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Dennison an easy sell

While preparations for the nation's largest undergraduate research conference has involved many people at the University of Montana, much of the credit for landing the event in Missoula must go to a recent transplant from Kalamazoo, Mich.

Adrian Vanderweilen moved to Missoula from Kalamazoo in 1995 to open Allegra Print and Imaging. At the time, Vanderweilen, a former adjunct professor at Western Michigan University, was serving on the board of governors for the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Through conversations with John Madden, a former dean of UM's Davidson Honors College, Vanderweilen found out that UM President George Dennison was very interested in promoting undergraduate research. He also knew that NCUR officials were interested in holding the conference at a site in the Northwest.

"The meeting had never been held in the Northwest," Vanderweilen said Wednesday. "Part of the idea of the conference is to give students exposure to different parts of the country. In addition to the university being here, there's certainly a lot of other things for people to see.

"At the same time, the University of Montana was trying to promote undergraduate research. I said to John (Madden), if you want a good way to promote it, this is it."

Madden, Vanderweilen and some representatives from the UM Foundation put together a proposal and presented it to Dennison sometime in 1996. Vanderweilen said it wasn't hard to convince the UM leader of the benefits of playing host to the NCUR.

"He wasn't too hard to convince. I was ready for the big sell, but we didn't need that," he said. "Dennison said right up front that he would put up the guarantee for the conference."

Vanderweilen agreed to serve on the UM steering committee for the conference. He provided the contacts and pointed UM figures like Garon Smith and Sharon Alexander, the co-chairs of the conference, in the right direction.

"I thought they had a pretty good chance of landing the conference. I knew for 2000 they didn't have a site and they were looking for a university in the Northwest," Vanderweilen said. "I had the contacts and the idea. But other people have done all the work in getting it here."

Vanderweilen, who has attended several of the research conferences, said the benefit of staging the event will be huge for UM and Missoula.

"For the community, you have 2,000 people coming and the money that could be spent could be millions," Vanderweilen said. "For the university, they get exposure to students from over 300 different colleges throughout the United States. It's great exposure for UM's graduate programs."

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