DC – 2018 Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Biennial Conference


July 6, 2018 by Dr. G

From July 1-3, 2018, I was a presenter and attendee at the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Biennial Conference in Washington DC. With the theme of “Creating Collaborative Connections in & through Undergraduate Research“, over 500 professionals (faculty, undergraduate research program directors, administrators, etc.) came together for talks, poster presentations, and conference plenaries. The sessions ranged from sharing best practices in mentoring students to ethics, safety, and funding student research (and more!).

I tweeted with the conference hashtags #CURCONF2018 and #CUR2018 in my own Twitter account (@guertin) and through the CUR Geoscience Twitter account (@CURgeosciences – I’m one of three GeoCUR members that run this account) – many of us had several exciting items to report from the conference! Here’s a link to the full conference program.

I’ve been mentoring undergraduate student researchers since prior to starting my faculty position at Penn State Brandywine back in 2001. Although I have much mentoring experience, I’m well aware that research opportunities change, students change, society changes, etc. I need professional development opportunities such as the CUR conference to keep on top of the latest advancements and discoveries to provide effective undergraduate research experiences for student development and workforce preparation.

Here are the titles of most of the sessions I attended (this doesn’t include the very informative posters I saw at both posters sessions, too):

  • Connecting research across the disciplines: creating an undergraduate research club for all
  • Voices on the verge – mentoring through transitions
  • Building collaborative relationships: discussion of vignettes showcasing innovative relationships designed to support student learning
  • Raising the profile of the Council on Undergraduate Research [CUR] through advocacy and outreach: what can you do as a stakeholder?
  • Experiments in course-based undergraduate research: CSUMB’s spring research intensives
  • Using technology to leverage the dissemination of student research
  • Using Story Map software to tell the story of your undergraduate research travel grants program
  • Social media audit: Chancellors’ use of Instagram and Twitter in the University of Wisconsin system
  • Book reviews as engaged scholarship
  • Role modeling is a viable retention strategy for undergraduate women in the geosciences
  • Who owns it? Understanding undergraduate research, intellectual property, and tech transfer

As you can see from the list of session titles above, I attended a range of presentations that are areas I’m interested in pursuing more. For example, our campus used to have a student undergraduate research club. Is this something we should restart, and how/with what focus/with who? Should we have spring break undergraduate research experiences? How do we as a campus address students sharing their work while addressing intellectual property and ownership of data? These are all items I feel we can advance at Penn State Brandywine, and I’m excited to bring back the information and examples I learned at these sessions.

I also presented a poster, based upon a collaboration with former Penn State Brandywine faculty librarian Nina Clements. Students that take my Earth science know that I focus on information literacy as an overarching goal in all of my courses. Since I hear very little from other faculty about bringing a librarian into introductory-level courses, a time that I feel is so important to building up those skills, I thought this topic was relevant for the conference. I have to say, I was pleased to see the success of the poster! I was surrounded by conference attendees the entire time – attendees taking notes, asking questions, and asking for information to be emailed to them post-conference. I’m excited to see the enthusiasm of others and their interest in doing something similar in their departments and at their campuses. Yay!

As the poster indicates in the lower right corner, this poster content is part of a book chapter in a new book on Course-Based Undergraduate Research: Educational Equity and High-Impact Practice. I’m thrilled the book was available at the conference (thank you, Stylus Publishing!). This is the first time I’ve presented a poster the same day a book chapter was published (see chapter 3 for Nina and me!).

One additional big piece of my learning at this conference came from the plenary speakers. CUR brought in four keynote speakers that spoke to the entire audience of conference attendees at the same time – no additional sessions were held when these people spoke. I blogged about the information shared by three of the speakers on my AGU GeoEd Trek blog. Students, you may be interested in reading about what these speakers had to say about working with students:

(Photo on the left is with Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, photo on the right is with Dr. Jose Antonio Bowen)

Although there is so much more I could share, from the amazing meals to awards ceremonies, one of the key outcomes of any conference is the networking that takes place and people that you meet (yes, even faculty carry around business cards and make new connections). One of the unexpected connections I made was with a faculty librarian from Penn State University Libraries. Hailley Fargo, Student Engagement Librarian, presented on using book reviews as engaged scholarship, and I can’t wait to follow up with her to learn more about using this type of assignment with students at Penn State.

I stayed an extra day in DC after the conference to experience the 4th of July in DC (attending the Capitol 4th concert, seeing the fireworks, visiting the Newseum… so much fun!). I came back on Amtrak on July 5th, thoroughly exhausted but also energized to follow through on so much that I learned and with the connections that I made. The next CUR Biennial Conference is going to be held in Bozeman, Montana, in 2020, but in the meantime, I look forward to keeping up connections my geoscience colleagues and other undergraduate research mentors at conferences such as AGU (which, in December 2018, will also be in Washington DC!).


One thought on “DC – 2018 Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Biennial Conference

  1. […] the recent 2018 CUR Biennial Conference (see my blog post summarizing my conference experience), the Council on Undergraduate Research provided attendees a […]


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