After nearly three years of preparation, the largest National Conference on Undergraduate Research kicked into action Thursday at Ithaca College. Though parking and getting around town presented a challenge to students at the college and NCUR participants, the event overall went off without a hitch.
More than 3,300 students presenters and faculty advisors from across the nation crowded onto campus this week as the college prepared to promote itself and local businesses readied to end the wintertime sales slump.
NCUR annually provides a forum for undergraduates to present their research in front of peers through oral presentations, posters, dance performances and an art exhibition.
Carol Henderson, chair of the college’s executive committee on NCUR and associate provost for academic policy and administration, said the conference was proceeding better than expected yesterday. She said she saw staff, students and volunteers come together to make the event work.
“In every regard it’s just been such a brilliant success,” she said. “There are a few hiccups here and there but I’ve been to a lot of large conferences in my professional life and I’ve never seen one just move as smoothly or be as friendly as this one.”
Henderson said 2,886 presenters pre-registered for the conference and 213 were from the college. She said the college was able to enter a large group because there was no cost to send students to another school. Last year the college sent 18 students to the University of Montana for NCUR.
The college restricted parking lots closest to the college to NCUR participants leaving students and faculty to park farther away and take a shuttle to Textor Hall. Many students at the college who had cars had prepared to stay to preserve their spaces, but lots were mostly free during the conference
Marian Brown, NCUR executive board member and special assistant to the provost, said the college over-prepared for parking. She said the college did not have a model to follow because of the there has never been an NCUR conference this large on a small campus.
“We didn’t know how many were coming and by what means, whether they were driving, whether they were coming in shuttles,” she said.
She said most visitors rode free shuttles from their hotels, took advantage of the TCAT bus service, which was free for NCUR participants, or used charter buses for which the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, an organization that represents downtown businesses, provided off-campus parking.
Brown said if the A&E center was complete with about 600 additional spaces, the college could have reduced the parking restrictions. She said, however, providing convenient, participant-only parking was important.
The college opened C-lot to the campus Friday morning, even though it was scheduled to be restricted all day for vendors attending a graduate school fair during the conference.
Matt Riis, marketing and events manager for the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, said the group worked closely with the college to ensure participants would head downtown. The alliance had an information desk at NCUR, and Riis said the organization helped direct attendees to eateries and nightlife venues.
“We’ve had a long winter so we were really excited, really glad that the college welcomed us to come up here and get involved,” he said. “[We] are really looking forward to the [economic] boost.”
Riis said the alliance helped the college organize “excursions” for conference participants that showcased area businesses including a wine tour, a movie at Cinemapolis and meals at local restaurants.
Some restaurants already stopped taking reservations because of the high volume of requests they’ve received this weekend, Riis said.
Many participants had positive impressions of this year’s NCUR by Friday. They said the hospitality and ability to view peer’s work were the high points of NCUR.
Prashant Gabani, a University of Pittsburg senior, said he the only thing that could have been better would have been more signs giving directions around campus. He said he enjoyed looking at other students’ research as a preparation for graduate school and was impressed by the hospitality and size of the campus.
“I had never heard of Ithaca College before the conference,” he said. I didn’t expect it to be really big, but once I arrived here, the campus was really, really big.”
Senior Heike Marie reasoned the same as Gabani after her resentation titled, Women’s Movements of Protest in Latin America, on Thursday. She said the presentation would benefit her as she continues her schooling as well as add a third conference, her first NCUR, to her résumé.
“I get to put another conference on my curriculum vitae,” she said. “But I’m looking forward to … relevant talks that open me up to a world of research that I haven’t been able to explore by myself.”
Brown said people were already asking her when the college would host another NCUR. She said there are no plans for one but it went so well that the possibility of a second conference exists.
“We are an attractive venue,” she said. “Ithaca might be right to host this again.”