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RISE Above – Undergraduate Research

Apply what you learn in the classroom on campus and beyond through undergraduate research. Explore a topic related to your career interest or graduate school. Build skills and experience to strengthen your résumé, to land competitive jobs, or to get into a competitive graduate school. Develop critical-thinking skills and increase your interaction and learning from your professors with one-on-one faculty-mentored research projects.

Milligan’s RISE Above program provides opportunities for students to participate in experiences of faculty-mentored research and creative expression. Many of our students conduct research, perform on stage, exhibit original artwork, present at conferences, and publish written works. It all starts with your burning question—what interests you? The topics are limitless. Our students have studied everything from the effects of exercise on a McDonald’s diet to video game music as an art form. They have completed research experiences with renowned experts in medicine and behavioral science and presented posters and papers on Capitol Hill and at national conferences.

As part of Milligan’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), undergraduate students are encouraged to participate in at least one extensive learning project beyond the classroom before you graduate. Build on your classroom education and explore a topic of real interest to you.

Value. Examine. Create. Share.

RISE Above is designed to move traditional undergraduate students progressively through four major learning principles. In the freshman and sophomore years, building on courses already in place, RISE Above will focus on strengthening connections between knowledge and skill and promoting the inherent value of participating in research. In the junior and senior years, students will be invited to work on independent research projects, mentored by Milligan professors, and present their findings in a public forum.

Benefits of Undergraduate Research

The benefits of undergraduate research activities are well-documented.

  • Students who participate can expect academic and cognitive gains as well as enhanced career development and preparation for graduate school.
  • Faculty-mentors reap intrinsic benefits—finding personal and professional satisfaction in modeling life-long learning through relationships with students—and they benefit from the professional development that can come from such activities.
  • Institutions benefit from the activities and excitement that come to a campus when faculty and students collaborate on research.

Mentored Research

In recognition of the many benefits of undergraduate research, the University implemented a quality enhancement program in 2012 that seeks to significantly increase the number of students who participate in undergraduate research.

Students seeking to pursue undergraduate research for credit will identify a faculty mentor who will support and facilitate the research initiative, including the completion of one or more courses in which research is the focus. These “RISE” courses are available across the University’s academic offerings. “Rise” courses are available in all academic disciplines. Courses are numbered 499A, 499B, and 499C.

This faculty-mentored set of independent research courses will allow for an in-depth study of a specific question relevant to the discipline. At the successful conclusion of three credit-hours (499A, B, and C), students will have submitted a substantive paper with bibliography and will have publicly presented their findings.



Students enrolled in 499A are considered to be in the “formative” stage of their research project. Students should enroll in 499A if they are in the early stages of forming their project ideas and when considerable work still needs to be done before new knowledge or creative works can be started.

Depending on the discipline, students may do any of the following kinds of activities:

  • find and read relevant literature
  • develop an annotated bibliography
  • identify key methods, theories, or models to guide the project
  • develop foundational research skills
  • attend research planning meetings
  • write a research proposal
  • shadow or assist more advanced researchers, etc.

Students enrolled in 499B are considered to be in the “productive” stage of their research project. Students should enroll in 499B if their project idea is well-formed and the student has the necessary background information and skills to begin the hard work of carrying out their planned project.

Depending on the discipline, students may do any of the following kinds of activities:

  • collect data
  • write
  • create
  • initiate contacts with participants/agencies
  • get IRB approval
  • organize the data
  • establish reliability and validity of methods, etc.

Students enrolled in 499C are considered to be in the “culminating” stage of their research project. Students should enroll in 499C if their project is largely done and ready for final presentation.

Depending on the discipline, students may do any of the following kinds of activities:

  • analyze data
  • write conclusions
  • finalize project/paper
  • submit for conference
  • prepare presentation
  • attend and present at a conference
  • submit for publication, etc.

Regardless of the discipline, students enrolled in 499C are expected to have a written paper with bibliography either as their final product or as an accompanying description of their project. Students in 499C are also required to make their project public through a presentation at an appropriate public venue.

This may be accomplished in any of the following ways: giving an oral or poster presentation at a conference, giving a gallery talk, or putting on a performance. Students are encouraged to present at Milligan’s annual RISE Above Research Conference to meet this requirement.

Research Conferences

Local Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conferences


Milligan University
April 15, 2021 (Abstracts due March 29)

Students at Milligan will have a chance to present their research to an audience of their peers and faculty. All 499C students are encouraged to present even if they have already presented elsewhere and students not enrolled in 499C are welcome to present faculty-sponsored research projects. Poster and oral presentation options will be available. More information about registering to come.


Washington, D.C.
Spring Conference (Abstracts due late fall)

CUR, in collaboration with ACS, hosts the annual Posters on the Hill to showcase the work of undergraduate researchers from across the country. The event is highly selective—institutions’ most talented researchers are judged by a national panel of experts in their fields—and only the best teams are chosen for the poster session on Capitol Hill. These undergraduates share their research with Members of Congress, congressional staff, federal government officials, academics, and others, demonstrating the value of federal investment in undergraduate research.


Spring Conference

The Stone-Campbell Journal is designed for students, scholars, and ministers of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement who think deeply about the Bible, theology, and issues related to our common heritage.


Details coming soon

The mission of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) is to promote undergraduate research scholarship and creative activity done in partnership with faculty or other mentors as a vital component of higher education.


Details coming soon.

The ETSU Appalachian Student Research Forum is an annual event in which undergraduate, graduate and medical students as well as post-doctoral fellows and medical residents present their research in a formal setting. The Forum is open to all colleges and universities within the Appalachian region. Participation is free!


Details coming soon

Any undergraduate student enrolled in an accredited, not-for-profit Tennessee college, university, or community college who has completed a mentored research, service learning project, or a study abroad experience is eligible to present at TELS. The event is open to anyone to register and attend. This includes other undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff from Tennessee or outside Tennessee. TELS is an interdisciplinary symposium. One of its most positive aspects is the cross-platform exposure to research, creative activity, service learning, or study abroad experiences centered on themes of interest. To highlight the interdisciplinary focus, each oral and poster session will be organized around these themes: Culture, Heritage & the Creative Economy, Business & Enterprise, Governance & Society, Sustainability, Agriculture & the Environment, Improving Lives and Communities, Logic and Reasoning, and Science, Technology & Society.

Additional conferences can be found at the Council on Undergraduate Research.


Professor of Psychology; Director of Undergraduate Research

Seeger's Steeple infant of a yellow sunset