The Engagement Ring

UAlbany Inaugural Showcase

Episode Summary

University at Albany Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Carol H. Kim discusses UAlbany Showcase, a day-long expo highlighting undergraduate and graduate student research and the positive impact that research has on our communities -- local to global. On April 27th, 2023, Showcase will feature exhibits, performances and interactive demonstrations from students representing multiple disciplines across UAlbany's nine schools and colleges.

Episode Notes

Provost Carol Kim's bio:

Showcase home page:

University at Albany homepage:

Episode Transcription

Transcript of The Engagement Ring, Episode 9, Inaugural UAlbany Showcase, A Conversation with Provost Carol Kim 

[Lively, upbeat theme music plays as program host Mary Hunt introduces the program and plays excerpts from Provost Kim’s interview.]

MARY HUNT: Welcome to the engagement ring, your connection to an ever widening network of higher education professionals, scholars, and community partners, working to make the world a better place. I'm Mary Hunt. Today on the podcast...

CAROL KIM: More people need to know about all the great things that our students and faculty are doing here at UAlbany.

MARY HUNT: University at Albany provost and senior vice president for academic affairs Carol Kim shares her vision for the inaugural UAlbany Showcase. 

CAROL KIM: I want the community to think about UAlbany first when they have a question. When they have a problem to solve, they should be thinking about the university as a resource.

MARY HUNT: On April 27th, 2023, Showcase will highlight student excellence in research, scholarship, creative activity, and experiential learning. Here's Provost Kim with more on the idea behind the day-long expo and what attendees can expect to see and experience at Showcase. 

(Program introduction ends and interview begins)

MARY HUNT: Welcome to the podcast, Provost Kim. 

CAROL KIM: Thank you, Mary. Pleasure to be here. 

(Music fades out)

MARY HUNT: Tell me what the inspiration for showcase is.

CAROL KIM: Well, I'll share a personal story of mine. So, as I was preparing to come here for my interview, actually for the provost position, I asked family, friends, colleagues what they knew about the SUNY system. What did they know about UAlbany? And what I heard consistently was, oh, let's see, Buffalo… they have great engineering. Stony Brook… they have a medical school. Binghamton… strong undergrad. UAlbany… Hmm, I don’t know. And that was consistent. Yet since I've been here, and now I’m starting my fourth year, every single week – I am not exaggerating -- every single week I hear about fantastic things that are extraordinary that faculty, our outstanding students are doing. So, you know, it's a visibility thing, right. So, more people need to know about all the great things that our students and faculty are doing here at UAlbany -- what we do in research, how we prepare our students. You know, we have a lot to be proud of and I want more people to know. I also had this kind of challenge in Maine as well and wanted to also increase the visibility and have people understand on campus and in the community what we do and so we did a similar showcase at UMaine as well.

MARY HUNT: You held a similar position at UMaine. What was your role at UMaine? 

CAROL KIM: I was the vice president for research at that point. And so, what I was working with, you know, the people I was working with, there was an undergraduate expo and there was a graduate expo. And so, as I moved into that position of VPR, I asked could we combine them and let's do it up big. And so that's what we did. And essentially that was the foundation for developing this showcase in Maine, and so I wanted to do the same thing here at UAlbany.

MARY HUNT: And it's interesting. It's not only a point of pride for those of us here at the university. It's a point of pride for all of those in the surrounding communities in the state that support the work of the university or partner with us.

CAROL KIM: Yes, definitely. So, the showcase is for an internal audience, right, so it's for our faculty, our staff, our students. They're going to be blown away by what the students are doing. And, of course, the students don't do this in a vacuum. This is really showing off also the faculty's work because the faculty are mentoring the students in all areas. Whether that's the arts and humanities, STEM areas, social sciences, the work that the students are going to be displaying or presenting, that's all in collaboration with faculty. And so, this is a way to know more about our campus, the points of pride about our campus. The other thing is, you know, I run into alumni all the time, whether I'm on the road or alumni are coming here because their children are now just starting here at UAlbany. And consistently their comments are like, “Wow, I had no idea that UAlbany is doing all these things. When I was a student, we didn't have these things.” And it's true. If you think about our campus five years ago, it's really changed a lot. So to make sure that our campus community, our alums are more informed about what we're doing now, what we're able to do. Then for the external audience there’s definitely a visibility piece to this, why we're doing this. We want more people to know what we do. I want the community to think about UAlbany first when they have a question, when they have, a problem to solve – oh, UAlbany does everything. UAlbany can help us with this. They should be thinking about the university as a resource for all things. We can help them. And so, that's part of the showcase as well, to really highlight for the community what we can do for them. This is for elected officials. This is for community members, community leaders. Come to UAlbany because we can help you. 

