Minutes: Reinvention Center Northeast Regional Network Meeting
March 1, 2002, New York, New York
The third NY network meeting of research universities sponsored by the Reinvention Center took place on March 1, 2002, at the Stony Brook Manhattan location in New York City. It was attended by 25 faculty and administrators from 13 public and private universities. A list of attendees is attached.
Wendy Katkin, Director of the Center, began with a report on the Center’s activities since the group’s last meeting in June.
The Center had considered leading an effort to create a consortium to submit a proposal to the National Science Foundation for the creation of a center for teaching and learning undergraduate science, math and engineering. After giving the idea considerable thought, the Advisory Board decided that it would not be a good idea because it would put the Reinvention Center in competition with individual campuses that might be responding to the NSF solicitation for such centers. The best role for the Reinvention Center would be to serve as an important resource which would collect information and data and prepare materials such as annotated bibliographies on relevant studies that could be used by Center constituents. It could also be a valuable agent for dissemination through the networks and the Web site spotlight and resource pages. The Division of Undergraduate Education within NSF, which is sponsoring the solicitation, suggested that the Center urge campuses that are submitting application to write the Center into their applications as a major disseminating vehicle.
The Center plans to establish disciplinary networks devoted to improving undergraduate education at research universities. The networks, to be made up of research university faculty working in collaboration with their disciplinary associations, will provide a focus for faculty and departments to share practices and strategies and address issues of common interest within the special context of research universities. Libraries might also play important roles here. We are attaching a file that outlines our vision for them. The first networks are projected to be in English and Math. After that we will be considering forming ones in History, Life Sciences, Physics, and Psychology. Meeting participants suggested that additional networks might be established in fields served by professional schools such as Engineering and Business. The final determination will depend on interest, potential leadership and funding opportunities.
If there are departments or individuals on your campus who are active in undergraduate education, and, you think, might want to play a role in the formation of the networks, please let Wendy Katkin know. Dr. Katkin has been in contact with the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and other groups to see if there is interest in funding such networks.
Web Site Spotlight
The Center’s Web site continues to grow as a source for information and dissemination of information. The current Spotlight features an essay by Ellen Woods, Senior Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stanford, on the need for institutions to adopt a comprehensive approach to involving undergraduates in research that engages all members of the university community, while providing a pathway that prepares students to participate. A second essay by Nancy Weiss Malkiel, Dean of the College at Princeton, is on the inherent value of the research experience to students and faculty alike. The Spotlight also features models drawn from Princeton, Stanford, UC Berkeley and the University of Delaware. The Spotlight URL is: http://www.sunysb.edu/Reinventioncenter/Research%20spotlight.html. Additional links to undergraduate research programs on many other campuses are posted on the Center’s Resources page: http://www.sunysb.edu/Reinventioncenter/resundergrad.html.
The first Spotlight, on first-year programs, is also still available online at:
The next Spotlight will feature an essay by Greg Bothun, Professor of Physics at the University of Oregon, on barriers to the development of a truly interdisciplinary general education curriculum. We are looking for models of curricula, courses or programs to accompany the essay. We are particularly eager to hear about your approach and strategy. If your campus has a model you would like to share, please send Wendy Katkin a brief description of along with the name and email address of a contact person. If you would like to see a copy of Greg’s essay, please let Wendy know.
Undergraduate Research Initiative
At the first two meetings, each network identified areas of common interest. While the original intent had been for each network to create sub-groups that would focus on its priorities, based on discussions at all the meetings as well as the findings of the Boyer report follow-up survey, the Center Advisory Board felt that a better strategy would be to focus across the networks on one issue and to address this issue in a variety of forums.
Undergraduate research was chosen as the issue. This topic emerged as one of the most significant issues in both previous network meetings and the Boyer survey. Research is at the core of what defines research universities, and should be at the core of the undergraduate education they provide. The other issues generally related to undergraduate education – scaling up, addressing all students vs. targeting certain populations, involving graduate students in meaningful ways, engaging faculty – are all embedded in undergraduate research.
