Last week was Undergraduate Research Week at Illinois, and I am so pleased that the seventh-annual Undergraduate Research Symposium featured more presentations, posters and performances than ever before. Enhancing and expanding undergraduate research opportunities is one of the initiatives outlined in the campus strategic plan and it is exciting to see our continued progress in reaching that goal.
The event was a wonderful opportunity to broadcast the wide range of research efforts undertaken by our students. They really are as diverse as the students themselves. There were posters about insects, presentations about race, talks about drug cartels, displays about parenting, harp performances, roundtable discussions about writing and talks about hackers. And that is just a small sampling projects and presentations featured this year.
We hope that events like this will continue to expand how our campus community members, especially our undergraduate students, think about research. Often I hear people relegate research only to STEM subjects. But Illinois is truly a leader in discovery and innovation across an extraordinary variety of areas. We are a comprehensive public university and one of our responsibilities is to help our students understand that scholarship and research drive the edges of knowledge in every discipline – from political science to English literature to community health. Bringing these experiences front-and-center in events like the symposium delivers that message effectively and also serves to give these students chances to interact with one another. They foster inquiry and discussion that crosses boundaries and leads them to better understand the power of collaborative discovery.
This event is really a great example of the intersection of two of our core strategic goals – to foster scholarship, discovery and innovation and to provide transformative learning experiences for our students. These are not simply administrative phrases nor statements that look good in a document. They are commitments by us that speak to how we will organize our resources, and how we will fulfill our land-grant missions. They aren’t simply goals – they are promises of the university we will be for our state, nation and world.
We are a leader in research and education. Events like the Undergraduate Research Symposium help to display the brilliant work being done at Illinois every day. And it is a reminder that this process of discovery is open to everyone – students and faculty alike.
If you didn’t get a chance to attend any events, please take a minute to look through this year’s program. (http://www.provost.illinois.edu/ugresearch/downloads/URS_Program2014.pdf ) I think it is a research conference line up in which any scholar would be proud to see his or her name.
Around the Campus
Congratulations to our three Illinois professors who have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: Tere R. O’Connor, a professor of dance; John A. Rogers, the Swanlund Professor of Materials Science and Engineering; and Wilfred A. van der Donk, the Richard E. Heckert Endowed Chair in Chemistry. Read the full story here.
This week is Earth Week. Join the campus in celebrating by attending one of the scheduled events. View a full list here.
Faculty Summer Institute is May 19-21. The free event is open to all Illinois higher education instructors and professionals. Register now to claim your spot.