Milligan Campus Overlook

Blue Ridge Undergraduate Research Conference

Milligan University is proud to host the 30th Annual Blue Ridge Undergraduate Research Conference (BRURC) on April 11, 2024. Undergraduate students (and NEW graduate students) from institutions throughout the Southern Appalachian region will present their research projects in a comfortable setting surrounded by other researchers and faculty. This year’s conference will be a one-day event, with sessions 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The conference will take place at Milligan University, located in northeast Tennessee.

What is BRURC?

Originally called the Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference, the Blue Ridge Undergraduate Research Conference has attracted widespread regional interest and is committed to providing a forum for southern Appalachian students to present the results of their research in a convenient and interesting setting. Many of the schools participating in BRURC are affiliated with the Appalachian College Association. ACA is a non-profit consortium of 33 private four-year liberal arts institutions located in the central Appalachian Mountains in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. BRURC typically rotates to one of these schools every two years. However, the conference is open to students from any university or college.

What will presentations look like?

There are 3 types of presentations at this year’s conference.

Poster presentations consist of a large format poster (typically 30″ X 40″) set or mounted to an easel. Presenters should expect to stand with their poster for an hour-long session and answer questions of people who stop by. It is helpful to prepare an “elevator speech.” Multiple posters are displayed during each session, which is usually multi-disciplinary in nature.

Oral presentations will be grouped by discipline. Each researcher will present orally with a PowerPoint or other visual aids. Students should be prepared to present for 12 minutes with an additional three minutes for questions.

Technology demonstrations are a NEW type of session this year. In this session, presenters can demonstrate a technological device or similar STEM project. Examples could include robotics, drones, engineering projects, computer programming, botany projects, etc. Since demonstrations can take time and may include an interactive element, this session is two hours long. Presenters will be given indoor or outdoor space, a table, and/or access to electricity as requested. Presenters should plan to demonstrate, explain, and interact with attendees during the entire duration. If applicable, team members are welcome to trade off during the session to attend concurrent sessions.   

An abstract must be submitted during registration regardless of the presentation type.   Presenters should dress in attire suitable for a professional meeting.

NEW! How can graduate students participate?

Milligan hosts an annual campus research conference called Rise Above and since that conference is combined with BRURC, graduate students will have the opportunity to present in sessions as well. If you prefer, you can cite your presentation on your vita using Rise Above Research Conference as the venue, rather than Blue Ridge Undergraduate Research Conference.

The process of registering is the same. Graduate projects will be combined into sessions together based on topic when possible. If there are no other graduate projects related to your topic, you may be added to a related undergraduate session. A prize for the best graduate project related to our conference theme will be awarded.

NEW! How do I win an award?

Milligan hosts an annual campus research conference called Rise Above and since that conference is combined with BRURC, we are offering prizes related to our planned conference theme. The theme this year is Bridges and Borders. This is a general theme by design so many projects and any discipline could be relevant. Open to both undergraduates and graduate students. Check out the call for papers related to this theme for more information.

What are the deadlines?

The deadline for submitting abstracts and proposal forms for presentations is March 11, 2024.

General conference attendance registration will be accepted up to and on the day of the conference. However, register by April 3 to guarantee your lunch preferences. Refunds will not be given after April 1 if you have to cancel your plans to attend.

What is the tentative schedule for the conference?
9 – 10 a.m.Registration
10 – 11 a.m.Poster Session
11 a.m. – 12 p.m.Keynote Speaker
12 – 1 p.m.Lunch
1 – 4 p.m.Oral Sessions
2 – 4 p.m.Technology Demonstrations
3 – 4 p.m.Graduate Presentations
4 – 5 p.m.Graduate School Fair and Awards

NEW! What is the graduate school fair?

This year’s conference will include a graduate school fair at the end. Participating colleges and universities will be present to answer questions about their graduate programs. Interested vendors can register to participate in this part of the program using the registration form.

Where can I stay?

The following information will assist you in making hotel reservations for visiting the Milligan campus. We have a discount for those attending the conference. For details and other information, visit our Accommodations page.

How do I register?

There is a $30 registration fee to attend the conference. The fee may be paid online, by check, or cash. Once registration is complete, you will receive a confirmation email with important conference details. Students wishing to present at the conference will need to submit the proposal form, including a 200-word abstract, by March 11, 2024.

Group projects are welcome and only one person needs to register the group. You will be prompted to give the names of anyone else attending the conference and may opt to pay as a group through the “institution” payment portal after registering.


The deadline to register has passed. If for any reason, you need to change or cancel a registration, please contact Joy Drinnon at

Attendance is free and open to the public. View the full program here.

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Ron Kastens

Ron Kastens

“Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: The Importance and Struggle of Self-Awareness”

Dr. Kastens spent many years ministering in New England before joining Milligan in 2018. He holds the D.Min. in Pastoral Theology in Practice from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He completed the M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Ron spent his undergraduate years at Milligan College, graduating in 1989 with a B.A. in Bible.

Ron is an ordained minister who has 30+ years of local church ministry experience in Tennessee, Kentucky, and New Hampshire. He has served in youth ministry, worship programming, small groups, spiritual formation, pastoral care, global outreach, and senior ministry. His full-time ministry includes 12 years as an associate minister at the Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and 17 years as the lead pastor of Crossway Christian Church in Nashua, New Hampshire. While there, he oversaw the congregation’s growth from 300 to over 850 members. Under his leadership Crossway became a multi-site church with two additional campus locations.

Dr. Kastens’ academic focus is preparing women and men for ministry in very practical and tangible aspects, and his courses reflect this. His interests include Preaching/Homiletics, Leadership Development, Spiritual Formation, Pastoral Care, and the Enneagram. He has published articles on topics such as elders and preaching. He presented a paper on The Enneagram and Spiritual Formation at the Stone-Campbell Journal Conference. He preaches regularly in churches around the country, and, as time allows, provides consulting or coaching services to ministers and churches.

Ron serves on the boards for Christian Missionary Fellowship, Inc. and the Great Lakes Chapter of the International Enneagram Association. He is a member of the Evangelical Homiletics Society and the International Enneagram Association.

Ron and his wife, Stacey, have three adult children, Brennan, Dallas, and Marlee. They live in Johnson City and are members at First Christian Church in Johnson City, where Ron serves as an elder. Ron enjoys reading, movies, and an occasional round of golf. He faithfully cheers for the Tennessee Volunteers, Boston Red Sox, and Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League.

Have more questions?

Joy Drinnon
Professor of Psychology; Director of Undergraduate Research