Funding Student Creativity Outside the Classroom

erin-laughlinBY ERIN LAUGHLIN
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong

Crab hormonal research, psychology, Tlingit place names, plastic waste, and audio production took center stage at the URECA Student Symposium during the 2017 Art Meets Science Week at UAS.

The Undergraduate Research, Experiential & Creative Activities (URECA) program at UAS provides opportunities for UAS-enrolled students to engage in research and creative activities that complement and expand upon traditional classroom learning, according to their UAS webpage.

14 students presented a mix of final results and ongoing progress updates of extra-curricular research projects at the URECA Student Symposium on Apr 5.

Grant Proposal Coordinator and URECA Organizer Kelly Jensen said “The program has provided unique opportunities for students and faculty to pursue scholarly work outside of the classroom setting and with a different set of requirements, as one more element toward advancing the UAS mission of student learning.”

“The competitive proposal submission process, the reporting requirements (including Symposium participation), and the feedback from peers and mentors in a collegial environment provides students with essential decision-making and interpersonal skills they’ll use throughout their academic careers,” Jensen said.

The URECA program sponsored almost $18,000 of student work in 2017.

Funding for the program comes from multiple channels outlined by URECA Organizer and UAS Assistant Professor of Forest Ecology Brian Buma.

“The actual dollars may come from UAS, or they may come from a variety of private donors which have provided money in support of student work in specific areas.  Other students are working with faculty who have specific grants to do research, and some may not be funded but rather working as part of an independent study for credit.”

The program is not just for URECA funded scholars. The annual symposium is inclusive to presentations from a variety of student projects, including independent work.

Holly Kelcher is an example of a UAS student who presented independent work in the 2017 Student Symposium.

Kelcher presented research of plastic waste in Alaskan waters over a span of four months, where she organized beach clean ups and public discussions.

Kelcher’s presentation displayed why URECA is important for UAS students according to Buma.

“URECA is an amazing opportunity for students to pursue their passion in an independent way, and really gives them an experience that you can’t always get at other universities. They learn how to prepare and budget a proposal, follow through, manage money, and see a project from inception to completion,” Buma said.

Kelcher said “The biggest takeaway from the program is that UAS has amazing opportunities for students that aren’t hard to apply for, you just need to know about them. They fund such a wide array of creativity, but often students don’t know their creative idea can be funded.”

Kelcher said one of the best qualities of the URECA program is its roots in UAS.

“It’s UAS specific! So students aren’t competing with others from different areas, just those from UAS.”

For more information about student URECA projects, visit http://www.uas.alaska.edu/research/students/, or e-mail Kelly Jensen at kmjensen@alaska.edu.

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