Reflecting on the symposium, one day later

Emerson Csorba - Sat Nov 19, 2011

It’s been 24 hours since the Undergraduate Research Symposium closing ceremonies. The fact the symposium is over has not really hit me. Overall, the event turned out pretty well, though I have a long list of things to improve in future years. I’m sure that the rest of the URS Team has a list of improvements as well (actually, Saadiq showed me his… and there are at least a half dozen of them). A number of students and professors were impressed with the showing. An Introductory Psychology class spent most of its 50-minute block touring the symposium and taking notes on the posters. That was an awesome surprise. In the future, I think that having more classes tour the symposium is something that we should shoot for. I would also like to get more Faculty of Arts participation from its Roger S. Smith recipients. I was very impressed with the Faculty of Arts submissions, and both Eren and Tori (the recipients of the two Faculty of Arts awards) had excellent projects. By the end of the next week, I think that we’ll have a long list of things that can be better in future editions of the symposium.

Thank you (again) to everyone

I might sound like a broken record by now, but the URS Team (the team of over 20 students and professors that organized the symposium) was integral to the success of the event. They provided the ideas like the theme about sharing stories, the names of potential speakers, the logo design, etc. They did more and more as the symposium approached, with the involvement spiking on November 18. From 8am on Friday morning to 6pm later that day, we had a whole range of students rotating in and out, volunteering on a myriad of activities. Jorden Smith, a student in the School of Library and Information Studies and Nick Adamski, a second year from the Faculty of Engineering, are the two reasons why the judge and student time availabilities were coordinated effectively. Nhu did a great job as volunteer coordinator on Thursday. Chloe, Collin and Jacky volunteered for basically all of Friday and pulled through during crunch time, and Ann and Connie endured a frantic 30 minutes of selecting award recipients. On that note, 2pm-4pm on Friday was one of the most intense time periods of the year. Moreover, Saadiq and Britanny handed out a number of “What do you want to know” ballots to students, and though I don’t yet know the number of entries we receive, there were a lot! Big thank-yous to URS Team members Steven, Flo and Nisha for their contributions on Friday. I hope that it is apparent that the event was successful because of the leadership of those above (and many more… I didn’t even mention judges).

What do we do now???

The symposium is now over, but there are many things left to do. The URS Team will meet on a few different occasions in order to provide constructive criticism about what went well, what didn’t go well and what we will do next year to make things better. At some point over the next few weeks, I plan on creating separate questionnaires for those who attended the dinner, the student presenters and the judges, to see what we can do better next year. Then I plan on sitting down individually with different students and judges to get more personal accounts of their experiences. We will also work with the SU Marketing Department (who deserve a HUGE thank you) to create a wrap-up document that will be sent to current sponsors and future partners in the event.

Now, before I finish this off, I want you all to think about something, and send me your thoughts at For every student in the symposium, we had them write two paragraphs as part of the application package (1. How did you get involved in undergraduate research, and 2. What are the experiences gained/benefits from being involved?). So… we have 130 or so stories from students about how they got involved, and that’s pretty awesome. But the big questions is: how do we use these stories? I want to do something that catches your attention, something that the average student will pay attention to. Here’s a far out example of what I’m thinking about created by Oberlin students and profs. Do we post stories on the SU website each week? Do we post videos? That could be a start, but that doesn’t really draw people to the website. Do we use Facebook? See, the thing is, it’s important that we approach this from a “sky is the limit” point of view; let’s avoid settling for what is comfortable. These 130 stories could have an impact in terms of U of A donors providing more funds for undergraduate research. And the stories can draw more students into UR. When you have an idea about what we could do, send it to me. I’ll make sure I get back to each and every one of your ideas.

So in summary, I’ll close by pulling from Why the Fuck Should I Choose OBerlin?: Send me your fucking ideas about why undergraduate research is the best fucking thing you do at the U of fucking A.