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Undergraduate students like Yanet Fernandez, a senior mathematics major from Oshkosh, gain valuable communication skills while presenting their research findings at events like Research in the Rotunda held annually in Madison.

The scholarship, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of students from across the University of Wisconsin System will shine the week of Aug. 6, as UW Oshkosh hosts the WiSys SPARK Symposium and the McNair Research Summit.

SPARK, an annual event focused on research, innovation and entrepreneurship, runs Aug. 6-8 at the Culver Family Welcome Center.

“The SPARK Symposium is perfectly named. It’s an opportunity to gather students and faculty and staff members from throughout the UW System who may be on the cusp of an innovation, a breakthrough or an entrepreneurial leap fueled by novel research or some brilliant creative activities,” UWO Chancellor Andy Leavitt said. “UWO was proud to host this event in 2016, and we are thrilled to have it back. It is an outstanding meeting of minds and demonstration of their possible influence on our region’s and state’s economic trajectory. Thanks to WiSys for choosing UWO as SPARK’S 2023 home.”

Sustainability is the theme for this year’s event with UWO’s Sustainability Institute for Regional Transformations serving as the lead host. Symposium highlights include a student research poster and innovation showcase, the WiSys Quick Pitch State Final, expert panels and faculty research talks.

WiSys is a nonprofit that works with faculty, staff, students and alumni of the UW System to facilitate cutting-edge research programs, develop and commercialize discoveries, and foster a spirit of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking across the state.

Following the SPARK symposium, the McNair summit will take place Aug. 10-11 at UWO, with approximately 35 students from UW Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, UW-Stout and UW-Superior presenting their summer research projects to their peers.

“UWO steps up once again later this week as a proving ground for budding researchers attending the McNair summit. We are delighted to host students from four other UW System institutions and help build a community of scholars through the McNair program, whose academic journey has had a home at UWO since 2007,” Leavitt said.

Additional summit highlights include speakers and networking opportunities. Sheila Knox, a member of the Oshkosh 94, will serve as the keynote speaker at the Thursday night dinner.

A McNair alumni panel will feature three McNair alumni associated with UW Oshkosh. Paul Perales, a former McNair fellow at Knox College, serves as lecturer in the UWO social work department. Denae Powell-Muhammad Murphy, who was a McNair scholar at the University of Mississippi, now serves as an assistant professor in UWO’s African American studies program. Ben Sajdak ’13, who began his research career as a McNair scholar at UWO, now directs the research division of Fauna Bio, an innovative startup.

The UWO McNair Scholars Program seeks to empower high-achieving, first-generation, low-income and racially minoritized undergraduates to realize their potential by providing opportunities to develop skills and gain the experiences that will prepare them for graduate study.

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