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YHC’s Undergraduate Research Day: Showcasing Student Work Across the Disciplines

Last Tuesday, April 11, saw the eleventh annual Undergraduate Research Day (URD) at YHC. If you were on campus, you would have seen poster sessions, creative performances, and students from all departments on campus presenting the culmination of their research. For the first time in the event’s history, all thirteen departments from the four academic divisions were represented at URD.

This year, an alumni panel featured as the keynote plenary session, and alumni from a variety of majors spoke to current YHC students about connecting their scholarly experiences with the world after graduation. Courtland Walters (YHC ‘16), a professional musician, both shared his wisdom in the panel and provided music during the poster session in the afternoon.

Professor Amy Boggan, this year’s URD organizer, said “It’s hard to feature specific presentations, as so many were impressive. Emma Pullium’s presentation of her Honors capstone, ‘Colors of the year: the fusion of performing, visual, and literary art in Fanny Mendelssohn’s Das Jahr,’ which included a piano performance that highlighted the themes of her talk, really highlights the creativity on display this year in particular.” Session two even had everyone go to the other venues outside Rollins Campus Center and experience visual arts, theatre, music, creative writing, or a planetarium presentation. Each year since its inception, URD has grown in scope, and this year in particular the multidisciplinary nature of undergraduate research was on full display.

URD is the result of the work of three YHC faculty members from Math, Communications, and Biology (Professors Nation, Hallett, and Jones) who came back from a Council of Undergraduate Research Conference in 2011 determined to establish a way to support and highlight undergraduate research at Young Harris. In the spring of 2013, the first URD was held in Goolsby with fifteen talks and fourteen posters, and the event has only grown since. With each year, more and more academic disciplines have gotten involved, making URD a true showcase of the breadth of learning occurring in the liberal arts on campus. And beginning in 2015 with the building of the Rollins Campus Center (RCC), the students have been able to experience presenting their work in a space truly conducive to a conference such as URD.

Until recently, the event was held only in the afternoon, and the cancelation of classes to allow students to attend was up to individual instructors. However, in 2020, the administration decided to grant the entire day to be devoted to showcasing the work being done by YHC students, and a full program was arranged, only to be canceled due to COVID. However, the last three years have seen full-day events with even more cross-campus participation and greater variety of presentations. 

According to YHC’s Director of Undergraduate Research, Professor Jennifer Julian, undergraduate research offers students a high-impact learning experience and leverages the advantages of a small liberal arts college environment. It aligns with YHC’s stated mission and goals, creates opportunities for one-on-one mentorship with faculty, and helps students develop in the areas of critical thinking, informational literacy, problem-solving, and reasoning skills. It also helps develop “soft skills,” such as confidence, competency, scholarly identity, and a sense of ownership and responsibility over one’s academic or creative work.

One of her goals has been to emphasize the Undergraduate Research Program’s multidisciplinary nature. Research and inquiry take numerous forms and are not limited to the sciences. This year’s URD represented a special effort to recognize work across disciplines. This cross-campus emphasis also illustrated the event’s connections to Young Harris College’s Quality Enhancement Plan, “Undergraduate Research for the Common Good”. This QEP topic was determined with broad community support from both faculty and students. Professor Julian comments, “Undergraduate Research Day is a longstanding campus practice that preceded our current QEP. However, one branch of the QEP’s multi-part goal is to disseminate and recognize undergraduate research accomplishments. Deepening campus support for URD has been and continues to be a major part of that.”

Professor Linda Jones, one of the original faculty involved in bringing URD to campus and the event’s organizer until this year when Professor Amy Boggan took the reins, says, “Undergraduate research is part of an exceptional liberal arts education. In addition to all the advantages afforded by engaging in research, such as how to think critically, analyze data and synthesize conclusions, and learn to problem-solve, URD gives students a venue for presenting their work and thus a chance to grow in confidence and poise and to celebrate their hard work.  It also gives faculty, staff, coaches, and administrators the satisfaction of seeing our YHC students do well in an academic environment. This annual event now promotes a sense of campus camaraderie.”

About Young Harris College 

Young Harris College is a private baccalaureate and master’s degree-granting institution located in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Founded in 1886 and historically affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Young Harris College educates, inspires and empowers students through an education that purposefully integrates the liberal arts and professional studies. The College has four academic divisions: Fine Arts; Humanities; Mathematics, Science and Technology; and Professional Studies. More than 1,400 students are enrolled in its residential and Early College programs. The College is an active member of the NCAA Division II and remains a fierce competitor in the prestigious Peach Belt Conference. For more information, visit