Space needed for conference
While some of the top undergraduate minds from across the nation were displaying their academic skills Thursday inside University of Montana classrooms and lecture halls, many of the regular inhabitants of those venues were outside enjoying a rare two-day cancellation of classes.
The size and prestige of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, which has drawn about 2,300 people to the UM campus for three days, prompted UM President George Dennison to give faculty members the green light to cancel classes Thursday and Friday.
Conference organizers needed about 45 of UM's larger classrooms and lecture halls for presentations. Dennison gave faculty teaching other classes the option of canceling as well. Garon Smith, the co-chairman of the conference, estimated about 85 percent of UM classes had been canceled.
The break, coupled with temperatures in the 70-degree range Thursday, was a welcome respite from end-of-the-year tasks, according to several UM students interviewed.
"This is pretty nice," said Chrissy Groppi, a UM sophomore in women's studies from Wisconsin, as she caught some sun on the UM Oval Thursday afternoon. "I probably will go to some of the conference, but it is nice to have a day off."
Her friend, Melia Everts, a sophomore in wildlife biology from the Seattle area, agreed as she lounged nearby on the grass.
"I think it's really nice because we're getting so close to finals. I can work on projects and go hiking," Everts said, adding that when she woke up Thursday morning and saw the sunshine, she was "very happy."
Katherine Meyer, a freshman dance major from Missoula, said she was surprised by the two-day break. But she wasn't complaining.
"I think it's a good thing for the school and Missoula, too. It draws so many people from different places," Meyer said. "It didn't bother me at all. I get a break to study for finals."
Meyer also got a boost in her economics class by volunteering as a conference guide for three hours Thursday morning.
"People ask me questions and I answer them," she said as she stood on duty outside UM's Gallagher Business Building. "And my professor said I would get extra credit points for doing it."
Some students however, weren't as thrilled as others to have the break from classes.
Chris McSparron, a junior in pre-engineering form Minneapolis, said he didn't really like to have his class schedule disrupted now.
"It seems kind of weird doing it so close toward the end of the year. I would like to have as much class time as possible," said McSparron, as he studied physics Thursday afternoon at a table in the University Center.
Angela Imhoff, a senior in psychology and dance from West Virginia, said she would have liked to have more of a break.
"I actually didn't get much of a break," Imhoff said as she read a book in the UC. "I had one class that was optional, one that was not and one that was canceled. It would have been nice to have more of a break."
But Imhoff said she thought playing host to the conference was a good opportunity for UM, even though she wasn't sure how many students were participating, especially with the nice weather.
"I think it's a good thing to bring in new thought," Imhoff said. "But I don't think a lot of people from UM are taking part."
Reporter Gary Jahrig can be reached at 523-5259 or at email@example.com.