Students showcase research at UCD


Texas Wesleyan student Becky Lavarn enjoys playing frisbee with other students in front of Dora’s Dining Hall at Ram Jam 2015.

As the end of the semester draws near, many students may wonder about what awaits them outside Texas Wesleyan University’s small, familiar campus.

At University College Day on April 20, students can discover just that while showcasing what they’ve accomplished in their time here.

Dr. Barbara Kirby, associate professor of Paralegal Studies and UCD 2016 Committee member, continues to be a faculty sponsor for students presenting during UCD because she believes it’s an important event for the university.

“It’s an opportunity for us to showcase the kind of work that our students are doing here at Wesleyan,” Kirby said. “It’s fantastic because it’s a whole day devoted to students showing off.”

Kirby is especially excited for the 10:30 a.m. keynote presentation at Martin Hall. The presentation features a panel of successful alumni representing each of the academic schools and is moderated by Judge Quentin McGown.

“It’s going to be in a ‘Ted Talk’ style,” Kirby said. “They will each share how they became successful after leaving Wesleyan, which we think is going to be a very positive experience for our students – to see, yes there is life after Wesleyan, and it can be a very successful life.”

Students can give their brains a break at noon on the mall at Ram Jam, which features free birthday cake in celebration of Wesleyan’s 125th anniversary.

Like Kirby, Dr. Lisa Dryden, UCD 2016 Committee Chair and professor of Graduate Reading 1, has been a faculty sponsor for student presenters in the past. She loves the way UCD allows professors and students at Wesleyan to collaborate together.

“It’s very unique to Wesleyan,” Dryden said. “It’s a wonderful way to bring the entire campus community together, including both professors and students.”

She believes presenting at UCD is a big step in students’ professional development.

“To have this opportunity as an undergraduate student is very beneficial to building self-confidence, self-esteem, and public speaking skills,” Dryden said. “Everyone has something to offer, and that’s the message that Wesleyan wants to send to our students – that everyone is valuable, intelligent, and has something to contribute.”

This is why the Student Government Association voted on April 4 to continue its tradition of funding UCD by allocating $2,620 for the event.

Dryden encourages the entire student body to attend at least one of the more than 100 presentations, including poster sessions, to be featured during UCD.

“It’s a way to open your mind,” Dryden said. “Some of the topics might be a little controversial, and make you uncomfortable, but I think it’s important to go to those with an open mind and broaden your horizons. Recognize that the world is a bigger place than Fort Worth, Texas.”

Dr. Benjamin Miller, associate professor of Biology 2, agrees with Dryden’s advice about attending sessions about unfamiliar topics.

“I go to my student’s presentations to support them, but after my students are done, I don’t go to the science presentations,” Miller said. “I want to learn something new, and students should do the same. You get a diverse, eclectic idea of what’s going on here on campus, and that’s what I like.”

Miller is sponsoring two students for UCD, and believes the experience is one that must be earned.

“Unlike some other faculty members, I don’t make my whole class present at UCD,” Miller said. “That’s not the point. The point is to show the most rigorous work – the best work.”

Miller has assisted previously sponsored students in publishing the research they’ve presented. Dr. Bruce Benz, professor of Biology 2, believes it’s these types of opportunities that make UCD so valuable.

“Find out where the opportunities lie,” Benz said. “Four points are a dime a dozen, but getting undergraduate research published is worth its weight in gold.”

Benz believes student presentations are a good indicator of faculty engagement. 

“Research is always the initiative of the student, but the student has to find a productive environment in which to do so,” Benz said. “The better the presentation, the more productive the environment, the more encouraging the faculty, and the higher the student’s achieving.”

Lessie Haney, sophomore sociology major, appreciates the support she received from her faculty sponsor, Dr. Eddy Lynton, assistant professor of Criminal Justice and Sociology. Her presentation, “Psychological Abuse in an Intimate Partner Relationship,” covers a topic close to her heart.

“I’ve not only dealt with this in my life, but also in my daughter’s life,” Haney said. “She’s been in a three-year court battle with the father of her child, and it’s just been really psychologically violent.”

Haney has put several hours of study into the different ways that people are abused, as well as the types of services out there for the abused, in preparation for her presentation, which is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 2:20 p.m. in room 203 of Jack and Jo Willa Morton Fitness Center.

“With physical abuse the police and the courts can get involved, while the psychologically abused a lot of times go unnoticed,” Haney said. “They don’t have the agencies available to them that they would if they were wearing the scars of physical abuse. But those scars go much deeper, and they’re often times harder to heal.”

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