Let’s Talk About [X] – An Undergraduate Research Conference

Ramsay, S. W. and Struan, A. (2015) Let’s Talk About [X] – An Undergraduate Research Conference. RAISE Conference 2015 – Student Engagement: Inspiring Innovation, Nottingham, UK, 10-11 Sep 2015.

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With an increasing pressure in UK HE institutions to demonstrate scholarly impact, academics are being challenged with developing ways to engage wider audiences with their research. High-achieving students who wish to pursue a career in academia or in private research are therefore implicitly expected to go beyond simply mastering the academic presentation, and must instead develop their public engagement skills. We will present our experiences of organising and delivering an interdisciplinary undergraduate research conference, as well as the findings of our research into the benefits perceived by those who took part. Both the presenter pool and the audience were comprised of undergraduate students who attended voluntarily as an extracurricular activity. Engagement in undergraduate research is one of the key determiners in continued academic success and development into further, advanced study (Laursen et al., 2012), but research carried out by undergraduates provides a contribution to knowledge which is often overlooked or undervalued. We sought, therefore, to allow students a new platform on which to present their scholarly contributions. To enhance the students’ presentation skills we drew on a team of postgraduate mentors to work alongside the presenters in developing all the elements of their presentation. The mentors were paired with students from outside their discipline, giving them the ability to shape their mentees’ presentations into formats that could be understood by a non-specialist audience. This emphasis on public engagement was designed to develop the presenters’ Graduate Attributes, particularly in light of the emphasis placed on research impact within benchmarking initiatives such as the REF. In feedback from both mentors and presenters, the mentoring process has been repeatedly heralded as a significant and novel strength in the conference organisation. Without this mentoring, many of the presenters felt they would not have been able to talk comfortably and ably to a large audience. This is an opportunity that has never before been provided at the University of Glasgow and, to our knowledge, outside a few independently organised events, is not widely practised at UK HE institutions. We would hope to impress upon delegates the importance of increased, diverse engagement with high-performing students, the untapped ability of undergraduate researchers, the impact of mentoring in developing public engagement and research dissemination skills, and ways to consider organising such an event.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Struan, Dr Andrew and Ramsay, Dr Scott
Authors: Ramsay, S. W., and Struan, A.
College/School:University Services > Learning and Teaching Services Division
University Services > Student and Academic Services > Academic Services
Research Group:Learning Enhancement and Academic Development Service (LEADS)

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