To provide a national forum in which to address this issue, the Center is organizing a two-day conference on "Undergraduate Research and Scholarship and the Mission of the Research University," scheduled for November 14 and 15, 2002, at the Inn and Conference Center at the University of Maryland, College Park. The conference will address over-arching institutional issues. One day will be devoted to assessment. The remainder of the meeting was devoted to discussing the tentative conference agenda
Prior to the meeting, in order to provide a foundation for the discussion, the Center distributed a questionnaire which asked about the ways in which network campuses define, administer, support and encourage undergraduate research activities. Significantly, only a small number of campuses were able to respond. Most reported that their institution did not gather this information in a systematic way and that it would be very difficult to obtain.
Definitions: Campuses do not generally have formal definitions of "undergraduate research," but most faculty and administrators who supervise or provide funds for student research activities have developed a set of criteria -- which may or may not take the form of written guidelines -- for judging whether or not a project should be considered "research" or "scholarship." These criteria vary by campus and by discipline, and on individual campuses may vary from year to year depending on the composition of faculty committees. They tend, however, to have certain common features, parameters, and objectives.
One is the expectation that the student participate significantly in formulating the question being addressed. A second expectation is that the student’s work, whether carried out as part of a lab group or on an independent project, be done under the supervision of someone "more learned than they are" and "makes a contribution to the field to the extent of his or her ability." Implicitly or explicitly, virtually everyone agreed that the critical dimension was participation in the generation of new knowledge or artistic creation. A University of Delaware representative well summarized the ideal undergraduate research experience as "what our faculty get tenure for doing," The extent to which students work independently varies by field and by the student’s level. Nearly all written and unwritten guidelines stipulate that the experience must result in a "product" such as a paper, abstract, or presentation.
Objectives: Participants agreed that research projects should provide students with: 1) the skills to ask the right questions, 2) the ability to design a protocol to answer those questions and skills to carry it out, and 3) the ability to organize and communicate the results. On many campuses, students are required to submit a proposal describing the rationale for their project or their participation in a faculty project.
Stages of research: Faculty, especially in the sciences, prefer students to start as apprentices relatively early in their careers, and progress towards greater independence as they become familiar with the work. In the Humanities and non-laboratory Social Sciences, independent scholarship may be more of a capstone experience.
The opportunity for students to do "research" is used as a marketing and promotional tool on many research university campuses. Students come to campus expecting to do research – though they may not really know what it is. Campuses are increasingly recognizing the need to provide pathways in order to get students started and provide experiences for students at different stages.
Some campuses offer special classes or programs to engage students in research. The University of Michigan, for example, offers "Introduction to Research" seminars, directed by faculty with assistance from upper-division undergraduate "research mentors," to first- and second-year students. The seminars address a wide range of research-related issues such as ethics and methodology. In Stony Brook’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, graduate students develop and implement three-week "research" modules – that are carried out by first-year students in an "Introduction to Research" course designed to expose them to a variety of research settings and methodologies. WISE students also take a variant of Stony Brook’s first-year orientation course, "Introduction to a Research University." Activities include attending a colloquium and reporting on what takes place, and reading and preparing an abstract of a scholarly article. The syllabi for these courses are posted on the Web at: http://www.wise/sunysb.edu.
Requirements: Most honors programs have research requirements. Some undergraduate research programs require students to maintain a minimum GPA; others have no such formal GPA requirements. The University of Michigan’s UROP Program was initially targeted at students at risk and is now open to all students. The number of hours spent working on the project is generally expected to be consistent with the number of credit hours required for regular courses. All but one campus requires students to produce some kind of outcome such as a paper in order to earn academic credit.
Target number of students: This varies widely. It is difficult to capture the number of students doing research because there are many venues in which they can become involved. Some programs such as Michigan’s began with efforts to increase the numbers of underrepresented students in the sciences, and were then opened to all interested students. The University of Delaware bases its projected student participation goal on the expected number of faculty willing to supervise students. The University of Connecticut is aiming for 100% undergraduate participation.
Tracking the number of students involved is often difficult since there may be many different avenues through which students can participate, even when there is centralized coordination. Stony Brook requires all students conducting either independent research or working in a lab to register for a certain course number, for anywhere from 0 to 6 credits.
Infrastructure: Several campuses (e.g. Rutgers, Michigan, U Conn, U Delaware, UNH) have central offices which coordinate undergraduate research activities across campus; on others, such activities are coordinated by the Dean of the College (NYU). Some campuses without central offices (Cornell) coordinate activities on a departmental basis. Campuses with central offices often rely on departmental liaisons who are knowledgeable about the field and the projects and personalities of individual faculty members, to advise students on choosing projects. In contrast, on decentralized campuses, faculty in biological sciences, for instance, may not be familiar with all the opportunities available for their students in health science professional schools.
