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Scholarship Symposium highlights student research projects

David Foster, a senior engineering major, discusses his engineering research project at the Scholarship Symposium. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)
David Foster, a senior engineering major, discusses his engineering research project at the Scholarship Symposium. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)

JACKSON, Tenn.May 4, 2005 – Adrienne Briles suspected that the concept of “covenant marriage” – a type of marriage now available in three states that makes it harder to get a divorce -- was more popular among young people than its opponents portrayed it.

So the senior political science major at Union University set out to prove it. She interviewed 100 college students – 50 at Union and 50 at the University of Memphis – and offered her conclusions May 2.

Briles was just one of more than 100 Union students from 20 different academic disciplines who presented research projects May 2 at the university’s second annual Scholarship Symposium.

The event concluded with a reception for faculty and student presenters and a keynote address from Stephen Garber, an author and faculty member of the American Studies Program of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

Briles concluded that political party identification, gender, race and religious background play no role in a person’s opinions about covenant marriage. Of the 100 people she surveyed, 89 said they would support the government providing the option of covenant marriage.

“Broad popular support exists across the board,” Briles said.

The university’s Undergraduate Research Program sponsors the annual Scholarship Symposium. Math professor Matt Lunsford, who coordinates the program, said presentations are open to undergraduate and graduate students who have “completed a collaborative, innovative scholarly project during the current academic year.”

The program’s goal is to provide students with the opportunity to work with a faculty mentor on a research project. More than 30 faculty members participated with students in this year’s symposium.

“The Scholarship Symposium is an incredible opportunity for Union undergraduates to work with faculty members on significant research projects,” Union University President David S. Dockery said. “The privilege for students to participate in this level of serious exploration and research is usually reserved for graduate study. The entire project is an affirmation of the quality of Union students and the serious investment that Union faculty members provide for these students.”

Research projects covered such topics as youth incarcerated in adult prisons, Crohn’s Disease, water and soil quality of Cypress Grove and Luray Lake, strategies for Hispanic marketing and communication processes, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s use of history in “The Scarlet Letter,” racism within the criminal justice system, data security and many others.

Lunsford called the program “a great success.” The afternoon was devoted to 11 concurrent sessions in which students presented papers, posters and portfolios showcasing their work.

“The afternoon is so full of presentations, I am hopeful that a full day can be given to the event next year,” Lunsford said.

Dockery said Union is one of only a few colleges and universities in the country to hold such a program for its students.

“It is a high water mark indeed for this university,” he said.

Funding for the establishment of the URP, and for the Scholarship Symposium, came from a $50,000 grant from a private foundation. The grant will also fund next year’s symposium.

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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