By Emerging Leaders Ambassador and Guest Writer, Ashley Chin-Mark.
The submission process began in late October of 2016 when undergraduate students sent abstracts under the mentorship of a university professor or faculty member. Projects were reviewed and accepted by early January 2017. On February 18, 2017, the Utah Valley University welcomed 11 higher education institutions from the state of Utah to participate in the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research.
The conference spanned ten hours and featured approximately 519 presentations with as many as ten students leading each discussion. Students who did not present were invited to join as well in order to learn about new research developments and foster inter-university networking. The available topics included agriculture, business, communications, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, life sciences, mathematical sciences, physical sciences, and social and behavioral sciences, which were held in buildings that appropriately corresponded with each category.
Under the fine arts category, the creative dance section was held in the Ragan Theater in the Sorenson Center where six choreographers presented their abstracts and choreography pieces in a performance setting.
As a first-time student researcher and attendee at the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research, I very much enjoyed partaking in the presentational experience among fellow students. Accompanied by the dancers in my piece, the day started with UVU Senior Vice President, Jeff Olsen, speaking on the importance of research (“be humble, be patient, seek the truth”) and UVU alumnus and filmmaker, Torben Bernhard, speaking on the importance of sharing stories (“be passionate, fail but get back up, persevere despite all obstacles, listen to others”). Afterwards, we attended Session I, explored the UVU campus and dance studios (we even ran into a former U of U Modern Dance Professor), and performed in Session II.
I had originally hoped to present to a larger audience of individuals who were not familiar with the dance world, and was instead greeted by a small but receptive audience of 20 students and professors. The intimacy of the small audience was a blessing in disguise; I was able to more critically engage with people who were already well aware of the dance culture. As a result, I received relevant feedback and engaged in meaningful conversation with new (UVU professors and graduate program recruits) and old acquaintances (a former U of U Modern dancer and a dancer I met at ACDA two years ago).
No matter if the audience is small or large, any chance to share or watch choreography through different perspectives is a valuable investment of time. I highly encourage all students to attend and/or present at research conferences. The university courses they are currently taking may serve as a springboard to further develop their passion and explore their field through in-depth research or intensive study. This comes with no cost, other than transportation, because student presenter registration is institutionally paid, which means the universities sponsor their own students to travel off-campus to share their research and promote their school.