The National Conference for Undergraduate Research celebrated its 20th anniversary on the UNC-Asheville campus from 6-8 April 2006. Twenty seven Cadets representing eight academic departments presented their faculty-mentored research in either a fifteen minute oral presentation or in a two hour poster session format. VMI had the proud distinction of sending the most students than from any other Virginia school.

Cadet travel expenses were covered by VMI’s Office of Undergraduate Research provided by a grant from the Jackson-Hope Fund. Colonel James E. Turner ’65, Professor of Biology and Chemistry, and VMI’s Director for Undergraduate Research said that “I attended most all of the VMI presentations and was extremely proud of the Cadet’s performance which was of  such a high quality that many in the audience were taken by their poise and depth of knowledge”.

Representing the Biology Department were five Cadets: Jessica Fulton ’06, Russ Henrite ’07, Andrew Holt, ’07, Stephanie Mills ’08, Bryan Nelson ’07, Brant Priest ’07. Math and Computer Science were represented by Cadets Kevin Aldrich ‘06, Joshua Gauthier ‘07, Ryan McLean ‘07, Isaac Ostlund ‘07, and Catrina Helsel ‘07. Cadets from the Economics and Business Department were Ryan Hergrueter ‘06, Tadas Mankevicius ‘06, Geoffrey Parker ’06 and Michael Canning ‘07. Cadet George Flathers ’08 represented the Electrical engineering Department. Two Cadets presenting from the English and Fine Arts Department were Benjamin McClure ‘07 and Bret White ‘09. The History Department produced six papers that were presented by Cadets Chris Pettit ’06, Laura Hash ‘07, Robert Payne ‘07, John Terminate ‘07, who gave two talks, and Andrew Timpner ‘07. Mechanical Engineering sent two Cadets, Daniel Rogers ‘06 and Kevin Simpson ‘06. Representing the Psychology and Philosophy Department were Cadets Katrina Powell and ‘06Brittani Mack ‘07.

In addition to sending Cadets, the Undergraduate Research office developed a new faculty initiative this year which involved the concept of sending faculty to NCUR conferences for the purpose of exposing them to the research activities that students accomplish in their fields. These faculty would then take back this information for their own benefit, as well as, passing along information to their colleagues in their various departments.

This year two Professors were chosen from nominations made by their department chairs; Major Elena Andreeva, Assistant Professor of History, and Major Barry Cobb, Assistant Professor of Economics and Business. Both had glowing comments about the organization of the meeting and the quality of the work presented. Specifically, Major Andreeva said the …“I have a much better idea of how to prepare my students for not only undergraduate research but for national presentations”.

Major Cobb comments that …“The positive aspect of the conference is that so many students are able to make a presentation at a national meeting, which is a fantastic opportunity to gain confidence in their presentation skills.  Participation in undergraduate research appears to be a positive experience for business students akin to that of an internship.  Students learn to apply concepts learned in their curriculum to an actual business problem, an inherently challenging prospect. 

As a new faculty member, the conference allowed me to gain exposure to the types of research being performed at the undergraduate level in my field.  This will allow me to be a more effective research mentor, which I intend to be my main cadet development focus at VMI.  Spending time with cadets in a less formal setting was also a valuable aspect of the trip.”

The idea for a national conference open to all undergraduates was conceived and first implemented at the University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNCA) in 1987. Despite minimal publicity, a meager budget, and professional advice that no one would attend such an unfocused affair, the initial conference drew an astonishing 400-plus participants. Registrations totaled more than 2,000 at the tenth annual conference at UNCA in April 1996, representing over 300 colleges and universities from across the United States. While initially a conference heavily rooted in the sciences, NCUR has been able to expand participation in all academic disciplines.

By 1995, over 40% of the registrants were from fields in the humanities, arts and social sciences.