Michigan State University’s 24th annual University Undergraduate Research & Arts Forum took place on April 8, with more than 750 undergraduate students from all 17 colleges in attendance. Teams and individuals presented their work to faculty judges and competed for cash prizes.

And this year, Broad Spartans were in the winner’s circle. Three research projects delivered by Broad undergraduate scholars secured first-place recognition. Since 2013, business students in the Finance Honors Research Seminars have have earned best poster awards for the business category each year.

In this year’s business category, international relations senior Melissa Kreger, finance senior Emma Catalina and supply chain management senior Courtney Palkowski produced an award-winning project titled “Getting Michigan Companies Into International Markets: The MEGP.”

People reading a research poster

This year, three Broad research projects secured first-place recognition at MSU’s 24th annual University Undergraduate Research & Arts Forum.

The Michigan Export Growth Program is entirely operated by undergraduate students and was started by the Broad College’s International Business Center. This program aims to assist Michigan companies who need help exporting their goods and services to international markets and becoming more competitive within those markets.

“UURAF was an amazing experience and gave us a great opportunity to share the amazing research we do and how it impacts the state of Michigan,” Kreger said. “The reports we compile based on the information gathered from interactions have helped Michigan companies expand to over 52 new countries, 429 new international market entries, and create over 183 new jobs in Michigan.”

Exploring one of Broad’s strategic themes in the corporate world, business-preference sophomore Jacob Surbrook conducted research to understand the role diversity, equity and inclusion plays for companies on Wall Street. His work, titled “DEI on Wall Street: Does the Presence of a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) Yield Greater Stock Returns?” also earned a first-place award in the business category.

Surbrook’s research aimed to track and compare the performance of 15 companies with a chief diversity officer position to the NASDAQ index. To collect data, he used platforms such as Stocktrak to invest into stocks, which then generated graphs and data to analyze. Surbrook used Yahoo! Finance to gather data on the NASDAQ index.

This data was placed into Excel and calculated in order to determine if the research question was correct: are DEI implementations effective? “Though there are many factors that influence how markets behave, we can infer from the data collected that DEI implementations were in fact effective,” Surbrook said.

In addition, information science sophomore Caden Opsommer was part of a team in the agriculture and animal science category that earned first place for their project, titled “The COVID Animal Fostering Boom: Ephemera or Chimera?”

“What we wanted to study in our research was the number of people fostering dogs during and after COVID,” Opsommer said. “Basically, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, people were stuck in their homes and had more free time. Many people’s response to this was to foster dogs from shelters.

“We collected data through a survey where we had 611 shelter volunteers respond on their fostering behaviors,” he continued. “This was used to answer questions like, ‘Did the number of volunteers increase during the first year of the pandemic?’ ‘Do volunteers intend to keep fostering even after the pandemic?’ ‘What types of volunteers are most likely to plan to continue fostering?’ and ‘What kinds of dogs do they foster?’”

Their research uncovered that current volunteers claim they will continue to foster even after COVID, which is critical information used by animal shelters and rescues.

“If this prediction in behavior turns out to be true, this will be very beneficial to shelters,” Opsommer said. “Fostering animals is great because it can open up more room at a shelter for more animals and help lower the burden of care for all the animals there.”

MSU Provost Teresa Woodruff presents Erkan Kocas, assistant director for international trade research at MSU-CIBER, with an award.

Erkan Kocas, assistant director for international trade research at MSU-CIBER, receives the 2022 Undergraduate Research Supervisor of the Year Award from MSU Provost Teresa Woodruff.

A significant part of UURAF and undergraduate research overall at MSU is the role of faculty members who assist students throughout their projects. This year, Erkan Kocas, assistant director for international trade research at MSU-CIBER, received the 2022 Undergraduate Research Supervisor of the Year Award. He was nominated by Kreger and international relations senior Valerie McNamara for his outstanding commitment to mentoring undergraduate researchers.

“It was a big surprise to get this award, but certainly a perfect one,” Kocas said. “UURAF is an excellent opportunity for undergraduate students to showcase what they have been working on, sometimes for years. My student teams and I have been getting very positive feedback from the Michigan businesses we help, but being recognized by UURAF took our pride in what we do to a new level.”

Before working at MSU, Kocas spent 16 years in the corporate world working for multinationals that were rich in culture and industries. He said MSU was the first and only academic institution he has ever been a part of, and he loves what he does here much more than any other job he has held before.

“Working with students is a rewarding experience, and I think I found what I have been looking for,” Kocas said. “I believe this reward results from somebody doing what they like the most. So, I want to thank my students for nominating me and being a part of my life.”