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Utah State University Undergraduate Research Fellow Erica Hawvermale has been selected to present her research at the 20th annual Posters on the Hill in Washington D.C.

Nearly 600 students apply for this opportunity, sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research; Hawvermale is one of 60 selected students.

The cultural anthropology student works in partnership with Family, Consumer and Human Development professor Travis Dorsch researching how extra-curricular activities in high school facilitate a sense of community among students, affecting overall mental and physical health.

Hawvermale said this research interest was influenced by her high school experience, which she says was positive due to the camaraderie and friendship she found participating in high school band.

She hopes her findings will send a message to D.C. legislators that “there is more to school than education.”

“…And there is more to education than STEM,” she said. “If teachers understand how sense of community is facilitated, then we might be able to improve students’ lives across the nation.”

Hawvermale was one of 50 USU and University of Utah students who presented research at the Utah State Capitol in January at the 2016 Research on Capitol Hill. She will represent USU in D.C. in April, sharing her findings and the importance of undergraduate research, speaking directly with members of Congress.

“Erica is an exceptional example of the development of professional skills and the generation of significant findings and answers to today’s most challenging questions that occurs in undergraduate research programs,” said, Associate Vice President for Research and Associate Dean of the School of Graduate Studies Scott Bates, who oversees the URF program. “I know she’ll represent Utah State University well in Washington D.C. this spring.”

Hawvermale came to USU as a pre-med biology major. It was her interest in research as a freshman that turned her attention to anthropology because the accompanying undergraduate research opportunities seemed “much more interesting.”

“Research helped me to realize the passion I had for working with people and understand what aspects of our surroundings influence us to be who we are,” she said.

Hawvermale identified the importance of undergraduate research as it “reinforces what students learn in the classroom.”

“I think for myself, I’ve learned more useful knowledge during my research projects than I have during class, because while classes focus on underlying principles and theories, research highlights the applied use of knowledge,” she said. “When I think about what employers look for in applicants — an ability to work in a team, analytical thought process, the ability to read and interpret data, interpersonal communication, dissemination of thoughts and ideas — these are all the skills I’ve learned in research.”

The Council on Undergraduate Research, or CUR, supports undergraduate research programs by advocating to state legislators, private foundations, government agencies and the U.S. Congress. CUR also supports faculty development in the areas of sustaining undergraduate research programs, proposal writing and beginning a research program. For more information, visit www.cur.org.

Manda Perkins — Project Management and Communications: manda.perkins@usu.edu