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Provost's Question of the Month Results: March 2018

Here’s what we asked:

On March 22 and 23, the University of Windsor held its annual UWill Discover Undergraduate Conference, an event designed to showcase the amazing research, scholarship, and creative activities that our undergrads engage in each year.

Once upon a time, it seemed that only professors did research, but now we integrate “discovery” in all its forms into the curricular and co-curricular experiences of our students.

One of the great things about the University of Windsor is the number of opportunities you have as an undergraduate student to work with a professor on a particular topic or question; to produce something original through hands-on creation or performance; to tackle an issue, a great idea, a problem – and then, through our UWill Discover conference, to show & tell the world what you’ve discovered.

I gave my first public conference paper when I was an undergraduate. It was a comparative study of two 19th-century literary texts in what we call the locodescriptive or topographical genre. I can’t recall how it went over with the audience, but I sure remember the effect it had on me.

So, the Question of the Month for March 2018 was:

If you’ve been involved in undergraduate research, what’s the effect it’s had on you?

 

Here’s what we heard:

Undergraduate research opportunities have become a strong recruitment draw for the University of Windsor. Over the years, countless UWindsor undergraduates have taken advantage of research experiences to expand their understanding of the world—and their future place in it. Our undergraduates have published articles in peer-reviewed journals, written and performed original compositions, presented at academic conferences around the world, and patented original processes.

We have compelling data suggesting that students who become involved in research at an early stage in their undergraduate careers experience a plurality of positive outcomes.

This month, I heard from intrepid undergraduate researchers in fields as diverse as Environmental Science and Acting.

From reading their responses, it’s clear that students who enjoy undergraduate research experiences gain new perspectives, master new techniques, and acquire new transportable skills—including teamwork, critical literacy, and public speaking. More than one student reported growing noticeably in confidence as they developed meaningful relationships with both peers and faculty members.

Often, these undergraduate experiences can be illuminatingly interdisciplinary. For example, I heard from a Psychology major who found herself immersed in a cooperative psychology and biology lab.

Multiple respondents described familiarizing themselves with the many-staged, labour-intensive, and deadline-oriented nature of the research process. They’re not wrong! Students who conduct undergraduate research learn to gather previous literature, plan multifaceted projects, collect and interpret data, complete ethics applications, and write persuasive reports.

I was pleased to see that several students noted discovering connections between their research experiences and their everyday lives. In some cases, undergraduate research projects eventually translated to research-oriented careers.

My favourite response this time came from Ivan Ruvinov, a high-achieving (and highly articulate) Class of 2018 student in our uniquely challenging Interdisciplinary Arts and Science program. Ivan’s response follows in full:

Dear Dr Kneale,

I am currently in my fourth and final year of my undergraduate degree and have been involved in research since my very first year here at the university. I can say that without a doubt, it has been the most rewarding aspect of my undergraduate career, allowing me to not only apply the knowledge I’ve learned in the classroom to a hands-on setting, but also inversely cultivate new knowledge that translates into my classroom learning and sets me ahead of the learning curve. Research has allowed me to develop an exceptionally critical form of thinking and tackling problems in the lab, in the classroom, and in my everyday life. Getting involved in research was also the single most important event in making me mentally comfortable in the otherwise-intimidating setting that university is for lots of students. I was able to meet students of all education levels and become very close with faculty members. Developing these connections was the reason for much of my academic success as I shed off my innate shyness of asking others for help. Lastly, being involved in a co-authorship in a scientific journal has really boosted my confidence and encouraged me to strive to become the best possible version of myself. 

Thank you for this opportunity and for encouraging me to put my thoughts about research into words.

 

Best regards,

Ivan Ruvinov

 

Here’s what we’re doing:

Outstanding Scholars Program

  • The University of Windsor is proud of its innovative Outstanding Scholars program, which offers paid research opportunities to undergraduate students in every major on campus. Outstanding Scholars are high-achieving second, third, and fourth year undergraduates who work closely with faculty on research and other important academic projects. Unlike Teaching, Graduate, and Research Assistants, they provide faculty with an opportunity to secure meaningful research assistance without affecting their departmental budget. The program, unique in Canada, admits the top high school students entering any first-year Honours undergraduate program at the University. Candidacy is awarded upon acceptance. During their first year of study, Outstanding Scholars Candidates meet with mentors to prepare them to hold an Academic Appointment beginning the following year.  

 

UWill Discover Undergraduate Conference

  • Held each March, UWill Discover is the university’s primary undergraduate research conference. UWill Discover is a one-day event in which University of Windsor undergraduate students present their original research and creative work to an audience of students, faculty and staff, and members of the broader community. These presentations, which showcase research from every department and faculty on campus, may take forms, including conference posters, oral presentations, business pitches, prototypes, film productions, musical and dramatic performances, various compositions, and educational demonstrations. UWill Discover presents a very useful opportunity to acquaint promising students with the meaning of research in actual practice. The conference is an expression of the goals and aspirations of the University: to develop deeper and broader connections between teaching and research, learning and the community, and the classroom, lab, and working world.

 

Undergraduate Research Experience Grants

  • Administered through the Office of Research and Innovation Services and the Centre for Teaching and Learning, institutionally funded Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) Grants of up to $2,000 support a broad range of activities rooted in research, inquiry, and creativity. This granting scheme is intended to support research for education purposes and to encourage faculty to mentor curious and ambitious students who aim to make original intellectual or creative contributions to their discipline. In the past, grant recipients have pursued a wide range of independent and team-based projects in labs and classrooms on campus and out in the broader community.

 

Student Research Conferences

 

Undergraduate Research in Science

  • The Faculty of Science formally recognizes students who participate in undergraduate research through its Leadership, Engagement, Application, and Discovery (LEAD) Medallion Scholars program. The innovative initiative rewards top-achieving students for high-impact engagement outside the classroom. Undergraduate students can now also get academic credit for pre-approved research activities.  Science, which has committed to investing $50,000 into undergraduate research next year, prides itself on its ability to offer its students better undergraduate research opportunities than other larger institutions.

 

Student Research Journals

 

International Opportunities

  • The University of Windsor is home to many exchange and study-abroad programs. A prominent example is the Faculty of Science’s recently launched Global Perspectives of Science course, which will see 15 students undertaking undergraduate research in Costa Rica this May. Plans for expanding the program to other international sites are already afoot.

 

Investment in Research-Related Experiential Learning

  • Supporting undergraduate research and research-related experiential learning is a major investment area for the University. The Faculty of Engineering, for example, spends over $1 million annually on its learning labs.

 

Impressive Participation Rates

  • According to the 2014 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), approximately one fifth of students at the University reported participating in undergraduate research in some capacity. That’s significantly higher than the Ontario average!