“With my colleagues, our shop talk is largely about pedagogy and how to be effective teachers. My students—especially those doing independent projects—keep me in the world of ideas, which is why I went into academia in the first place.” – Tracy Caldwell, PhD, Assistant Professor, Psychology Department
One reason many faculty come to Dominican is the university’s focus on high-quality teaching. An increasing body of research shows that many students learn best when they can immerse themselves in a research project of their own with the guidance of a skilled mentor.
Accordingly, faculty members should consider overseeing independent undergraduate research projects. These requests are very much in line with Dominican’s emphasis on exemplary teaching.
Fostering a robust undergraduate research program through URSCI can help Dominican:
- Attract students looking for opportunities to do independent research while completing their undergraduate studies
- Increase student retention
- Increase faculty scholarship
- Increase opportunities for extramural funds
“There is empirical research showing that undergraduate research is a great pedagogical tool. For many students, it’s what they enjoy most about their undergraduate experience.”
Rebecca Pliske, PhD, Director of URSCI & Professor, Psychology Department
- Faculty sponsors are a vital part of the undergraduate research equation. What’s more, anecdotal reports suggest that faculty mentors can experience some very real benefits, too.
- Most faculty mentors report they experience a great deal of satisfaction from their mentoring relationships with undergraduate researchers.
- Undergraduate students are capable of performing many of the same tasks traditionally completed by graduate student assistants in research universities.
- Undergraduate assistants can provide faculty members with new perspectives on their own research and scholarship. Students may approach scholarly problems with a very different perspective than the faculty mentor because the student is not as familiar with previous research on the topic.
- At most universities, supervision of undergraduate research and creative investigations is evaluated very positively for promotion and tenure decisions.
- These projects may attract additional external funding, thus fostering the mentor’s own research.
- A small stipend to faculty who mentor students in the Summer Scholars program.
“For the record, I love our Research Assistant program - the mentoring it allows me to do is as satisfying as the actual work produced."
David M. Perry, Assistant Professor, Department of History
URSCI currently offers three initiatives that promote undergraduates’ own research:
In each case, a faculty sponsor is necessary. Students must lead the process by enlisting the agreement of an appropriate sponsor and then completing the required application.
It may not always be possible for a faculty member to sponsor an undergraduate in independent research.
If supervising an undergraduate research project does not seem feasible, URSCI: the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program provides another option.
In the URAP, a faculty member selects a student to work with and completes an application on the student’s behalf. Then, URSCI may award the student up to $1,500 per semester for their work as a faculty member’s research assistant.
If URSCI does not approve the URAP application, or if the student prefers to receive academic credit instead of monetary compensation, URSCI offers another option. That student may apply to become a faculty member’s research assistant for course credit instead.