WPU Students Shine at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research

Apr 19, 2024

Five students from William Peace University had the opportunity to showcase their capstone projects at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Long Beach, California this month. NCUR, which brings together a diverse array of students and their research from all over the country, was held at the Long Beach Convention Center from April 8-10.

WPU was represented by a group of driven and talented seniors, including Alex Butler, Jasanee Killins, Keslee Hylton, Esteban Barillas, and Julianna Moreland.

This conference plays a critical role in the academic and professional development of undergraduate students across disciplines, providing them not only a platform to disseminate their research but also a chance to network with peers, faculty, and potential graduate schools. The participation of WPU students at NCUR 2024 highlights the university’s commitment to fostering academic excellence and supporting impactful student research.

The conference, a significant gathering point for undergraduate researchers, allowed these young scholars to present their findings in various formats including oral and poster presentations. 

Dr. Katie Otis, Program Director of History at WPU, accompanied the group and expressed pride in their success. The students back valuable experiences and knowledge that will enhance their future academic and professional endeavors, she said. 

“They are a talented group of young scholars and all-around lovely people, too,” Otis said. “Each gave stellar presentations of their work, supported each other throughout the trip, and were busy networking with peers, professors, and graduate school representatives.”

Killins, a double major in English and Anthropology, presented “Examining the Conflicts Between Identity and Social Awareness through Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘How It Feels to Be Colored Me’ and ‘Barracoon,'” analyzing Hurston’s essays and their impact on understanding the black experience in America.

“If you told me during my first year at Peace that I’d be in California presenting my own research on the woman who inspired me to take on both of my majors, I would’ve doubted my ability in doing so,” Killins said. 

A double major in History and Psychology, Butler presented “Bears, Cows, Crows, and Humans: A Historical Study of Animal Influence on Societies and Cultures.” This oral presentation delved into how certain animals have shaped cultural beliefs and societal structures throughout history. Butler’s project, which began as an intern project at the NC Museum of Natural History, blossomed into a compelling thesis under Otis’ guidance. 

Barillas, a Psychology major, tackled an essential societal issue in his poster presentation titled “Addressing the Mental Health Stigma and Underutilization of Mental Health Services in the Latino Community.” 

Hylton, majoring in Criminal Justice and Psychology, explored how phone activity might affect athletes’ perceptions of their performance. Her oral presentation, “Phone Activity and Athletes’ Perception of Performance,” argued the intersection of technology and athletic performance. 

Hylton found the experience enriching. 

“It was definitely worth all the work and stress this past school year,” Hylton said. “It was awesome to listen to some of the other presentations and to see what my peers are passionate about.”

Moreland, an English major, presented a poster on “Navigating Selfhood through Chess: A Lacanian Analysis of The Queen’s Gambit,” offering a psychoanalytic interpretation of the novel and the impact of childhood trauma on self-development. 

Moreland appreciated the supportive and celebratory environment at NCUR.

“It was such a fun and fulfilling experience,” Moreland said. “It helped me recognize the work I put into my senior project and appreciate the support I’ve received from WPU and my mentor Dr. Corrine Andersen. It was a celebratory week showcasing our hard work while meeting new peers and connecting with the ones we came with on a deeper level.”

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