnering with the President’s office in the future to promote undergraduate research, as well as working more closely with the Provost and Academic Dean’s offices,” said Sherratt. “I’m thrilled that we are taking steps as a community to celebrate and share our work with each other in a more dedicated way.”
The URC was created by students to help their fellow classmates with their research and their careers.
“I think the students should be really excited,” said Larson, “To not apply for grants if you are doing research would be tragic because we are willing to help anyone and everyone in their research. We also hope this spurs students to start looking to do research because the opportunities that come through these conferences are amazing and the experience of a lifetime.”
“I think here at Gordon most people don’t even think about going to conferences like this, because they don’t see it as an important step in their careers,” said Bam, “and later they might realize that it would have been nice to go, but then it’s too late. I would love to see more Gordon students go and have the same experience I did.”
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