“It’s okay to be motivated by your own field, but to get excited about others because of their passion is incredible,” said University of Montevallo accounting major Rebekah Chappell after presenting at the 2016 COPLAC Southeast Regional Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity Conference.
Six COPLAC member institutions attended the conference on April 22-23, including the host campus, Georgia College. Students and faculty from Georgia College, New College of Florida, University of Montevallo, University of North Carolina Asheville, USC Aiken and University of Virginia’s College at Wise traveled to Milledgeville, Georgia for a weekend of sharing research and new creative productions.
COPLAC organizes this conference annually at a different member campus, along with its counterpart the Northeast Regional Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity Conference.
The conference began in 2010 as the COPLAC Undergraduate Research Conference. About two years ago, the conference model evolved to include both scholarly and creative activity, in addition to more traditional research projects.
This format has enriched student experiences, especially those who are not studying STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields, which many undergraduate conferences focus on, according to Caitlin Butler, USC Aiken senior majoring in English.
“COPLAC’s transition to include work beyond the scope of STEM fields benefits students like me by simply giving us that extra opportunity to be recognized for undergraduate work, but more than that, by validating our work,” said Butler. “This transition acknowledges the importance of the humanities and the valuable, if not as quantifiable, contributions of students outside of STEM. I don’t know of any other conferences with this wide a scope of presentations.”
Part of the liberal arts experience that COPLAC schools exemplify, is access to diverse disciplines to explore.
For many students who choose to attend a COPLAC school, the conference showcases an invaluable part of their educational experience, according to Chappell.
“The concept of being able to have a passion for not only one field, but multiple, is inspiring,” said Chappell. “Then, to bring all of those people together and let them show off their passions shows how incredible a liberal arts college truly is. Getting to see presentations from biology to theater allows for the viewers to understand that their own little world isn’t all there is out there. It lets those individuals grow in who they are.”
Using imagination to connect purpose, cause and effect, is one of the most valuable skills gained from a liberal arts education, according to Butler.
“All of those classes, from the dreaded general education [requirements] to my beloved literature courses, developed that impetus in me to look at a situation and learn to see it from multiple angles, to investigate causes and brainstorm solutions, and to try to think of an original approach to an idea or problem.”
Students displayed their imaginative approaches to research, scholarly and creative activity through poster and oral presentations.
Additionally, the host campus is given the opportunity to highlight their undergraduate research program. The Georgia College Max Noah Singers debuted a new piece written by student composer and conductor Cannon McClain, while a student performance of “Don’t Flush It,” a short theater piece written by Nevada McPherson, combined green lifestyle education with comedy.
Many attendees left the conference inspired by the enthusiasm of COPLAC students, according to Chappell.
“Attending COPLAC was an honor because of the passion of the participants,” said Chappell. “I see that passion in students around me, but to see it in those with such diverse fields of study is very motivating,” said Chappell.
- Student presenters and faculty representatives from six COPLAC schools that attended the 2016 Southeast Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity Conference.
*Students who present at COPLAC Regional Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity Conferences have the opportunity to feature their projects in COPLAC’s online research journal Metamorphosis. Read the Spring 2016 entries here.