40th Anniversary in Focus: Annual ‘showcase’ spurs student-led research

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: February 17, 2016

Editor’s note: The story here is part of a series of 40 stories commemorating USF Sarasota-Manatee’s 40th anniversary this academic year. For more about USFSM’s history, please visit usfsm.edu/anniversary.

Having a low student-to-faculty ratio is beneficial in many ways, but one of the most valued and unique is the opportunity it affords students for individually conducted research alongside noted professors.

This research-driven focus is integrated across each of USF Sarasota-Manatee’s colleges and many academic disciplines. As students advance in their studies, they may be invited to work on specific research projects alongside their professors. As a result, many USFSM undergraduates undergo learning experiences often reserved exclusively for the graduate level.

Taking this idea a step further, USFSM celebrates and encourages undergraduate achievement through an annual campus-wide symposium in which students formally present their research to faculty and other students at the Selby Auditorium. Some are asked to elaborate further with PowerPoint presentations. Categorical winners receive the opportunity to travel to national academic conventions, free of cost, to further present their work.

This year, that event — formerly known as the “Research Symposium” — was expanded to become the “Student Showcase for Projects, Research and Innovation.”

Previously consisting of two general categories, the symposium was enlarged in the hope of encouraging more students and professors to step forward with research entries, creating a more robust competition. Research will now be evaluated in discipline-specific categories in liberal arts, social sciences, science and math, education, business and hospitality/tourism leadership.

Dr. Jane Rose, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, said the symposium’s event and prizes are intended both to reward achievement and promote further scholarly development.

“We are giving the students a larger arena in which to have their work evaluated,” Dr. Rose said. “Providing access for our students to share their work with scholars and professionals who will assess it on its own merit prepares them for the real world. And presenting their work alongside others from around the country can be more instructive than the classroom. It’s more high-stakes and truer to life, the kind of scrutiny they will experience once they leave here for work or graduate school.

“I believe that having such a program does more than encourage our students to perform better. It encourages our faculty to design courses and conduct their teaching in a way that better prepares students to become independent-thinking scholars,” she said.

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