Barry McNamara  |   Published February 19, 2019

Celebrating ‘The Magic of Undergraduate Research’

Second Conference of Undergraduate Research & Scholarship to attract student work from throughout U.S. colleges and universities.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College’s second undergraduate research conference is on the horizon, and organizer Judi Kessler says to expect a little bit of magic.

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DIANA ABU-JABER: Author will give keynote address at second Conference of Undergraduate Research ... DIANA ABU-JABER: Author will give keynote address at second Conference of Undergraduate Research & Scholarship.“It’s really an opportunity for students from multiple disciplines to show what they’re working on,” said Kessler. “Research takes them out of set classroom experiences and lets them get actively involved in learning. To me, that’s the magic of undergraduate research.”

The Conference of Undergraduate Research & Scholarship, which will be held April 12-13 in the College’s Center for Science and Business, is sponsored by the Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research and Monmouth College, with support from the Augustana College political science department.

Almost 80 projects have been accepted for the conference, with about 90 students participating, some in collaborative roles. Students from 28 schools, representing 14 states, will present at the conference. Undergraduate students will travel to Monmouth from as far away as Massachusetts, Virginia and California.

As a Monmouth faculty member, Kessler said she has frequent opportunities to meet other scholars in her discipline at conferences. Students, however, do not often get that opportunity.

“It’s very rare for students to get to meet other students doing similar research,” she said. “This conference provides an opportunity for them to extend the engagement they have in their discipline.”

The inaugural conference, held in 2017, was sponsored by the Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research and Monmouth. Kessler said the Augustana political science department stepped forward as a sponsor after the successful first event.

“One of their professors, Mariano Magalhaes, brought students to our first conference,” she said. “He really liked what he saw, and he contacted me and asked, ‘What if I helped out?’ for our next one. So they’ve helped out by evaluating most of the submissions.”

Among those submissions, she said, is a dramatic increase in Monmouth students. That total has more than doubled from the 2017 conference.

In addition to the research presentations, which can take the form of posters or panel discussions, there will be a keynote address on the second day of the conference. This year’s speaker is author Diana Abu-Jaber, who teaches at Portland State University and is the author of six books, including the recently published culinary memoir, Life Without a Recipe.

“Abu-Jaber’s father was a Jordanian immigrant and her mother a German-Irish American,” said Monmouth faculty member Anne Mamary. “Her stories are about navigating multiple cultures. In some ways they are very American stories, since almost all of us have multiple threads in our identities.”

Mamary said Abu-Jaber celebrates food and also uses recipes and particular dishes “to help trace those cultural journeys, conflicts, rebellions and connections.”

“I’m so excited that she’s coming to Monmouth to share those stories with us,” she said.

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