Glenn McLaurin thought his first year seminar, The Changing American Job, would be interesting — but he never expected it to lead him to his life’s passion.
The class prompted McLaurin, now a junior, to become a public policy major and to pursue a research project about local economic development incentives.
Today, he and three other UNC undergraduates will present their projects at the Research in the Capital symposium during National Undergraduate Research Week.
The symposium is organized by the UNC Undergraduate Research Consortium to give between 60 and 100 students across the state the chance to discuss their findings with N.C. legislators.
McLaurin said his research focuses on economic incentives, like tax breaks, that are used to encourage companies to relocate to a given area.
These incentives are rewarded based on performance-control measures, standards companies must meet.
McLaurin discovered that poorer areas are likely to loosen these standards to draw in businesses and generate jobs.
“One of the principal findings is a chart that examines the performance-control measures and how they pan out on average,” he said.
McLaurin said he came to his findings by comparing an affluent county to a disadvantaged one. His research has not only brought him recognition — it will serve as the foundation for his senior honors thesis.
“The next step is definitely continuing to expand the counties covered by this research,” he said.
Nichola Lowe, McLaurin’s first-year seminar professor, advised his research.
It was Lowe – an assistant professor in the department of city and regional planning – who nominated McLaurin to participate in the upcoming symposium. She said his intelligence and his proposed topic made him a strong candidate.
“He’s taken several of my courses,” she said. “He’s demonstrated strong research skills and he has definitely performed to a high standard.”
“The other factor,” she added, “had to do with the importance of the topic he’s studying, especially to some of the current debates about local incentive use.”
Graduate students who work with Lowe in the department of city and regional planning have also supported McLaurin’s research.
Allan Freyer, a Ph.D. candidate studying the politics of economic development, assisted McLaurin.
“Glenn is an outstanding student who will make an excellent contribution to the professional field of economic development,” he said.
“He is sharp and highly dedicated.”
McLaurin said he received additional support from the public policy department.
“The focus of the public policy program is a lot of emphasis on developing these analytical skills and research skills that can be applied to the real world,” he said. “And I feel like I’m doing just that.”
And although only three other students will accompany Glenn when he travels to Raleigh today, the four are not alone in participating in undergraduate research.
“There is strong encouragement by UNC to build in research opportunities into the classroom at the undergraduate level,” Lowe said. “That’s something I’ve definitely attempted to do with my first year seminar.”
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