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Furman Engaged: A Celebration of Undergraduate Research

By Courtney Kratz, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, April 4, Furman hosted its ninth annual Furman Engaged! event. In lieu of classes, students were encouraged to go to presentations from fellow students. It was organized into four poster sessions and four oral sessions, including midday events. These presentations varied with representation from research, performances, food festivals, art shows, creative writing, travel studies and a variety of other showcases.

Student research was presented across campus, from oral presentations in Furman Hall to posters in the library and PAC. Creative works were also on display, with the Art Department presenting senior studio art portfolios, the English Department presenting readings from The Echo and the Music Department putting on a Student Composers Concert. Other notable presentations included an “Honoring First Year Writing” session that recognized outstanding freshmen, as well as a session titled “Reflecting on a Four-Year Journey,” in which five seniors shared their Furman experience.

“Furman Engaged! is a day when we celebrate creativity and research around campus. We have a lot of posters presented in the PAC, and oral sessions at six different locations all over campus. Just a day to celebrate the engagement and excitement on campus,” said John Kaup, Coordinator of Science Education and Furman Engaged!.

The day-long event showcased undergraduate research from all departments, offering opportunities for students and visitors alike to learn about new and exciting undergraduate projects. Launched by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Internships in 2009, Furman Engaged! has become an annual opportunity to showcase student research. Furman Engaged! was originally started in connection with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, or HHMI, grant and eventually developed into a cross-discipline event.

“We wanted to pull together — instead of psychology having their own event and chemistry and humanities and all that — and bring this all together as a single event,” Kaup said.

The event has grown over the years, and this past Furman Engaged! had between 600 and 700 students presenting, close to a quarter of the undergraduate student body. Furman Engaged! is driven largely by faculty encouragement and over the past few years more faculty have begun incorporating it into their curriculum.

“I think Furman puts an incredible amount of time into it. I don’t think there are many other colleges or universities that don’t hold classes one day and do this,” Kaup said. “They often do it as an afternoon thing or on a Saturday or something like that. So it’s a great opportunity.”

“I think the goal is really for students and faculty to be able to explore other disciplines beyond their own. And I think that is happening,” he said. Kaup also said that some presentations tend to be department-specific, but he hoped in the future students and faculty will branch out into interdisciplinary panels and presentations, or at least attend projects outside of their subjects.

In addition, while most students presenting are upperclassmen, Kaup reported that the event’s organizers would love to get more freshmen and sophomores involved, even if it is just more encouragement to attend events.

The event itself had over 72 oral sessions. With so many students presenting, Furman Engaged! is a great opportunity for students to engage in research and the kind of academic atmosphere they might encounter in graduate school.

“I’ve participated in two Furman Engaged! days. Both have been invaluable experiences,” said senior Aubrey Connors. “I’ve presented two posters and was on a panel for my Victorian literature paper. There is no substitute for the real thing; being able to participate in a serious academic presentation has given me great insight and confidence to use as I go on to graduate school.”

In the coming years, the Furman Advantage will also play a role in the Furman Engaged! event, as more students will have access to research and project opportunities.

“In some ways, I think a lot of what Furman Advantage is doing is ensuring that these experiences are happening for everybody, and tailoring it better to you as an individual student. Furman Engaged! will provide at least one venue for all of those experiences to be shared with other people,” Kaup said.

After another successful Furman Engaged! event, students and faculty can look ahead to the 10th annual Furman Engaged! Day in 2018. Kaup reported that if there is a time to expand, next year will include an exciting milestone to look forward to.

Photo Courtesy of Lois Ruffle
Senior Music major Caroline Owen and President Elizabeth Davis before Owen’s presentation on Healey Willians. Photo Courtesy of Lois Ruffle
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Photo Courtesy of Tucker McKillop
Photo Courtesy of Tucker McKillop
Photo Courtesy of Tucker McKillop
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Senior theatre arts major Sarah Cushman presents on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with audience participation. Photo Courtesy of Lois Ruffle
Photo Courtesy of Tucker McKillop
A student reads a hand-written letter from senior studio art major Alex Brannan’s piece “Beyond The Label.” Photo Courtesy of Tucker McKillop
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Seniors Kathryn D’Ablemont and Larkidus Robinson present a session on 3D gait analysis with model Frank Lara (left to right). Photo Courtesy of Lois Ruffle

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