Inaugural research day attracts 160 presenters
Last spring, six faculty and three staff began making plans for an undergraduate academic showcase.
The group wasn’t sure what the event would look like, did not have a name or know where it would be held. They just wanted to create a space where students could display and discuss the academic experiences that helped shape and inspire them such as research, study away, internships, and works of art.
A trip to Furman University’s research day sparked some ideas. A visit by Dr. Cynthia Neal Spence, Director of the UNCF/Mellon Programs and Associate Professor of Sociology at Spelman College, sparked a campus dialogue. Also, five members of the committee attended a four-day institute in Salt Lake City, Utah to learn about different ways to promote and grow active learning.
After that trip, the event began to take shape. The committee developed a name, the Piedmont Symposium, set a location (The Swanson Center for the Performing Arts) and, most importantly, developed a plan to generate support and contributions from Piedmont’s four academic units.
“Participation was a big concern for us,” said Dr. Julia Schmitz, Director of Piedmont’s Quality Enhancement Program and Associate Professor of Biology. “We didn’t want to put a lot of energy into planning an event and have underwhelming participation. As a committee we knew that it would be important to get off on a great foot.”
Late last fall, the group estimated that great start would be 70 participating students.
By early 2019, nearly twice that – 160 students on the Demorest and Athens campuses – had signed up.
“It was real exciting to see the numbers come in,” said Schmitz. “The deans really pushed for it. And the faculty on the committee encouraged their colleagues and students to take part.”
The April 17 event included two afternoon one-hour classroom track sessions for students to present papers and discuss group projects. During these sessions, the mainstage featured musical and theatrical performances. A separate poster session in the atrium separated the track sessions.
From “The Success of Finger Powders on Different Surfaces” to “A Game Theory Approach to Poker”, the presentations and discussions were vast and varied. In all, approximately 400 attended. The group included parents and some members of the community. A similar event on the Athens campus on April 11 included 30 student participants and approximately 100 spectators.
While some aspects of Lions P.R.I.D.E. were replicates of what the committee had seen at other colleges, the Piedmont event had a unique flair. Members of the Piedmont Singers performed in the morning; there were t-shirts, door prizes, and Leo the Lion was there. The organizers wanted the Symposium to be a celebration of scholarly work.
“This day was an example of what makes Piedmont unique: mentorship, personal relationships, and academic rigor,” said Daniel Silber, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “It was a wonderful example of reciprocal learning—students teaching and learning from their fellow students—and of the high-quality academic work that a Piedmont University education has empowered so many of our students to achieve.”