At Elon University, the end of each school year is marked by Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF) presentations on what is affectionately referred to as SURF day. Unfortunately, many students treat SURF Day — and its accompanying cancellation of classes — as something meant to only benefit presenters, students who have spent anywhere from months to years doing research.
The chance to view the results of our fellow students’ research on SURF Day provides us with invaluable learning opportunities by allowing us to see applied knowledge that’s not limited by the walls of a classroom.
For those who choose to participate in it, SURF — and even undergraduate research as a whole — has indeterminable value. Research allows students to extend their learning experiences so they relate more directly to their personal interests. In many cases, it can even offer insight into possible career paths.
But the benefits of undergraduate research are nothing new. Students are exposed to the concept and benefit of research through new student orientation, classes and personal accounts. Students have a multitude of different reasons for pursuing undergraduate research, and SURF Day serves as an especially effective method of sharing their results.
But SURF Day also grants those who aren’t presenting a way to actually engage with the concept of research.
It bothers me that many students choose to view SURF Day as a “free day,” rather than a legitimate day to increase their learning. This reputation seems to largely stem from the cancellation of classes on SURF Day, supposedly to allow students to attend presentations. Unfortunately, many simply see the situation as another day off.
Non-presenters’ attitudes demonstrate a lack of respect toward students who have devoted so much of their time applying themselves to their research. To approach these researchers’ hard work with such apparent apathy only diminishes the value of their efforts and can even make anyone who might be considering research in the future apprehensive to explore it further.
We may know the prescribed benefits of research — and those are undoubtedly important — but research can also be personally gratifying if it is recognized and acknowledged by one’s peers. Considering the range of disciplines and topics presented on, it is more than likely that there are SURF presentations of at least some interest to every Elon student. There are very few excuses that justify not supporting our fellow students as they display their work.
This year’s SURF Day was yesterday, Tuesday, April 28. Consider how you spent it. Did you attend any presentation sessions, wish any presenters luck or contribute at all the day’s events? Or did you sleep in late because classes were canceled?
It should be our collective goal as Elon students to bring out the best in each other. To do this, we must each make a decision on what we want our role to be. By giving SURF presenters our attention, even for 20 minutes, we can show that the time and effort they put into their research was hardly spent for nothing, and that their decision to take learning into their own hands was worth it all along.