Research helps WSU sophomore prepare for grad school, career
Wichita State University sophomore Matt Conklin is taking advantage of opportunities usually pursued by graduate students.
He recently conducted a research project titled “The Future of the Aerospace Industry in Kansas: State Politics and Middle East Influence” for the Kansas Undergraduate Research Forum.
The goal was to show Kansas’ elected officials the negative economic impact of decreasing higher education funding by relating it to the aerospace industry. Conklin, who is majoring in history and economics, integrated his personal interest in Middle East development, which highlighted how new markets can play a role in the state’s success.
“My work for the Undergraduate Research Forum project is specifically tailored as a policy recommendation to state legislators, persuading them to preserve and hopefully increase current levels of higher education funding,” said Conklin.
His argument includes several main points.
• Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) institutions, such as WSU, contribute billions of dollars to the state’s economy.
• The Kansas aerospace industry, one of the highest Gross Domestic Product percentages in the country, relies on KBOR schools to produce competitive graduates prepared to enter the global workforce.
• Cutting higher education funding at a time when the government faces a future revenue shortfall will not stimulate economic growth; relying on private investment in education will also hurt growth.
• Emerging markets in the Middle East are an example of how supportive higher education policies are necessary to maintain Kansas’ competitive advantage in the global aerospace industry.
The research process
Within the past year, Conklin traveled to Jordan, Israel and Morocco. The trip helped him legitimize his cultural perspective. He also gathered supporting quantitative information from consultant reports, industry forecasts, governmental materials and media outlets.
Clyde Stoltenberg, professor in the W. Frank Barton School of Business, was Conklin’s research adviser for the project.
“My role was to serve as a sounding board to help identify a good project that would make sense to Matt based on his experience, knowledge and interest,” said Stoltenberg. “It also needed to be feasible in scope and of interest to the business and public policy community.”
On April 3, Conklin will present his findings to state legislators in Topeka, Kan.
Enhancing university experience
Conklin, from Winfield, Kan., began pursuing research opportunities in order to prepare for law school after graduation and to get an advantage when applying for national scholarships.
“By gaining exposure to research and practicing various methods at this point in my undergraduate career, I hope to gain the skills and credentials to be a competitive candidate for the caliber of programs I would like to attend,” he said.
Stoltenberg said that students should pursue studies that interest them and have the possibility of benefiting the public.
“For undergraduates, research helps to form the link between learning and application,” said Stoltenberg.
Conklin is excited that Wichita State is focusing more on undergraduate research. He is now in the beginning stages of a project on relations between the United States and United Arab Emirates for WSU’s honors research seminar class.
“Providing opportunities for students interested in research is instrumental in preparing us for success in graduate school and beyond,” said Conklin. “More students should pursue research at WSU because it greatly enhances the overall university experience.”