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Students as Scholars

28 Mar Posted by in Academics | Comments
Students as Scholars

The end of March sees the long-awaited visit of the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation team. With it comes also the next phase in the unfolding of our Quality Enhancement Plan, focused on expanding opportunities for research and creative activity for undergraduates — under the Students as Scholars mantle.

As the campus community knows, the Students as Scholars theme was selected after elaborate planning and consideration by faculty and student groups. It makes a lot of sense: it allows individual subject areas to choose particular routes to promote student scholarship. It addresses issues we face in improving faculty-student contact outside the classroom and in providing additional intellectual stimulation to our increasingly able undergraduates. And it’s a splendid target in and of itself.

The most obvious implementation will involve enlisting more students to work with faculty on research projects. The Undergraduate Apprentices program already points the way, with many really good efforts over the past 13 years. But now we can handle more students and expand the number of disciplines involved. I am always been impressed with (and often have been the beneficiary of) undergraduate research talents, and I’m delighted that a wider range of faculty will now have this stimulating opportunity.

But the bigger challenge of the Students as Scholars project involves other ways, through course work and other group activity, to expose students to what knowledge creation involves. Some of the students affected will go on to their own projects; others will not, but they will have gained a better appreciation of what original work entails and how it can be assessed. It’s the multi-layered aspect of the Students as Scholars enterprise that is particularly important and impressive.

The Students as Scholars initiative will involve no small financial investment. In tandem with other efforts to improve course delivery, enhance learning in the STEM fields, and promote student-faculty dialogues this new chapter in Mason’s educational history promises significant excitement and significant innovation.