2021 Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference to be Held Virtually

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AMHERST, Mass. – The 2021 Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference (MassURC) will be held as a virtual event on Friday, April 23. MassURC serves as an opportunity for undergraduate students from public colleges, universities and community colleges across the Commonwealth to showcase their research and engage with peers, faculty and conference attendees. The 2021 MassURC will feature the research of 910 undergraduate students representing 26 of the public higher education institutions in Massachusetts.

Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the administrative arm of MassURC and a co-sponsor of the conference, along with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the Massachusetts State University Council of Presidents and Massachusetts Community Colleges.

The day-long conference will provide pre-recorded and live programming. All students will have pre-recorded research presentations available for viewing on the MassURC app beginning on April 20 through May 8. Many of the MassURC presenters will participate in live discussions about their work during “Research in Conversation” sessions on the day of the conference. These sessions are open to all conference attendees and will allow student presenters with similarities within their own individual research to collaborate, share knowledge and network with other students and faculty.

H. Zahra Caldwell, associate professor in the ethnic and gender studies department at Westfield State University, has been selected as the 2021 MassURC keynote speaker. The keynote, “Research & Wonder, The Terrible, The Historical, and The Joyous,” will explore Caldwell's own cultural history research and wonder surrounding a lineage of Black, women activist artists and the often terrible historical and modern backdrops within which they created and existed as artists and citizens. She will highlight this history and culture, as well as traditional and non-traditional sources and research methods.

"One of the most important student experiences is undergraduate research, because of the significant contributions created by students’ ongoing possession of wonder," says Caldwell. In her keynote, she will outline how her own undergraduate research informed her current scholarly research. She will also discuss the ways in which her published work on artists, such as jazz and classical musician Hazel Scott, cartoonist Jackie Ormes and modern musical artists Beyonce and Solange was aided by undergraduate student research in her courses.

Caldwell is an educator and cultural historian who teaches in the fields of history, Black studies and women’s studies. Her professional and academic work is focused on unpacking and expanding the definition of resistance as discussed within the long struggle for African American freedom, particularly as it relates to African American women’s history, media studies and 20th-century Black politics and radicalism. She has published work on Black cultural luminaries such as jazz pianist Hazel Scott, Prince and Beyonce. Her current book project looks at the contributions and challenges of Black women activist artists from 1930 to 1960. Samples of Caldwell’s past work include 'I was Anti-Everything’: Cartoonist Jackie Ormes, Repression, and the Comics as a Site of Progressive Black Journalism and 'We’re in the Feminine Aspect Now': Women Artists, Prince, and Visions of Utopia.

The keynote presentation will be pre-recorded and available for viewing on April 20. On the day of the conference, Professor Caldwell will host a live Q&A. During this 45-minute session, student presenters and all conference attendees will hear Caldwell talk more about her work and have an opportunity to ask questions.

Another highlight of this year’s MassURC is a live panel discussion and Q&A session that will feature distinguished speakers who represent leadership from across the Massachusetts public higher education spectrum. The panelists include Laura Douglas, president, Bristol Community College; F. Javier Cevallos, president, Framingham State University; and Kumble R. Subbaswamy, chancellor, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The leaders will engage with student presenters in a 45-minute discussion and Q&A session and share the impact that undergraduate research and creative scholarship have had on their careers. The leadership panel Q&A will be moderated by an undergraduate student and open to pre-selected audience questions.

MassURC is poised to welcome over 1,300 faculty and students during the all-day event. The event app will serve as the portal to all day-of activity, pre-recorded content and engagement with student presenters, faculty and attendees. All event details are available on the Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference website, and all updates, including student researcher spotlights, can be seen by following MassURC on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.