MURFREESBORO, Tenn.(TN Tribune) — MTSU senior Miquellie Bonner will graduate this May with many accolades to her name: a Buchanan Fellow as a recipient of the university’s most prestigious scholarship; the top award for her chemistry research; and a job at one of the country’s largest labs to name a few.
This semester she added one more — becoming the first student ambassador on the Scholars Week committee tasked with organizing the university-wide culminating event, the 16th annual student research and creative activity exposition.
Set for 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, March 25, in the Student Union Building ballroom, the event will feature a combination of undergraduate and graduate research presentations and student-created musical and theatrical performances.
“This (ambassador) position appealed to me because it could let me give to students … preparation and familiarity with the research presentation process,” said Bonner, a forensic science major. “I was also in a lot of clubs and classes that introduced me to project opportunities. I realize that not everyone has those privileges, so I wanted to work with the committee to spread the word on an event that could give students those privileges.”
Bonner’s role also involved spreading the word about the event across campus through collaboration with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, the Student Organization for the Advancement of Research, or SOAR, and professors to guest speak in classes.
“I have truly enjoyed the questions from students as I make my announcements in classes,” she said. “I was not sure how guest speaking would go at first, but I have been impressed by the student feedback.”
The Friday event serves as the grand finale to a week full of keynote talks, subject-specific research poster presentations and more put on by MTSU’s many colleges.
Though the Mt. Juliet, Tennessee-native had no previous research experience in high school, Bonner got involved in research at MTSU immediately and presented her first chemistry research project as a sophomore at the American Academy of Forensic Science in 2020 in California.
“MTSU allowed me to step out of my comfort zone in order to learn new things,” she said. “Both the Undergraduate Research Center and MTSU surrounded me with supportive and hardworking individuals who have instilled confidence in me.”
At Scholars Week 2020, Bonner’s forensic chemistry research project won the top Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity gold award. It even evolved into her honors thesis, which she successfully defended this
spring. This year, in addition to her role as ambassador, she will be present her research at Scholars Week for the third, and final, time.
Despite her many accomplishments, Bonner can still feel out of place receiving praise and recognition.
“My mom always says, ‘No one wants you to be the smartest person in the room. They want the hardest working person in the room, so be that instead,’” Bonner said. “It reminds me that the people I am surrounded by see my willingness to try new things and work hard. So, I’m very grateful that they see potential in me, and it motivates me to keep going.”
‘A missing piece’
Jamie Burriss, program manager of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, said adding a student voice to the strong and supportive faculty leadership already on the Scholars Week committee just made sense.
“Scholars Week is a student-centered event celebrating excellence in scholarship, research and creative activity across all of MTSU’s academic disciplines,” she said. “We felt student involvement was a missing piece.”
A committee of ORSP faculty and staff selected Bonner to be the student ambassador.
“Miquellie (Mi-KELL-ee) offered some really great insight into ways we could improve outreach for our events and grow attendance,” Burriss said. “She has invested her time in visiting several research-focused classes and reaching out to campus organizations to share details about Scholars Week.”
There was a large pool of applicants for the position, so Burriss said the committee absolutely plans to offer it again going forward.
“Interested students will be able to access applications for all student research ambassador positions beginning on May 1,” she said. “They will be posted on our website: https://mtsu.edu/urc/ambassadors.php. The other ambassador positions include peer mentor scholar, URC social media and communications, READY to SOAR and ORSP communications.”
To check out the Scholars Week full schedule of events, visit the website https://mtsu.edu/scholarsweek/ScholarsWeekScheduleofEvents.php.