The DaVinci Institute’s 2017 Fall Forum was held in conjunction with the 2017 Oklahoma Promoting Undergraduate Research Conference. DaVinci presented a panel session about interdisciplinarity and creativity in undergraduate research to the combined assemblage in the morning, then broke out for its Fall Forum in the afternoon, with our session open to all attendees.
Collective wisdom was developed via a Q-Sort process during the Fall Forum break-out session concerning the “WHY” for creative undergraduate research at Oklahoma colleges and universities, including activity on Oklahoma campuses to prompt, encourage, and support applications to present research findings at both Oklahoma Undergraduate Research Day (ORD) and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR).
The Q-Sort followed an Oklahoma university faculty member’s presentation about his process for encouraging undergraduates in the liberal arts to become involved in undergraduate research projects, and he also described his workshops for students to help them prepare good NCUR applications. A university undergraduate who had successfully proposed to NCUR the previous year and attended the Spring 2017 NCUR at Memphis State University shared her research poster and spoke to Forum attendees about her experience at NCUR and the value-add it provided her as a college student and in preparation for her post-college life. One of the three break-out groups’ work product appears below:
Collapsing all three groups’ work into an over-arching summary produced the following reasons WHY DaVinci Institute member institutions, and all Oklahoma colleges and universities, for that matter, should work to develop student interest in, and mechanisms to support, ORD and NCUR student proposals:
- Professional Skills/Problem Solving — undergraduate research supports the development of these attributes in students
- Maverick Thinking — a hallmark of interdisciplinarity in research is the creative approach to problem-solving when multiple disciplinary perspectives are applied
- Engagement — students engaged in undergraduate research collaborate with faculty mentors as they develop research and presentation skills, and engagement is proven to exert a strong positive for student success in terms of persistence, academic performance, and graduation
- Empowerment/Self-Efficacy — students develop a sense of agency when working alongside faculty mentors who support their development in thinking as well as research protocols
- Team Building — for both students (they must work with other researchers and with their mentors) and the institution (because supporting student research and, ultimately, student travel to ORD and NCUR requires institutional units to collaborate), undergraduate research develops the ability to work with others in service to a common goal
- Outreach/Societal Benefits — the Broader Impact of research stretches to the community and beyond, especially when students share their work both inside and outside the academy
- Institutional Benefit — such benefits accrue in many areas: better student retention, recognition for the students as well as the institution at major conferences, gaining a recruitment tool via undergraduate research as a value-add for students if they enroll
- Community Building — research often requires students to engage with other students or faculty at other institutions or in professional organizations, students network and learn from peers’ presentations at ORD and NCUR, institutions become part of the ORD and NCUR communities and professional organizations