Why They Give

Carolyn Styron Thomas ’54

On April 4, Elliot University Center will be illuminated with a colorful array of displays fine-tuned for the 13th Annual Carolyn & Norwood Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo (Thomas Expo). Posters, projects, and presentations from more than 200 pupils will give but a glimpse into recent discoveries made by UNC Greensboro learners.

The Thomas Expo is a campus-wide celebration of undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activities. Students who are engaged in some form of faculty-mentored, scholarly inquiry can sign up to share their findings with their peers, mentors, and community.

Unknowingly, the young researchers may also present to the showcase funder, alumna Carolyn Thomas ’54. She and her late husband, Norwood, established the Norwood A. and Carolyn Styron Thomas Endowed Fund in 1996. Their donation not only pays for the affair every year, but it also provides monetary rewards for the winners. In recent years, Carolyn has made arrangements to be a spectator at the exhibitions as she thoroughly enjoys the parade of academic excellence.

“We’re lucky to have wonderful alumni, like Carolyn Thomas, who are committed to student learning and faculty engagement,” stated Director of Undergraduate Research Dr. Lee Phillips.

“Students learn significantly more when they are engaged in research or creative inquiry; it provides context for a broader understanding of their education,” Dr. Phillips explained. “We’re looking to provide opportunities for all of our undergraduates to learn through some type of research experience, and that means that we will have to move away from the traditional mentor-mentee model as a primary mechanism for student learning. We are working with the faculty to help embed research into the curriculum across all disciplines.”

Dr. Phillips’ vision of a research-rich curriculum is greatly supported by the Thomas Expo as students from all disciplines are encouraged to participate. Categories range from business, economics, education, and behavioral and social sciences to music, theatre, and dance—each equally capable of winning an award.

“People are looking to purposely integrate research into their discipline,” Dr. Phillips was proud to state. “These activities have helped us become an example for other institutions of higher learning regionally and nationally.”

Adding support to Dr. Phillips’ assertions, UNCG claims a College of Distinction Award, which was conferred last year. One of the four distinction criteria required that students be engaged in active learning through common intellectual experiences, undergraduate research, and diversified, global learning. With the Thomas Expo providing an intellectual and active learning experience of undergraduate research on global topics, the event sponsored by Carolyn and Norwood adds incalculable value to the University.

Story by Brittany Cameron, Donor Relations


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P. Kevin Williamson

Associate Vice Chancellor