Student Research Symposium: 100+ students from 16 majors present original scholarship

The SUNY New Paltz Student Research Symposium marked its 25th anniversary on Friday, May 3, as undergraduate students gathered with friends and faculty mentors to share outcomes of a variety of experiential learning experiences.

The Symposium is an annual showcase of original scholarship conducted across the disciplines at New Paltz. This year’s edition saw a total of 68 presentations by 110 students in 16 majors.

“Creative activity and student research add a unique opportunity for education that allows our students to achieve scholarly work that goes beyond what they do in the classroom,” said Provost Lorin Basden Arnold. “The value of this work is not for you alone. You have become part of the scholarly pursuit in your field of study and have contributed to our knowledge about some phenomenon in the world.”

A major focus of the College’s Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities (RSCA) program, which supports undergraduate research and organizes the Symposium each year, is to help students make the transition from absorbing established information, to going out and finding answers to new questions.

Alec Goldstein ’19 (Psychology) said he got the idea for his study when he learned about evolutionary psychologist David Buss’s research into the relationship between biological sex and reaction to partner infidelity.

That original work focused on heterosexual relationships, so Goldstein worked with the LGBTQ Center in Kingston, New York, to create a survey that would enable him to update the research to factor respondents’ sexual orientations.

“It was an amazing learning experience to have the opportunity to question something that the field considers foundational,” Goldstein said. “I actually got to present this research to David Buss himself, and he received it warmly. It made me realize I’m lucky to be in a field where we are not just allowed, but encouraged, to question knowledge that is considered foundational.”

RSCA is a unique resource on the SUNY New Paltz campus, which helps students obtain funding and collaborate with faculty members on undergraduate research projects that help them develop as scholars and academics.

This year’s Symposium included projects mentored by 33 faculty members representing 13 academic departments.

“The willingness and enthusiasm shown by our mentors, many of whom do this year after year, really speaks to their dedication to students and their education,” Provost Arnold said.

Each year the RSCA Advisory Board recognizes one exceptional faculty mentor with an award honoring their devotion to the often time-intensive work of guiding one or more students in an open-ended project. This year’s Faculty Mentor Award went to Judith Halasz, associate professor of sociology.

“I do this because I enjoy it, and because it adds to my sense of professional identity,” Halasz said. “It gives me a chance to see students grow, and I see it as a stepping stone into their futures.”

The 2019 Student Research Symposium was presented thanks in part to the stewardship of RSCA Director Kate McCoy, who also serves as associate professor of educational studies and leadership.

Visit the Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity program online to learn more about undergraduate research opportunities at SUNY New Paltz.