MARY HUNT: Let's talk a little bit about the design of the showcase. Whose work will be featured? Will the work be across disciplines or are there just particular areas of academics that will be featured?

CAROL KIM: That's a great question. So, students, and when I say students are going to be presenting, that's undergraduate as well as graduate. So, when I think about the undergraduate and who would be able to present in that population, it's really probably the juniors and seniors. They'll have worked more closely with, you know, been in a laboratory or helped a faculty member with their textual based research. They would be more, you know, advanced in their undergraduate careers to do this kind of research and present. One thing to mention too is this is a great opportunity for students to learn presentation skills as well, whether that's in poster form or an oral presentation or leading a discussion, being a part of a panel.  Depends on the discipline, what they want to and how they want to present. But, you know, unless a student, and usually it's graduate students who do this, travel to go to a national meeting, they don't have that opportunity to hear from a large audience, share their work, but also get feedback too. And so, this is a wonderful opportunity for our undergraduates as well as our graduate students. It's an opportunity for our first years and sophomores to see, wow, this is what I can be doing in my junior and senior years. I want to try to work with this faculty member or work in this area. This is really cool. It also allows the students who are undergrads to view the graduate students’ work. Wow, this is what I could do. As a graduate student, I could have a project all on my own. Work on this really cool subject, do this kind of art, do this kind of work, whatever it is, develop a paper on a policy. Lots of different areas and all the areas are going to be represented. So again, whether it's arts and humanities, you know, we're going to have an art exhibition of students in the museum. We're going to have poetry readings or, readings of creative works from our students, displays, theater sets displayed, music from the students, compositions, STEM areas in probably poster form or oral presentation. And then,   you know, many times in education, they want more roundtable discussions. They could lead discussions. It's whatever the discipline really… you know what they need and want for their form of presentation. So all of those disciplines will be represented, but also the different kinds of presentation will also be on display.

MARY HUNT: I think it's interesting too that you mentioned that the university has changed as well -- the footprint of the university facilities. So for internal audiences, as well as people from the community who may not be familiar with the university, it's an opportunity to see the various venues because this will take place, I understand, on the uptown campus and in ETEC as well. Is that correct? 

CAROL KIM: Yes. And so this is our inaugural showcase. And so to start with our uptown campus and with ETEC so it's really in one general area. So year after year, when people kind of understand what we're trying to do and what we're trying to present and look forward to showcase coming up. And one other group that I failed to mention are students, right? And when I say students, I mean middle school, high school. We're hoping that, in April there'll be time for middle schools and high schools… that they may be able to take a little bit of time and spend the day with us to learn what UAlbany does, get excited about maybe applying to UAlbany. It's a great opportunity for the students to explore, talk to other students, see what it's like on the academic side, but also student life. What is it like here? Well, we want to have athletics involved in this. So the marching band is going to be playing and giving demonstrations. So, it's all aspects of the community, our campus community. We are locating it more on the uptown campus for the first year. And then as the popularity of this event -- and it will grow, this is what happened in Maine -- then we can also potentially add the other campuses to the event so that we could provide some transportation, some buses that are just moving across our three campuses, so that, students, community members know all of our campuses, not just the uptown campus.

MARY HUNT: I think too there's a benefit to students at UAlbany for seeing outside their own discipline because it sounds like you're going to encourage students from throughout the university to participate in this day even if they're not presenting.

CAROL KIM: Oh yes. We want them to attend.

