The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is committed to providing students with high impact learning experiences, and undergraduate research is one way that we accomplish this mission. In 2002, the Winthrop University Undergraduate Research Initiative (WUURI) was created to support a student-centered learning environment that fosters discipline-specific and interdisciplinary research, scholarship, and creative activities. The initiative encourages students and faculty mentors to collaborate in the design and implementation of projects and the dissemination of results. The CAS has been a leader in promoting high-quality mentorship and undergraduate research and has established a supportive network that encourages student participation. Our faculty members willingly accept the challenge implied by this broader view of our teaching mission.
Mentoring is an essential element in the development of undergraduate researchers. All undergraduate research mentors serve as guides, resources, and role models for methods of inquiry in a chosen field of study and for the responsible conduct of research. Mentors engage and encourage students through the entire research process, from formulating research questions to designing a strategy to address those questions to interpreting collected data. Mentors also facilitate dissemination of results to professional audiences by supporting students’ participation in conferences, publication of manuscripts, and presentations to clients. In this way, mentors often provide students with an enhanced understanding of their field and their first entry into professional circles.
Faculty-student mentoring relationships are both productive and transformative. A mentor will motivate students as they transition from “consumers” of knowledge into “producers” of original, intellectual, or creative contributions to their disciplines. Typically, such close faculty-student relationships have a tremendous impact on a student’s academic, professional, and personal development. Undergraduate researchers develop skills such as ethical decision making, critical thinking, and effective communication. Students also gain confidence and self-efficacy as they accomplish their goals and take ownership of their work. CAS students have used their research experience as a platform to win academic scholarships, gain graduate school admission, and enhance their competitiveness on the job market.
The success of the WUURI in the CAS became a catalyst to expand to a university-wide focus. To see accomplishments and opportunities across campus, including funding opportunities for student travel related to undergraduate research, visit the Office of Undergraduate Research.