Written by Madison Meeks
Harding is hosting its first ever undergraduate research conference — the Harding Undergraduate Research Conference (HURC) — this weekend, with 28 students participating from 25 different disciplines who will present their research findings.
The HURC consists of four sessions, beginning yesterday, April 15, and taking place through Friday night in the American Heritage Auditorium. The student presenters and faculty will meet in person, and it will be available for others to view online.
Along with Harding students and faculty presenting research at the conference, alumnus Dr. Kristopher Kyle, assistant professor of linguistics and the director of the Learner Corpus Research and Applied Data Science Lab at the University of Oregon, will be speaking.
This conference will also include two major awards, including the Trey Carlock Rising Scholar Award and the Alpha Chi Faculty Scholar Award. The Trey Carlock Rising Scholar Award will recognize two students who plan to attend a research-focused graduate program with a committed Christ-centered focus, awarded by the Honors College. The award will include $1,300 in travel funds to be used by the awardee in the upcoming academic years to present their ongoing research at a national conference. The Alpha Chi Faculty Scholar Award will recognize two faculty members who demonstrate a strong track record of scholarly contributions to their field and have mentored students to develop a scholarly career. This award will consist of $1,000 in professional development funds to be used in the following academic year. Each awardee will also make a 15-minute presentation in chapel.
“I have heard some people say that academics at Harding are a hidden gem,” Dr. James Huff, associate professor of engineering, said. “Well, I want our academic story to be seen and appreciated for the gem that it truly is, and the HURC is one way to make the story of academic research well-known and understood within our campus culture.”.”
In addition to his role in the engineering department, Huff serves as the director of academic fellowship and undergraduate research, Honors College faculty fellow and director of engineering assessment. Huff guides several students in their independent and class-related research who aim to complete a thesis through an honors contract.
“I am ridiculously excited about the research being presented at the HURC,” Huff said. “The students have led this work under the guidance of faculty mentors, and they are delivering some fresh insights on original questions. While I will hear from the student presenters at the upcoming HURC, I envision that, for several of them, I will be reading their finalized work in peer-reviewed academic journals.”
Dean of the University College and Dean of the Honors College Kevin Kehl said Huff has done a great job facilitating and organizing the first annual event, and he looks forward to seeing what students and faculty were able to produce.
“This conference will shine a light on the great work that takes place on campus through our faculty and students,” Kehl said. “HURC will provide an opportunity for students to share and display their work and encourage other students. We are excited to showcase our student’s work at Harding and highlight what an excellent academic institution Harding is.”
Junior Mary Grace Golden, who is a public administration and communication studies major, will represent Huff’s thesis class, as well as his Beyond Professional Identity (BPI) lab. Golden is presenting her work, “Political identity in first-time voting Christian women: an interpretative phenomenological analysis,” at the conference.
“I am very thankful for the work put in to make this event happen, and I look forward to the understanding, perspective and growth that will result from this conference,” Golden said.
Senior John Lim is an interdisciplinary studies major and is also a part of Huff’s BPI thesis class. Lim will present his work, “Hybridized spirituality in Singaporean Christians.”
“This conference, beyond the academia and networking and collective wisdom, strikes me as an expression of hope,” Lim said. “Even in this new format, it is evidence of our God-given vitality — a refusal to admit defeat and let external circumstances dictate who we are and what we do. Meaningful work, study and research [have] been done. Community continues to form. And this, to me, is but a foretaste of a world fully restored and healed.”
Senior Annesly Pruitt is an English major. Pruitt’s research, “The face of love: Lewis’ view of God and self in ‘Till We Have Faces,’” is based on the theology of the C.S. Lewis novel, “Till We Have Faces.”
“I am really glad Harding University students are being encouraged to research,” Pruitt said. “Students have the opportunity to present their ideas and to have confidence that their ideas have value and [their] research can contribute to their field of study.”
Huff, Kehl and Dr. Jim Miller, associate professor of communications, each said they look forward to seeing students’ hard work pay off and giving them a chance to showcase their research.
“There is really great research happening all around campus, and we are so very proud of the students from all disciplines who are doing great research,” Miller said. “This conference is an opportunity to celebrate that and to recognize outstanding research across campus at the undergraduate level. I am looking forward to hearing these presentations and for the rest of the campus to have the opportunity to hear about the great research being done.”