Traveling from our familiar town of Davis to the mountainous campus of Montana State University, UHP students represented UC Davis at the annual Western Regional Honors Council Conference.
One of the essential elements of the University Honors Program curriculum is research and exploration. Although students recognize their fourth year entails a signature work, many do not realize that “research” does not always mean lab coats and vials filled with chemicals (although sometimes it does!). A signature work lends itself to the integrated and interdisciplinary values of UHP; students come up with a projects that combine their personal interests and knowledge in order to contribute to their own field of study.
The Western Regional Honors Council Conference (WRHCC) is an annual gathering of honors students from colleges and universities across the western United States. Students from a wide range of disciplines have the opportunity to present their research and personal projects. This year the conference was hosted by Montana State University in Bozeman, a college town similar to Davis with its charming local businesses, but completely unfamiliar in climate. With snow in the forecast for the majority of the conference and the wild terrain of Yellowstone National Park only an hour away, UHP students Jenny Chen, Lindsey Popken, Matthew Self, Raven Barbera, and Sankalp Sinha were excited for the adventure!
The WRHCC Adventure
To start the conference off, students attended a tour of Yellowstone National Park with other presenters and conference attendees. Interacting with fellow honors students and faculty outside of a professional setting was a great opportunity to network and connect. Exploring the trails and hot springs, spotting the incredible wildlife, and experiencing the snowy weather truly cemented the distance the UHP students traveled in order to present their research.
Once the conference began, honors students and faculty presented their works in a variety of styles, such as participating in oral talks set in a panel format; these were a combination of different topics. One panel had presentations ranging from cryptocurrency to space exploration to forensic acoustics, while others performed spoken word poetry and musical exhibitions. Lastly, students presented their traditional poster presentations, encouraging mingling and one-on-one conversations among various majors.
At the conference, the scholarly community was expanded to honors programs all the way from Alaska to Southern California. Being involved with UHP at UC Davis provides students with a foundation of community; honors students share classes and academic goals while simultaneously bringing their own unique and varied experiences.
Although all honors students are required to present their signature work, most students are excited to share the information they have learned. Presenting research is the culmination of lots and lots of hours of hard work for any student who completes a signature work. No matter the study subject, all of the honors students who attended the WRHCC can relate to the frustration of a project component that won’t quite work, and the tiring nights spent reading and writing to complete a thesis.
How to Get Involved!
Participating in the WRHCC is an incredible opportunity that honors students should definitely consider! Although it may seem daunting to apply for a large, regional conference that is often hosted out-of-state, UHP has sent students to represent UC Davis for many years. Undergraduates who are excited about their research project should absolutely apply.
Additionally, there are many programs support students with the process of attending the conference. The UHP students who attended the 2019 WRHCC received the Undergraduate Research Conference Travel Grant. This award helps subsidize the costs of traveling, lodging, and registration, which can be a barrier for students.
"[Presenting] was very exciting! It made me realize that I have made great progress, which is important as preparing a thesis from scratch feels very overwhelming. [Attending WRHCC] was a tangible reward for all of the work I have put into this topic."
– Lindsey Popken, Anthropology '19
“Being a part of the honors community made me realize the scope of advanced research being pursued at the undergraduate level.”
– Sankalp Sinha, Genetics and Genomics ‘19
"Attending the conference with my fellow honors students was the most meaningful part of the conference; the bonds we formed together really made me feel as if I was a part of an amazing community that supports and uplifts each other in our endeavors."
– Jenny Chen, Cell Biology '19