InnovateUNO gives students the chance to share their scholarly work


Emma Seely, Managing Editor

On Nov 19-21, UNO will hold the annual research symposium, InnovateUNO. Taking place on the first and fourth floors of the library from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Nov 19 and 20 and 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Nov 21, this yearly event celebrates scholarship of all kinds at UNO, even offering prizes for top projects. Regardless of if students win awards though, this event gives them a chance to present their work to an eager audience, which is a skill that will come in handy in the future. 


“InnovateUNO gives [students] an opportunity to learn how to communicate more effectively the importance of what they’ve been doing in research, scholarly or creative activities,” says Dr. Matthew Tarr, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at UNO. “That’s a really important process. And oftentimes college doesn’t really give our students enough opportunity to do that. When it’s time to get a job, either interviewing for jobs or actually being an employee, if those skills are not strong enough it’s really hard for new graduates [to be] successful. It’s an opportunity for them to build those skills. And it’s also an opportunity for them to show other people what they’ve done and what they’ve achieved.”


This opportunity is valuable for students, who may not always have the chance to present their work, especially at a symposium located so conveniently on campus. It is also a great opportunity for the university, and the university community, to gather together and examine the work that fellow scholars are doing. 


“It’s hard to understand what achievement the university is having as a whole when everybody’s doing their own little thing,” says Tarr. “So by bringing all of the university community together, it gives us all a better vision and understanding of the impacts that we’re making across multiple different disciplines.”


One of InnovateUNO’s greatest strengths, as Tarr mentions, is also one of the things that sets this event apart from traditional research events: the wide range of disciplines are welcome to participate. Students of all academic disciplines at the university are welcome to present work in the form of a research poster, oral presentation or film, visual art or performance art. Prizes are given in each category and divided by undergraduate or graduate work. Undergraduate winners are then eligible to enter their research into a larger academic summit for the University of Louisiana system where UNO is housed. 


But it isn’t only students who are involved with InnovateUNO, although it does offer them several unique benefits. Students, both undergraduate and graduate, are eligible to participate with faculty, staff, alumni and community partners who are associated with UNO. By expanding the pool of event attendees, InnovateUNO offers participants even more valuable help for their future careers. 


“We have more outside people attending now,” says Tarr. “We have employers that are coming in, so it’s an excellent opportunity to meet potential employers for the future.”


Despite all the benefits of presenting research to a scholarly audience, many students may still find the symposium process intimidating. For them, InnovateUNO offers a perfect opportunity to face those fears in a low stakes, supportive environment. This may be even more valuable to them than any prize. 


“It’s really not a scary venue,” says Tarr. “There are lots of people there that are interested in the work the students have done, and just want to learn about it. I’ve never seen any kind of situation where somebody was asking questions that were in an aggressive way or in a way that was uncomfortable for the students and audience. Really it’s all about learning and knowing what everyone’s doing.”


Although registration is long passed for this year’s symposium, interested students are welcome to attend this years’ sessions, and the schedule can be found on the event’s web page. Hopefully, this will inspire them to participate next year, conquering some of their fears in the process. 


“[Presenting research] is an important life skill and career skill,” says Tarr. “And you might as well get used to the fear [of presenting] now rather than when you’re going to a job interview, or when you’re asked by your boss to make a presentation that’s going to determine whether you lose your job or maybe get a raise. The more times you do something, the easier it is. The earlier you start overcoming that fear, the more success you’re gonna have later in life.”