Finding Conference Funding for Undergraduates

My passion for having students engaged in our professional conversations has been articulated loud and clear (read herehere, and here). We need more of it.

But when it comes to conferences, we are often faced with the question of how to find funding for students to attend with us, and often this barrier leads us to not even both engaging with the idea of adding a student to our paper or presentation.

At the University of Oklahoma, we are fortunate enough to have centralized funds that students can apply to receive in the event they get their proposal accepted. But that pot is limited, and what happens when, say, SIX students get accepted?

Multiple colleagues of mine in Gaylord College will often co-author papers with our undergraduates. Jensen Moore blew it out of the water this year and submitted several of these papers to the International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC). As she writes:

The IPRRC has an extremely low acceptance rate and Gaylord is one of the ONLY colleges in the United States that has had undergraduate research accepted and presented at the conference.

We take pride in the fact that we engage our undergrads in research, and thus we want to have them publicly present their findings. Which is how we found ourselves in this predicament.

A couple of years ago, OU launched its own white-labeled crowdfunding platform so that students and faculty can raise money through the broader community. As of date of publish, we’ve used it to raise $488,144 across 61 projects (roughly $8k per project).

In Gaylord College, we’ve been previously successful utilizing the platform at a faculty level. Last semester, another colleague, Melanie Wilderman, successfully used the platform to raise $5k for Media Monday, an event that brings 400-700 media students to Gaylord College every semester.

Now, Jensen is utilizing the platform to raise the funds to bring all six students (four of which also happen to be former students of mine) along with her to IPRRC in Orlando.

Would we better off if we just had dedicated travel funds for undergrads? Absolutely. But I’m proud of my colleague and college for being willing to engage students in research regardless and putting in the extra effort to raise external funding. Crowdfunding is hard work, but I know that there are also a number of people that will be willing to support our students and their work.

A huge congrats to our students for their efforts as that’s no small feet. I’ve given a small amount to support the effort. If you feel so compelled, please consider contributing as well.

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