Departments: Departments play a powerful role in shaping undergraduate education, and their support and involvement is crucial to involving faculty and institutionalizing curricular and pedagogical change, including undergraduate research. Departments are the locus of change in an institution. Unfortunately, research advances often lag the curriculum, particularly in introductory courses, and introductory courses often emphasize the history and theory of a field rather than introducing students to what professionals in the discipline actually do. To remedy this, NYU has developed courses in the social sciences such as "Doing Sociology" and "Doing Political Science," in which students go into the field [street] and conduct their own small-scale studies.
We do not have mechanisms for departments to share their successes with one another. One suggestion was for departments to write annual reports on what they did in the past year and the extent to which they achieved their goals with respect to undergraduate education. Undergraduate research coordinators within an institution can play a role in fostering the flow of communication among departments, for instance by convening directors of undergraduate studies or by speaking to selected departments on ways they might consider involving undergraduates. The Reinvention Center can fill this role across campuses.
Faculty Participation: According to a survey conducted by the University of Delaware, the primary motivations for faculty to supervise undergraduate research are: 1) the desire to bring along young students; 2) help for their research; and 3) it enriches the quality of their life at the university. A significant number, however, felt that their departments either did not encourage or care if they supervised undergraduates.
Joan Bennett and Karen Bauer of the University of Delaware gave a preview of the assessment project they will present at the conference. Using funds from its NSF RAIRE (Recognition Award for the Integration of Research and Education) grant, Delaware conducted a four-pronged assessment of its undergraduate research program. Assessment tools included an alumni survey, a faculty survey, a longitudinal study of current students, and a content analysis study. At the network meeting, Dr. Bennett and Dr. Bauer summarized their efforts and results and discussed the ways in which conference sessions could follow up on that information in ways that are useful for individual campuses.
Some questions to ask include:
• What are the desired outcomes?
• What are the measures we should use?
• How do we carry out assessment?
• How do we convince faculty that assessment is important?
• How can research universities respond effectively to externally–defined criteria?
We are in the midst of revising the conference agenda in light of suggestions/comments made at the New York, DC, and California network meetings. We will send you the new agenda around May 15, after the Center Advisory Board meeting. We will also post it on the Center’s Web site.
The changes mostly involve: 1) an expansion of the agents of change to include deans, provosts, and representatives from government and funding agencies; and 2) modification to the assessment component to address your priorities and to include other approaches. We welcome your suggestions for current or former deans, provosts, department chairs, representatives of professional societies, and others to invite to participate in panel or roundtable discussions. We also welcome suggestions for leaders of both the institutional and disciplinary break-out session.
Registration Fees, Attendance Estimates, and Follow-up
The total conference cost and thus the final fee structure will depend on the number of people attending. The fees will include breakfast, lunch, and conference materials for two days. The graduated rate structure reflects the Center’s interest in encouraging universities to send teams that include administrators, key staff, faculty, graduate and undergraduate students.
At present, based on 150 attendees, the following conference pre-registration fees are proposed:
First person: Administrators / Staff: $400; Faculty: $325
Each additional person: $300
Graduate and undergraduate students: $200
Registration fees after September 15 will increase $50.
The Center is seeking funds to underwrite some portion of the costs, but has no commitments yet.
To aid in conference planning, we are asking for the following information:
1. How many individuals from your campus do you expect to attend the conference? How many do you estimate will be faculty? administrators? graduate or undergraduate students?
2. Is your campus likely to help cover graduate student expenses?
3. Do you know of any associations that might sponsor the graduate students’ registration fees? And do you have good contacts in these associations?
4. Are there groups or individuals, either on your campus or at other institutions or organizations, who should be added to the conference mailing list? We will be sending information to all Presidents, Provosts, and Deans, but would appreciate receiving the names of faculty or others who might want to attend.
5. Finally, if you have suggestions for panelists, roundtable participants or breakout sessions leaders, please let us know.
Please send your responses to Wendy Katkin by April 25th (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Conference registration materials will be mailed in June.
There will not be a network meeting in the fall, but there will be one in the spring of 2003.