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Saturday, November 29, 2014

NM Shared Knowledge Conference aims to bring research to all UNM students

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Ambar Calvillo speaks on Creating Social Change through Mentoring at the TEDxABQ Talks in the SUB on Wednesday. This was a segment of the third annual New Mexico Shared Knowledge Conference, which ends today. The Graduate Resource Center planned the event to encourage more students to get involved in research-oriented work.

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This year’s New Mexico Shared Knowledge Conference is trying to prove that students with nonscience majors can still pursue their own research.

About 500 people from all over the state participated in the third such annual conference to hear about UNM students’ research in various fields.

Talal Saint-Lot, program coordinator for the Graduate Resource Center, said 243 UNM students presented their work during the three-day conference, which started Tuesday and will finish this afternoon. He said the center planned the event to encourage more students to get involved in research-oriented work.

“We know that UNM is a very high research institution but we don’t really know how much undergraduates have addressed research,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is let everybody know that everything is research, including creative work.”

Other University bodies, such as the Graduate and Professional Student Association, the Associated Students of UNM and El Centro de la Raza helped organize the event.

Saint-Lot said that because the GRC has a Title V grant from the U.S. Department of Education, it is required to organize conferences. He said they started planning the event in November.

Saint-Lot said the conference helps expose student work to organizations and companies outside UNM. He said the conference will also help improve student research by helping students get feedback from researchers in other fields.

“They’ll be exposed to similar concepts and ideas but probably in different terms,” he said. “In different fields, we have different vocabularies. Research is for everybody. Everybody does it, whether you know it or not.”

During the conference, students gave paper talks, presented at poster sessions and ran film showcases to present their work.

There was also a talk sponsored by TEDxABQ on Wednesday.

Four keynote speakers talked about interdisciplinary research in the TED-style talk on Wednesday. TED talks are events, sponsored by the nonprofit TED.com, in which speakers have up to 18 minutes to discuss a certain subject, the videos of which are then posted online. These included former Journalism and Women Symposium President Megan Kamerick, “Embracing the Educator” artist Denise Hinson, KUNM producer Don McIver and UNM graduate student Ambar Calvillo.

Calvillo, a masters student in educational leadership, said mentoring programs are a crucial aid to help students advance their research.

“The reason why I think there’s so much value in teaching each other is that it helps us to see the kind of support that we have in our life,” she said. “We need to encourage our students to ask their professors, talk to them and ask them to mentor you.”

Erin Watley, a doctoral candidate in the communication and journalism department, said that although she was not able to present her research during the conference, she still attended to benefit from its interdisciplinary atmosphere.

“A lot of times, graduate students are pretty much in their different silos,” she said. “I wanted to take advantage for a lot of students from a lot of subject areas to come together. I thought that was something that’s really cool.”

Watley said her department has been very helpful to her research, and she plans to present her work at next year’s conference. She said she encourages more professors and administrators to get student involved.

“A lot of people from different areas are doing similar things, but they don’t necessarily know it because they haven’t gone outside their department,” Watley said, “It is important to make your research relevant to people outside your field.”

Saint-Lot said the University would benefit from organizing more conferences such as this.

“Conferences like this are exactly the type of thing that needs to happen more often,” he said. “That way, we’ll have a lot more students involved.”