MARY HUNT: I think we often stay in our lane. We may not look outside our own discipline. So this is an opportunity for them to really get exposure to a lot of the offerings at UAlbany. 

CAROL KIM: Most definitely. So, I myself am a microbiologist, molecular virologist, but as an undergrad, I double majored in biochemistry and in philosophy. 

MARY HUNT: Interesting combination.

(Both laugh) 

CAROL KIM: I started out with biochemistry and then added the philosophy and that was gen ed requirements, right. So, what's going to fit in my schedule? And okay, this one fits, and I loved it. I loved it. I took the class early enough in my career that I could build another major. This is an opportunity for students to explore. You're absolutely right. Wow, didn't know that's what climate science is. Didn't know that that's what they did at Rockefeller, that they have the opportunity to do internships at the state house because the state house is right here in Albany. Wow. The opportunities that we have for our students, just because of location. And also the quality, the excellent programs that we have in our Rockefeller College, right. So, didn't know that. (Opportunties) for students to explore, they may be in a science area. They may be in arts and humanities, but wow, that’s really cool. And again, to support their fellow students, you know what they're doing. 

MARY HUNT: You talked a little bit about some of the things that people could expect to see.  I think you mentioned discussions, posters. Will there be demonstrations? Will there be… I know we have a great video gaming program here. Might there be something in that way? 


MARY HUNT: Atmospherics, the new ETEC building has sensational displays. I know there's a sphere room that is always the most popular spot on the tour. 

CAROL KIM: Yeah. So, it’s not just… people may think that it's really for the sciences only.But no. It's all disciplines. So whether you're really into science like I am, or if you are super into art and music, all of those, it will appeal to you because we'll have all areas of the university represented.

MARY HUNT: And what people may not realize is that UAlbany has been one of the leading research universities in terms of its designation. It's designated as an “R1” university. Can you explain what that means? 

CAROL KIM: Yes. So, R1 or a research one university… we are in an elite group of research universities. So that means that… so, there are 146 Research 1 universities, a major research university that's conducting high level research, and this involves graduate students in this research and undergrads. It is not only research in STEM areas, but also in the arts and humanities -- the scholarship, the creative works -- and also the social sciences. When you're designated in R1, you have to have the disciplines represented, across a number of disciplines. So, there there's a very complicated formula that gets you to the R1. Some of it is based on what your total expenditures are. So, what are the research grants? What does it look like? Are you bringing in lots of money from federal grants? Do you have an array of disciplines that have doctoral programs? Do you have post docs? All of those go into a big calculation to figure out if you're going to be designated as an R1 university. In our case, it's because of our high level research, the graduate students in a number of disciplines, including the social sciences and the arts and humanities that give us our strength as an R1.

MARY HUNT: And those, those grants are highly competitive. So if you received those grants, you have really achieved a certain benchmark. 

CAROL KIM: Yeah. Most federal grants are now in the low double digits, you know, like 10, 12% success or single digits. So, it's very competitive and our faculty do very, very well.

MARY HUNT: What would you suggest people going through Showcase -- attendees -- look for? Whether they're community members or legislators who are here, potential partners. Is there anything as a researcher yourself, someone who's an expert… it's like going to an art museum. If you're not an artist, sometimes you're a little intimidated. You don't know what you're looking for. You don't know how to judge a project and tell if it’s good, if it’s high caliber. What insights would you have for somebody who's kind of uninitiated when they come, and they look at a variety of research projects? 

CAROL KIM: That's a great question. So, we will have an app that can be downloaded on your phone, that gives you the full menu of what is available. And so, if you have the time to look at the schedule and you can build your own schedule from that, that's greatand so if you have a better idea of really what you want see, it’s a good idea to go through the app. If you are one of the uninitiated, then just to come and browse. We’re going to have a number of venues you just walk around and then go back to the areas that really interest you. As an example, students are going to be presenting their work through oral presentations, but also posters and say it's more of a… you have lots of questions. You can go to a poster. Ask the student questions. You know, where is this research being conducted? Where on campus? What inspired you? What do you find the most interesting about this research? Those kinds of questions are good questions and you can ask the students.

