UA Hosts First Annual Student-Led Research Symposium

When two graduate students at The University of Akron felt there were not enough opportunities to present research, they took matters into their own hands.


(Image via The University of Akron)

Cortney Rosekelly, Paul Collins, Craig Dilworth and Sydney Bornstine share the market research they conducted for NORKA Beverage Company, an Akron-based craft soda producer.

By Megan Parker, Copy Editor

The first-ever University of Akron Interdisciplinary Symposium (UA-IS), an event for students to showcase their research, took place in the ballroom of the  Taber Student Union on April 9 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.


One goal of the symposium was to show scholarship and research as valuable tools for learning and community development at The University of Akron.
(Image via The University of Akron)
One goal of the symposium was to show scholarship and research as valuable tools for learning and community development at The University of Akron.

Two doctoral students at UA, Scott Swiatek and Matt Williamson, created the symposium because they felt there were not enough opportunities on campus for students to share research.


In order to get UA-IS from an idea to reality, Swiatek and Williamson worked with several other graduate students from the Department of Sociology and an undergraduate student in marketing management and graphic design.


This planning committee was comprised of graduate students Eric Victory, Jodi Noland, Katie Bullock and Matthew Walker, as well as undergraduate student Savannah Sprankle.


Victory said he was excited to be a part of planning the symposium as it helped him realize how valuable presenting research on campus can be for students who can’t afford to travel off-campus for similar opportunities.


“But an event like this gives students the opportunity to present their works at UA while expanding their network, building self-confidence and finding potential collaborators for future projects,” Victory said.


Students from all areas of discipline, including engineering, social science, business, health professions and more, were invited to present during the event, a University press release said.

Graduate student Eric Victory presented his research on “Androgyny and Alcohol Use Among College Students.”
(Image via The University of Akron)
Graduate student Eric Victory presented his research on “Androgyny and Alcohol Use Among College Students.”

“A total of 72 research projects were submitted from the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business Administration, College of Health Professions and College of Engineering,” the press release said.


The students invited to UA-IS presented their projects were presented during poster sessions at the symposium.


During the first session, 35 projects from BCAS and the CBA were presented. Then, 37 projects from health professions and engineering were presented during the second session, according to Williamson.


Dr. Mark Tausig, professor emeritus of sociology, later spoke on the importance of scholarship, faculty members’ role in mentoring students and the value of student engagement in research, the press release said.


Overall, the event heavily focused on students making connections in the field of research and sharing their projects with others to improve the value of scholarship at UA.


(Image via The University of Akron)
Katie Burke, Kelly Claridge and Mallory Bidlen discuss “Burnout Syndrome in Critical Care Nurses” during their presentation.

Swiatek said that presenting research is an important task that students should participate in and through the symposium, more students were able to do just that.


“Our mission was to advocate for student success, highlight the work of UA students and create a lasting platform to spotlight and recognize excellence in student scholarship, creativity, community engagement and collaboration,” Swiatek said.


According to the UA-IS mission statement, the overall theme for the first annual symposium was “Inclusion and Distinction through Scholarship” due to the goal of bringing people from diverse disciplines together.


As plans for next year’s symposium have started, Swiatek and Williamson believe that this year’s theme had an important impact on the success of the event.


“This year’s theme really fit the mission of the inaugural UA-IS. Academic scholarship plays such a vital role in the community,” Williamson said. “We really wanted to showcase what the students at The University of Akron had to offer.”


In order to encourage student participation, awards were presented to students during the symposium who showed high-quality scholarly work in their fields.


These awards were in collaboration with the “ZipTalks” portion of the symposium where three students, each from a different college, were chosen to give a brief oral presentation of their research.


Cash prizes were also included with the awards for the best graduate and undergraduate student research presentations from each college, the press release said.


Those who received awards during the symposium include:

  • Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences
    • Austin Garner, Graduate
    • Molly Hartsough, Graduate
    • Brynne Burgy, Undergraduate
    • Sierra Swisher, Undergraduate
  • College of Business Administration
    • Sydney Bornstine, Undergraduate
    • Courtney Rosekelly, Undergraduate
    • Sara Woika, Undergraduate
  • College of Engineering
    • Pradip Shahi Thakuri, Graduate
    • Aida Shahrokhian, Graduate
    • Madison Plaster, Undergraduate
    • Hariharan Rangarajan, Undergraduate
  • College of Health Professions
    • Megan Leas, Graduate
    • Eman Tadros, Graduate
    • Katie Allensworth, Undergraduate
    • Abby Perkins, Undergraduate

The EX[L] Center also awarded the Community Engagement Award to the top research submissions that had a great impact on the community. Those winners included:

  • Dipak Pukale, Graduate
  • Eman Tadros, Graduate
  • John Marke, Undergraduate
  • Rachel Stevens, Undergraduate

Along with providing an award for research submissions, the EX[L] Center played an important role in the symposium as the initial funding for the event came from it’s “Student Driven Initiative Award” competition, the press release said.


Students were not the only ones to receive recognition during the symposium, Williamson said.


Dr. Robert Peralta, as associate professor of sociology, won the “Outstanding Faculty Mentor” award and Stefanie Shatrich, an administrative assistant for sociology, won the “Outstanding Staff Member” award.


“The University of Akron is home to enterprising students looking for opportunities to learn and grow,” Peralta said. “I am proud of these students for identifying a need and taking the initiative to build something that all students can benefit from.”