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‘Godmother’ of undergrad research honored at display opening

Story & Photos by Heidi Hansen

LOGAN—The new display in the lobby of USU’s Merrill-Cazier Library honors both the university’s “godmother” of undergraduate research and several of the Undergraduate Research Fellows themselves.

English Professor Joyce Kinkead, former Associate Vice President for Research, was the day’s guest of honor, receiving a permanent “spotlight” on the new “Undergraduate Research Spotlights” wall for her work in promoting and nurturing student work.

The new display showcases the importance of the undergraduate research program at USU with examples of some current student projects.

Students, alumni and faculty gathered in the main hallway of the library to support Kinkead, who stepped down from her research VP role after 11 years of service and mentoring countless student research projects.

Alumna Kristen Lillywhite, a 2011 English education graduate, fondly recalled Kinkead’s guidance on her project, for which she interviewed area English teachers on effective teaching strategies.

Honors Program Director Christie Fox introduced Kinkead. “When I came to USU I had heard of undergraduates and I had heard of research, but I had never put the two together,” she said. “Joyce put an end to that.”

For Kinkead, USU’s undergraduate research program, which started in 1975, is all about access for students. “It’s a piece of the central element that ties an undergraduate education together,” she said.

When she began getting more involved in research at the university in the late 1990s, she received some tough criticism that she might not be involved enough in research.

“After I got over being miffed that my English scholarship wasn’t considered research by some,” Kinkead said, “I rather saw the wisdom and began learning from other areas in the university.

“I discovered that we had islands of excellence at the university, not all students had the same access to research opportunities,” Kinkead said. “We started knitting together all of those islands so all students could have access, which was President [Glenn L.] Taggart’s dream when the program started.”

Kinkead went on to say that “many universities had given the responsibility of research to the students at the undergraduate level,” but she was sure in her conviction that “USU absolutely has not, faculty here are engaged with undergraduates on an independent basis.”

“As a first generation student myself, a farm kid, I’m so grateful,” Kinkead concluded, talking about Abraham Lincoln’s insightful fathering of land-grant institutions, which gave rural students access to university educations. Kinkead picked up the torch at USU, providing access to research for similar students generations later.

“This wall highlights some of the undergraduate research that has been going on,” said Sharece Cox, a staff assistant in the VP for Research Office, “which is really what Joyce is all about.”

Featured Undergraduate Research Fellows include: Courtney Buchanan (Animal Science), Robert Call (Physics), Erin Flemming (Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences), Justin Koeln (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), Dustin Nash (Health, Physical Education and Recreation), Karen Neilson (Mechanical Engineering), Kayla Woodring (Political Science and Journalism) and Carrie Young (Biology).