MARY HUNT: Is there a difference between undergraduate and graduate research in terms of their approaches or their level? I guess obviously their understanding. They're more mature as a graduate student and have had an opportunity to learn more about their discipline, but how are they different? 

CAROL KIM: So, you know, I can tell you from my experience, you know, having my own lab and having a lot of students in my lab as well. Undergraduates, we are asking them to work. Like for me, I had them teamed with a graduate student and they would work on a project together, usually toward the graduate student’s masters or doctoral work. It's usually a little bit more simplified or one aspect of a larger project. And it depends on how advanced the student is. As a junior or even a sophomore starting out, they may do simple steps in part of a big, big project or reviewing data and doing some statistical analysis or just organizing data to help a graduate student progress. So that's the difference. As a graduate student, you're really going more in depth. A master’s student will usually have a project that is kind of given to them. A doctoral student will probably have to develop their research project, you know, what question do they want to answer. And it takes a while to get there. But through their research, you know, hit and miss, you know, what's working, what's not working, this seems like a good avenue to pursue. And that's what a doctoral student would kind of develop. So it's more in depth. It's more open-ended as a doctoral student. So, it's kind of building towards that. The undergraduates -- smaller pieces, a little less in depth, and then as you go to masters and doctoral it gets deeper and deeper and more encompassing and more complex.

MARY HUNT: Faculty really depend on many of these students to help further their work. There really is a close relationship and they put a lot of responsibility onto the students. So this is not just do this project to complete this course. This is very meaningful work that contributes to a body of knowledge. 

CAROL KIM: Yes, especially in the STEM areas. That's the way STEM areas kind of work with their research. All types of experiential learning experiences though, and what we are going to be highlighting at the showcase, these are value-added experiences for the students. So for a student who has done real research, whether that's textual-based research or that's lab-based research, that's an added to classroom learning. The student is going to be more competitive for a job in their area, for graduate school, for professional school. It really helps them. And how does it do that? You're learning responsibility. So for my students, it was coming to lab on time. You know, if you're supposed to be here, we expect you to be here. If you can't make it, just let us know. But you know, just not showing up is, is not okay. And this is also to teach students that's what you're going to be expected to do when you have a job. You know, if you get a lab job, you better show up when you're supposed to be showing up and you have to do the work and that kind of responsibility and working as a team because when you are working as an engineer, or when you're working in a biolab, you're working in a communal space and, and how to do that. It's also, we know from national research, from international research, that these kinds of experiences also help with retention and persistence. Students feel more connected. They will stay and finish their degree and that's really important for our students, but that's what we want the students to have, this kind of support so that they can finish and be successful.

MARY HUNT: It sounds like an important audience or an audience that might want to consider coming is business and industry in the area because there could be potential employees here    that you want to take a look at. And there are some opportunities here, on both sides, for students and potential employers, or prospective employers, I should say.

CAROL KIM: Right. Well, and so just as an example, Global Foundries, so we have a relationship with them. I've done a couple of tours of their facilities too, but most people think of Global Foundries as chips. And so, yes, that definitely is their bread and butter, but as a company, they need people in HR. They need people in business, in their business office. So, it's all different areas. You know, they would be interested in talking to the students who are graduating from business, undergraduate business degree, finance degree, not just engineering or computer science or maybe math, and the STEM areas, but in all areas. They need people who can communicate well, and in their communications office, both written and oral communication. That's very, very important. So yes, having the industry there and we're trying to make connections with them. We want them to come and see what we're doing, what the students are learning, the kind of research that we conduct on campus. That's really important. Again, for visibility and also an education on what we do.

MARY HUNT: Do you feel a special responsibility as a public research university to be showing the research of your students or encouraging your students to do meaningful, important   research that's going to benefit their communities?


MARY HUNT: Is that different somehow at a public university?

