The wonder of URCA

Madison Graver

Podiums were set, posters were hung and chairs were lined in perfect symmetry as the stage was finally set for Ashland University’s annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium (URCA).

After weeks of preparation and anticipation, 66 students from 14 different areas of the College of Arts and Sciences took their moment in the spotlight to present work that they had prepared for the symposium.

Year after year, students, faculty, parents, and members of the community flock to URCA to see just a taste of what the AU student body has to offer. Whether it be examining the media’s influence on Islamophobia or a look at the design and construction of an e-cigarette inhalation chamber, the diversity in subject matter is part of what makes this event worth attending.

While some of the student presenters were URCA veterans, some of them were participating for the very first time. Junior Mallorie Harding, who presented in the poster session with her project titled ‘Determining the Relationship between Happiness and Mental Toughness’, is one who has always wanted to participate in the symposium.

“I’ve always wanted to present at URCA,” Harding said. “I came to it last year to look at all the posters and presentations and one of my professors reached out to me and asked if I was interested in research and was automatically like ‘yes, definitely’.”

Harding’s topic of choice focused on a relationship between happiness and mental toughness and how they correlate. While she enjoyed the research aspect, the act of presenting the findings to attendees was something that she had been looking forward to.

“I just wanted to get the experience to get to present in front of people and a poster is a great way to do that cause you get so many people who come up and ask you questions,” Harding said.

Another first-time presenter, Sophomore Shelby Aulger, ran into some difficulties before the big day.

“I actually revised it and had it ready, but on Saturday night my computer wiped some things off and I lost all of my revisions on the presentation,” Aulger said.

Luckily she was able to find an old copy of the presentation and re-do the revisions to get her slideshow back where it needed to be.

Aulger participated in one of the oral presentation sessions to share her project titled ‘Defining What is Natural: Gender Issues of Dominance and Control Within Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”.’

“I was doing it for extra credit hour work for a literature and gender course so I was looking for a novel that could fit with that and I read this book in high school,” Aulger said. “I just adored this novel, and all of Zora Neale Hurston’s work really. So it kinda seemed like the choice to make at the time and I got to pick that book and I’m glad that I did. Her work just has so much packed into it.”

While many AU students were found lingering around the presentation rooms, there was also a multitude of College of Arts and Sciences professors in attendance to support the student presenters.

Dr. Gwen Hullman, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, came with the intent of both support and curiosity, as it was her first year attending.

“I mainly wanted to see the diversity of research that’s happening on the Ashland campus and it’s my first year here so I wanted to support the students in their research endeavors because I think it’s an important part of the learning process,” Hullman said.

Many people attending URCA for the first time often don’t realize how much work and time each student put into their projects. Both Harding and Senior Cait Davis said they spent the majority of the semester on their respective projects.

“I think it helps them understand the gravity of how they’ve spent their time and all the efforts they’ve put into their projects,” Hullman said. “It allows us as faculty and even other students to support them and encourage them to continue answering these important questions.”

Davis, whose project was called “Bee’s Teas”, was a part of the group of graphic design students who presented their brand identity and product packaging design during the poster and exhibition session.

“It took us all semester. We started at the beginning of the semester and we worked up until basically yesterday,” Davis said.

Davis said the reasoning behind registering for URCA stems from the fact that all of the graphic design majors have to create a piece for their senior show. So they all decided to enter their senior show projects into URCA as well.

As another year of URCA comes to a close, it is with both a sigh of relief and a solemn farewell to projects some students spent months creating.

Presenters walk away knowing they created something that they were proud of and attendees walk away with the newfound knowledge that might not have crossed their mind just one day ago.

“My biggest takeaway from participating in URCA is that I get to see everybody else’s work that they’ve been doing and how much work they put into it,” Davis said. “It’s just really cool to see everybody’s different things that they’ve been doing.”

Till next year, URCA.