Undergraduates enrolled in Ethnography of the University Initiative affiliated courses presented their original research to an audience of peers, professors, and community members on April 15. As an audience member, I was thrilled to hear from the researchers about their semester-long projects, which spanned a wide variety of topics related to the University of Illinois and Parkland College. The buzz of conversation and animated exchanges between presenters and attendees during the poster portion of conference exemplifies the valuable opportunity that is conference participation. Though many were nervous, and indeed many had never presented at a conference before, students beamed with satisfaction as they answered questions and comments about their projects.
The students’ confidence and passion for their research projects could be felt in the oral presentations as well. Presenters prepared brief panel presentations about their research questions, methodologies, and findings. Topics included academic parking habits, student healthcare knowledge, recruitment practices in university programs, personal benefits derived from volunteerism, and individual aesthetic choices and the construction of social meaning of body adornment. Audience members appreciated the quality of projects, and also offered new angles of analysis that could lead to further, more in-depth research. Some conference participants described their EUI-affiliated course as “eye-opening” and “good practice” for their future academic career. Another student said her EUI experience had left her feeling more responsible and an active agent in her undergraduate education.
EUI’s Spring 2014 conference exemplified the importance of undergraduate research at the U of I and its sister college(s), undergraduate engagement with the university or college as subject and agent, and the excitement undergrads have being able to participate in the research process.
More information on EUI can be found on our website.
Noelle Easterday, EUI Graduate Assistant