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The Eastern Echo Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Print Archive
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EMU's 43rd Undergraduate Symposium celebrates student research and creative projects

Annual Undergraduate Symposium at EMU shines a light on various forms of student academic research.

Eastern Michigan University’s 43rd Undergraduate Symposium will welcome students, faculty, and the public on Friday, March 31. The College of Arts and Sciences will host the event from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. The symposium aims to celebrate student academic research and creative projects.

Audience members will experience a collection of oral and poster presentations the students give. Music and dance performances and design-based projects will also be for the Crossing Lines Design Expo. In addition, this year’s symposium will have a private keynote luncheon, unlike its preceding years.

“This is the first time that we'll have a keynote luncheon since 2019 due to Covid,” Amy Bearinger, event coordinator of the Undergraduate Symposium, said. “So we really look forward to bringing that back. It's a wonderful celebration of the students, and we try to always bring back a successful alum who was part of not only Eastern, but of the Symposium. This year it’s Nicole Brown, current mayor of Ypsilanti.”

Mayor Nicole Brown is a three-time Symposium presenter and Symposium Undergraduate Research Fellow. 

“Every year on this day, I get so excited to see the networking, the interdisciplinary connections, and the pride that stems from people realizing the amazing work that students are doing at Eastern,” Bearinger said. “Community colleges, high schools, and even people deciding between Eastern or another institution will see this is something that we do, and it is open and available to people from any college, any discipline, any major.”

EMU’s first Undergraduate Symposium was held on April 3, 1981. It featured 17 students and 19 faculty members from nine College of Arts and Sciences departments. Today, the Symposium has hosted over 8,500 undergraduates. 

“I believe it is important for us to have a grasp on what our current learners are studying and looking into,” Bearinger said. “It gives us a really nice pulse on understanding and conceptualizing the changes that people want to see – the topics that they think are essential. The more that we create these civil, supportive, and engaging environments, we can talk about what matters and begin to find solutions.”

Participating undergraduate students are nominated by a faculty mentor and recommended by their respective departments. The faculty member and student then collaborate on their mentored research and creative project.

“I never thought I’d present at the UGS,” Vheena Villareal said, one of the student presenters of the Symposium. “It was a surreal thought to be selected for my last year of undergrad.”

Villareal's presentation will be titled “Centering Student Voices in Higher Education: Considerations for Critical Leadership.” She is an Undergraduate Fellow under the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, where she does work and research under Dr. Clyde Barnett III.

“I’m looking forward to reminding students how powerful their voices are,” Villareal said. “We as students take up a remarkable space on campus, especially this one, and I believe we can make a larger impact than we think.”

Included in the music and dance portion of the Symposium is research done by student Merrick Breckler. Breckler’s presentation is titled "Exploring the Relationships Between Ensemble Music Teachers’ Beliefs and Inclusion of Students with Developmental Disabilities.”

“My presentation is about how teacher beliefs can influence the inclusion of students with developmental disabilities in secondary music ensembles,” Breckler said. “I have worked with children and adults who have developmental disabilities (DD) over the last few years and have found that in the Midwest students with DD are not nearly as represented. I wanted to get to the root of the teacher's beliefs that may impact this.”

The Symposium occurs in EMU’s Student Center at 900 Oakwood St. in Ypsilanti.