SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The second annual SoCon Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF) took place over the weekend on the campus of Wofford College. The three-day event wrapped up with both poster and oral presentations on Sunday. Approximately 140 students, faculty and staff participated.
In addition to the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, some of the research presented included a number of presentations from the arts and humanities. Many of the participants were seeking to hone their presentation skills for regional and national collegiate competitions, which generally occur in the spring.
“This event is particularly designed for underclassmen that may not have extensive experience in presenting research,” said John Iamarino, commissioner of the Southern Conference. “But just over half of our presenters were seniors who wanted to polish their skills and learn more about different subjects from their colleagues across the conference.”
In 2016, the conference launched the inaugural SURF, with nearly 100 students participating. In addition to the many poster presentations highlighting research in the STEM disciplines, there was a pianist who transcribed a 1940s orchestra piece into a piano duet and a student who read the first chapter of her book, a fictional account of life in rural Mississippi for two young children of different races.
SURF is a byproduct of the Southern Conference Academic Exchange, an initiative started in 2014 by the 10 member institutions to work collaboratively on academic-related matters. Led by the chief academic officers, the Exchange has created SURF as well as a leadership development program for faculty and staff known as LEAD and is currently exploring a shared international study program in Panama. The Exchange also resulted in the creation of annual faculty and staff awards, as well as the student/athlete-oriented Pinnacle Award. The latter recognizes the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average on each of the 22 SoCon championship-winning teams.
“SURF is a great example of how Southern Conference members can work together outside the field of athletic competition,” said Iamarino. “It has been gratifying to see the support provided by our presidents, chancellors and provosts to make these efforts work.
“This year’s event surpassed last year’s not only in sheer numbers, but in the efficiency of presenting so many high-quality research projects in a relatively short period of time.”
Stacey Hettes, associate provost for faculty development at Wofford, was the primary coordinator for SURF, with assistance from a number of faculty, staff and student volunteers at Wofford. The Southern Conference office assisted with the logistics and arranged breakfast and lunch catering by Ingles Markets.