CAROL KIM: So, I think most universities want to do this, but as a public research university, I think that's part of our mission and the goals that we have set for our campus. It's really, really important. In the Capital Region, really UAlbany is the public research university. There are excellent, some private, entities in the Capital Region. Really, really good. But we are the public research university. And so what does that mean? We should be a resource for the community. We should be able to help the community through our research and also partner with the community for our research. So, that's part of our mission. That's part of our strategic plan actually is community engagement. And we conduct community engaged research as well. And what that means is it's not just using the community as our test subject, but also having full partners with our community as we develop research projects and projects to solve a problem. So, we do that in partnership -- full partnership -- with the community. And that's really important. And students really love that, that they are in a community to help the community and work with the community. That's very meaningful for them. 

MARY HUNT: Are there examples of community research that folks may see when they come through? Are there particular disciplines perhaps that lend themselves more toward that kind of research?

CAROL KIM: So, I would've said, pre-pandemic, maybe the first that would have come to mind would be in the social sciences, the arts and humanities. And I would've probably not put at the forefront the STEM areas, but you know, in COVID, we had a lot of community interaction and community engagement through our research in the School of Public Health, our RNA Institute, our College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, our College of Engineering. They were building face shields. They were developing a saliva test to help the community help our campus. So our faculty in the School of Public Health were working with our state department of health to try to figure out what we needed to do, what were the next best steps for our state. We partnered with them, and they needed our help, and we were more than willing to give that help. But those are just some examples. I mean, I think first you think of, well, social welfare, the social workers. That's an easy one, you know, oh yeah. But it was all the support that all the colleges across our campus were providing for the community. 

MARY HUNT: It's funny too when you mention that, a couple examples come to my mind too. I think of the work that our College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity has done -- the students who have actually been deployed to help in recovery efforts or rebuilding areas and the research they're doing, or students from our College of Engineering and Applied Sciences who received awards because of the innovations that they   created for people with disabilities that made their daily activities easier. So, all of these kinds of things will be hopefully on display…

CAROL KIM: Oh, yes!

MARY HUNT: … and we can ask lots of questions of the students. Is there a role for community members, business leaders, attendees to play, do you think? Do you see a way that they'll be able to be involved in any of these activities?

CAROL KIM: So, what we'd love is for our elected officials to come, both at the state and local level, our alumni, community leaders, business leaders to come to see what we have to offer, to think about collaborations that we can have based on the research work that we're doing.    , But also it would be great to have these leaders of the community be available to interact with our students. They are leaders and role models for our students. I would love them to be here, not only to see what we have to offer, but also to serve as that role model piece for our students. We want them to have an active role being judges, distributing the awards to people.    Yeah, it would be great to have that kind of interaction. 

MARY HUNT: And you need that when you're young and you're learning. You need to know somebody wants to hear what you have to say and that you're making a contribution. That encouragement goes a long way…

CAROL KIM: Oh, definitely. 

MARY HUNT: … toward the next step in your development


MARY HUNT: What are you most looking forward to on that day? I know there are a lot of moving pieces so you'll probably be glad that it's finally here, and you'll be looking forward to the evening when you can rest, but what is it about that day that you think you're going to enjoy the most? 

(Theme music begins to play under the interview)

CAROL KIM: Just feeling the excitement. So, the excitement, the anticipation, you know, the students are a little nervous. They're going to be presenting. People are going to ask them questions. But when they are finished with their part of the showcase, they're excited, they've accomplished something. People have gotten to see their art. They've heard their music. They’ve had a chance to view their creative work. They ask questions and challenge them about their research, and the students get very excited about that. So, I'm looking forward to just that level of excitement. I'm looking forward to seeing the community there and being just in awe of what we do here at U Albany.

MARY HUNT: Well, it’s going to be here soon -- April 27th, 2023. Everybody should mark their calendar. I will be there, and I will be excited, and I wish you much success with the first showcase and many more to come. Provost Kim, thanks for being my guest today. 

CAROL KIM: My pleasure. Thanks. 

MARY HUNT: Dr. Carol Kim is provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the university at Albany. She tweets at Carol Kim UAlbany. If you'd like more information on UAlbany Showcase, visit Albany dot edu forward slash UAlbany hyphen showcase. The Engagement Ring is produced by the University at Albany's Office for Public Engagement. If you have questions or comments or want to share an idea for an upcoming podcast, email us at UAlbany OPE at Albany dot edu. 

[Music fades out. Program ends.)