A Student Scholars Day participant stands next to a poster explaining it to another person. A person in a white shirt looks on at right.

SSD at 25: Students discover passion for research

More than 13,700 Grand Valley students have gained valuable research and communication skills through their participation in Student Scholars Day since its inception in 1996.

SSS will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year on April 14, with virtual faculty-led sessions and plenary speakers. Recorded presentations by students will be available via Symposium from April 12-26. View event information and build a presentation schedule online at gvsu.edu/ours/ssd.

Susan Mendoza, director of undergraduate scholar engagement, said the diversity and complexity of SSD presentations, all done under guidance of faculty mentors, have grown over the past 25 years. 

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS) oversees SSD. In 1996, only students in STEM disciplines were eligible to participate in what was then Student Research Day. The event opened to all students in 1998 and participation grew from 100 to 300. A record 800 students participated in the 2019 event.

25th Anniversary of Student Scholars Day

"Student Scholars Day has served as a launching pad for students as many discover a love of research and follow that passion," Mendoza said. "SSD also offers a showcase to the amazing things GVSU faculty members do because they deeply care about student learning and student success." 

Neal Rogness, professor of statistics, was an original committee member in 1996 when the event was open only to students in STEM disciplines. Rogness said growing interest from students and faculty members outside what was then the Science and Mathematics Division made it a university-wide event.

Melissa Morison, associate professor of Classics, is a veteran SSD committee member. Morison said contributions from all disciplines creates a better event.

"It doesn't matter what discipline you are in — STEM or not — we all have something to learn from each other," Morison said. "The SSD Committee celebrates the contributions of all colleges and disciplines."

Sok Kean Khoo, associate professor of cell and molecular biology, listens to a SSD participant explain their research.
Sok Kean Khoo, associate professor of cell and molecular biology, listens to a SSD participant explain their research.
Image credit - University Communications
group of six people standing posing for photo
Third from left, Martin Burg, professor of biomedical sciences, stands with SSD participants.
Image credit - University Communications
At left is Jodee Hunt, professor of biology, with an SSD participant from 2019.
At left is Jodee Hunt, professor of biology, with an SSD participant from 2019.
Image credit - University Communications

In the Classics Department, Morison said research is embedded in the curriculum and faculty members encourage students to expand their knowledge and participate in SSD. "In the winter semester, I plan a trip to SSD in my syllabi and build assignments for the day around SSD, so that students can support classmates who are presenting and so they can imagine themselves participating in the future," Morison said.

Maria Sanchez-Rodriguez is a student ambassador for OURS. A senior who is majoring in psychology and behavioral neuroscience, Sanchez-Rodriguez encourages students to participate in SSD. She can speak from experience.

Sanchez-Rodriguez was a REACH Scholar who conducted research with Christine Smith, professor of psychology, in Smith's Social Influence Lab. The REACH Scholars program prepares students for graduate studies. "I have built more confidence in myself because of SSD and participating in summer research," Sanchez-Rodriguez said. "SSD is a great way to build your resume and practice presenting research in a community that is more low-pressure rather than being at a large conference. It also allows students to get real feedback from their peers."

group of people at SSD in front of poster
Image credit - University Communications
three people standing next to projection screen that reads Peer Education on Inclusion
Image credit - University Communications

Faculty members also gain a sense of accomplishment after mentoring a student through a research project. 

"It has always been very fulfilling for me to see the intense sense of pride and accomplishment throughout the day of the event on the faces of students I have mentored as they interacted with individuals from across the university," Rogness said. "SSD has been a wonderful vehicle for making the wider GVSU community more aware of the phenomenal faculty-mentored scholarly work accomplished by students, as well as making other students more aware of these great opportunities."


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