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Seaver College Hosts Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement Symposium

Students presenting

On Friday, March 22, 2024, Seaver College hosted its annual Research and Scholarly Achievement Symposium, where more than 150 students presented 124 interdisciplinary projects ranging from the hard sciences to the fine arts. The half-day undergraduate conference featured poster presentations, oral reports, musical and dance performances, and a series of art exhibitions, all created by students studying at Pepperdine University.

Students admire art

“The symposium is the perfect example of how, at Pepperdine, research and teaching go hand in hand,” says Lila Carlsen, Pepperdine University’s vice provost. “You can clearly see in the symposium that the scholarly and artistic community at Seaver College is truly thriving.”

The Research and Scholarly Achievement Symposium highlights the college’s commitment to active learning and the liberal arts. Each presentation, whether academic or creative, illustrates that instruction on Pepperdine’s campus extends beyond the classroom and involves interactive, experiential elements. 

“Being able to share my hard work and talk about something I think is important is a great opportunity to have,” says Olivia Baker, a senior majoring in political science. Baker, a social science honors student and co-president of the Black Student Association, gave an oral presentation of her research project, “Black Voting Patterns: Do Voters Vote for Black Women?” at the symposium. 

“This program has allowed me to gain experience and figure out research as an undergraduate,” she says. “I ultimately want to get a PhD in political science, and it has paved a great path forward.``

By allowing students to participate in all facets of the research process—development, experimentation, reporting, and presenting—Seaver College helps undergraduates discover newfound passions and potential vocations. Faculty members advise and mentor students throughout the extensive undertaking, guiding them in exploring the full depth of their interests.

Connor McGaha, a Seaver College senior who presented a poster on amphibian life in the Santa Monica Mountains with his peer Kinkade Mcmurray, explained how this process started for the duo, saying, “Kinkade and I both worked this past summer in Dr. Kats’ lab. The United States Geographical Survey recruited us to explore the streams in the surrounding area and assess their biodiversity.”

Connor McGaha, Kinkade Mcmurray

Researching alongside Lee Kats, the Frank R. Seaver Chair of Natural Science and interim dean of Seaver College, the two undergraduates investigated how anthropogenic climate change affects amphibian wildlife—specifically, how two types of large tree frogs react to UV-B light. Immersed in the collaborative process, McGaha and Mcmurray discovered a shared passion for the research.

“We had the opportunity to go out and walk through the Santa Monica Mountain streams, which is what we would be doing with our free time anyway.” Mcmurray says. “The fact that it amounted to something more and increased the knowledge about a topic that is important all across the world is really special.”

Seaver College supports undergraduate students participating in and contributing to the highest level of academic research. This commitment is illustrated by the fact that, during the 2022–2023 school year, Seaver students contributed 23 percent of the peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and books published by faculty members. The Research and Scholarly Achievement Symposium further demonstrates the University’s dedication to student scholarship.