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Student Showcase highlights UA's scholarly research

By Zach Colick
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 29, 2004
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Graduate and undergraduate students alike will put their scholarly research on display at the 12th annual Student Showcase today and tomorrow in front of the Main Library.

The Graduate and Professional Student Council organized the showcase as the academic portion of UA's Homecoming weekend because the event represents the only student-run research exhibition of its magnitude in the country, said Amanda Brobbel, president of GPSC.

"It's a great opportunity to put student research and different kinds of projects on display that the students think are interesting," said Brobbel, a doctoral student studying English.

More than 130 students will set up and present their visual displays, live demonstrations and PowerPoint presentations in front of the Main Library from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow.

The showcase, which was held on the Mall last year, will return to its traditional home in front of the Main Library for Homecoming Weekend to show its focus on academics and research, Brobbel said.

Students who are showcasing their work have done research in areas such as art, music, architecture, engineering, medical, biological, nursing and sociological studies.

"It's a really diverse research fair," Brobbel said.

Winners from each category will go to the state capital in February during UA Pride Night to showcase to legislators and regents what they are doing at the UA, Brobbel said.

Brobbel said the showcase unifies the students and groups who participate in the event because each participant understands all of the hard work and dedication that goes in to the projects.

Cary Beardsley, last year's showcase director and a judge for the event this year, said the showcase is a great opportunity for the UA and Tucson community to come out and see undergraduate and graduate students showcasing projects in their area of expertise.

Kristina Beckman-Brito, a first-place winner last year in the English as a Second Language category, said she enjoyed being part of an event with such diverse academic backgrounds.

Beckman-Brito, a doctoral student and a teacher in the ESL program, used student drawings for her project. She asked her ESL students to draw a visual representation of what they think they learn in class for her presentation last year.

She said she and other UA faculty attending the showcase came away with a better understanding of the difficulties international students were facing in the classroom through these drawings, which she said broke down the language and cultural barriers present until then.

Beckman-Brito said language and cultural barriers hinder faculty across UA from fully engaging with international students and knowing whether they fully understand what's being taught in the classroom.

"The project had a really broad appeal," Beckman-Brito said. "It made me think of ways to present this project not only in the ESL environment, but for a more broad audience."

Brobbel said the event receives a positive response from students, the Tucson community and alumni who visit for Homecoming.

For this year's Student Showcase, Brobbel said the GPSC expects 130 participants displaying about 80 exhibits.

Last year's showcase featured more than 70 presentations put on display by more than 100 participants.

Brobbel said the participants are usually a 50-50 mix of undergraduate and graduate students, but said she expects more graduate students this year. Undergraduate participation represented 40 percent of the showcase last year, she said.

There will be 52 judges, including local Tucson business owners, UA professors and students.

A $250 first-place prize and a $100 second-place prize are given out to the winners in each academic category.

A $500 president's prize is handed out to the overall winner who the judges believe showcased the best research presentation. A $250 community outreach award is given to the project that receives the best response from the crowd.

Brobbel said $30,000 is required to put on the event, which helps pay the wages for the director, renting the tent and giving the winning participants prize money for their presentations.

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