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Undergrad Research

Undergrad Research

I’ve written before about Mason’s major initiative, the Students as Scholars project, focused on undergraduate research and creativity. This was the year that the project shifted from planning to implementation. It’s still soon to judge, of course, but initial results are very encouraging.

We had the first celebration of achievement this past week, with a number of enthusiastic student (and faculty) participants. With enhanced funding, it’s not totally surprising that student involvement is heading upward; research activities dovetail nicely with growing overall student interest in some hands-on experience as part of college education. Equally encouraging is the involvement of a growing number of disciplines. Activity in the sciences and in psychology, previous staples, continues strong, but there is also growing interest in the arts and in disciplines like history that had been a bit slow to the table heretofore.

More broadly still, the most recent senior survey reveals wide interest in opportunities of this sort, which was limited heretofore by lack of adequate information.

The project is not just about expansion of individual research. Courses are being redesigned to bring students more fully into awareness and assessment of research, and these will begin to bear fruit more clearly next year.

As noted, faculty interest seems to be running high, despite the fact that much activity occurs outside the normal teaching load assignments. The excitement of working with talented students, and in some cases the additional spur to one’s own research, provide some recompense.

And we’re beginning to draw national attention for the effort, from organizations like the Council on Undergraduate Research, thanks in part to the talented leadership on the Mason end. Early days yet, but really promising beginnings.