University Business May 2018 - 23
course material applies to what they're interested in doing," she adds.
Research also resonates strongly with
parents of incoming students.
"If you say to a parent that, instead of
flipping burgers or bagging groceries during the summer, a student can be working
in a lab or with a faculty member on things
that will help decide a career path, that's a
very important message," says Julie Chen,
vice chancellor for research and innovation
at University of Massachusetts Lowell.
UMass Lowell's undergraduates can
visit a school website to find research
projects, including study-abroad programs and summer positions that offer
salaries. "It has definitely picked up momentum," says Chen. "In the past, individual faculty would spot a student and
say, 'How'd you like to work with me in
the lab?' Over the last several years, we've
really built up the infrastructure and formalized it."
Faculty are winning grants to include
undergraduates, particularly minorities
and first-generation students. The extent
of the programs is limited only by cost.
"A lot of students work part-time, especially during summer, so one of our challenges is finding enough resources and
funding to offer as many opportunities as
there are students wanting to take them,"
Chen says. "Many can't afford to do it for
free, even if it's a great experience."
at the University of Pittsburgh's
Greensburg campus consider
undergraduate research to be a
valuable form of experiential learning.
WIRED FOR SUCCESS-Undergraduate research plays a key role in recruitment
at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Parents, especially, view it as a more
worthwhile alternative for their students than the traditional summer job.
Creating competitive students
Landmark College in Vermont is expanding research alternatives for its unique
population of 450 students, all of whom
have learning disabilities (such as dyslexia), ADHD or autism spectrum disorder.
"It adds to their pride and empowerment and confidence," President Peter
Eden says. "It means our students are no
longer here because of a deficit. When
they can do things in terms of faculty research, they're simply college students."
Landmark's Institute for Research
and Training explores innovative ways to
educate and support students who learn
differently. The center's findings inform
pedagogy on campus, and its researchers
offer professional development to other
institutions and K12 educators. Participating in this research helps Landmark's
students develop soft skills such as communication and collaboration. "A lot of
our students are very much interested in
research related to teaching and how the
brain works because of what they've been
struggling through their whole lives,"
At community colleges across the
country, students are also spending more
time on research-and many of these
projects have a local focus.
Finger Lakes Community College
in upstate New York is an example. Students in biology professor James Hewlett's
classes are taking blood samples from redtailed hawks as a way to determine gender.
Other students are being taught to safely
tag bears to help manage populations in
"It raises their profile in our community, because they go out and talk about
their research," says Hewlett, who is also
executive director of a 40-plus-institution
coalition called the Community College
Undergraduate Research Initiative. "And it
gets press and publicity for the institution."
The benefits for students go beyond
engagement and academic success. For
one, the research activity has brought the
college more grant funding, Hewlett says.
"Our students are also becoming more
competitive for scholarships and summer
research opportunities because they've already had a research experience."
Matt Zalaznick is senior associate editor.
Slideshow of undergraduate
May 2018 | 23
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