few months the Center spotlights a topic of significance to research university
faculty and administrators. Its approach is Thoughts and Models. The Thought
consists of a short essay on the particular topic being highlighted. The
Models represent different campus approaches to the topic.
discovery are at the heart of the research university. When undergraduates,
working alongside faculty, participate in the generation of knowledge
or artistic creation, they join the university's rich intellectual community
and they derive unique, life-long benefits. Nancy Weiss Malkiel, Dean
of the College at Princeton University, expands on the inherent value
of the research experience to students and faculty alike. Ellen Woods,
Senior Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stanford
University, reinforces Dean Malkiel's observations and emphasizes the
need for institutions to adopt a comprehensive approach. This approach
should engage all members of the university community, while providing
a pathway that prepares students to participate.
The Thoughts on undergraduate
research are followed by Models of different campus
approaches adopted by Princeton, Stanford, UC Berkeley and the University
Undergraduate Research Experience
Nancy Weiss Malkiel, Princeton University
Engaging in independent
research adds immeasurably to the richness of undergraduate education
and provides special intellectual and personal rewards. No matter
how the opportunity is packaged - the senior thesis at Princeton,
undergraduate research opportunities at MIT or Stanford, or any
of the many modes at other colleges and universities - the research
experience challenges and stretches students in ways that cannot
be replicated even in the most rigorous and demanding course work.
At the heart
of the experience is the opportunity to engage in original research
on a topic of the student's own devising, with the guidance and
supervision of a faculty adviser. What is most important is less
the subject matter itself than the contribution of the research
project in developing traits that augur well for future success,
no matter what the student's subsequent professional activities
and civic commitments. These traits include mental discipline; independence
of mind and judgment; the capacity to focus and pursue a subject
in depth; the ability to design and execute a complex project; the
skills of analysis, synthesis, and exposition; and the self-confidence
that grows from mastering a difficult challenge. At its best, the
research experience enables students to make their own contribution
to knowledge in their respective disciplines.
of Princeton students and faculty in writing and advising senior
theses yields insights about the benefits of engaging in independent
research that have broad applicability across institutions.
seniors, the thesis affords the chance to pick a topic that is uniquely
theirs: a topic that may grow directly from course work in the field
of concentration, a topic that may draw on broad intellectual interests
in several fields, a topic that may be inspired by family history,
personal commitments, work experience, or community service. Chosen
properly, the topic will be compelling enough to draw the student
to the library or laboratory, engaging enough to inspire conversation
with fellow students and faculty, complicated enough to provide
experience in navigating detours and recouping from false starts,
interesting enough to live with over an extended period of time,
and original enough to afford the opportunity to make a contribution
Once the topic
has been chosen, the next challenge is to formulate the specific
questions the research will attempt to answer. Even if the topic
itself seems not to be strikingly original, by asking new questions
and looking for fresh insights, the student can produce an original
piece of work that advances our understanding of the subject.
of the thesis experience stand out: the chance to do something original,
distinctive, personally important, and "truly new"; and the "exhilaration"
of working closely with a faculty adviser. Listen to some recent
thesis-writers at Princeton:
"For the first time in my life, I felt passionate about an issue….
I wanted to dig deeper into the…questions; I wanted to search for
my own answers."
"I am a hands-on person, and I felt as though I was finally applying
the book knowledge I'd gained in my classes."
"One of the most exciting aspects of the senior thesis for me was
being responsible for original research, rather than merely summarizing
the work of others."
"I feel an immense sense of satisfaction at having produced a truly
new piece of work."
"One of the
highlights of the thesis experience, aside from generating original
research, is working closely with a faculty member who has vast
experience and knowledge in your area of interest."
in writing a thesis translates into assurance about meeting future
most rewarding thing about writing a thesis is the skill set that
you walk away with. I am now able to manage my time effectively
and efficiently, organize my responsibilities, and utilize the resources
I have around me. The thesis-writing process itself empowered me
with a confidence that I can succeed in all that I do."
go not only to the thesis-writer, but to the faculty adviser. As
the advisers themselves attest, some of the pleasure comes from
to engage in collaborative research with a Princeton undergraduate
is one of the most rewarding aspects of life as a Princeton professor.
Like most professors on this campus, I suppose, I find the world
and activity of research thrilling. Watching the first steps of
an eager student into this world is always exciting. Walking into
the research world together, which happens when the student chooses
to join me in my own research, combines the best of these experiences."
nature of the advising experience is what I typically find most
rewarding…. Having a student become passionate about…issues [you
care about] and become expert enough to work as a true colleague
on a project is perhaps the most fulfilling thing a researcher can
Part of the
pleasure comes in reordering the balance between teacher and student:
the partial reversal of the usual roles of teacher and student.
The idea, or the hunch, is the student's to start with; she has
to think through its implications and the proper way of articulating
its skeleton; and she finally has to put flesh on the bones during
those late-night/early morning sessions at the keyboard. I'm here
to help out along the way, to question and probe and make suggestions,
but the student is the leader, the person on whom the enterprise
"The relation between adviser and advisee, asymmetrical to begin
with, began to change, as I began to learn from the fruit of her
work. This is the single most rewarding part of advising seniors:
the fundamental reciprocity of the learning-teaching experience."
And in the best
of circumstances, the student's work changes the way the adviser
addressed…topics that I had considered, taught, and written about
before. But our year of cooperation gave me ideas I had not had
before - and by that I mean not only that I had new thoughts; I
also mean that I found myself correcting errors I had made, changing
my mind, realizing that issues I had not thought significant actually
counted, and questions I had thought important might be well left
angle on the material was so fresh, [her] thesis taught me a great
deal about two authors I had already known rather well."
"Did I learn
from this thesis? It has significantly changed the way I read those
two literary pillars of my professional life."
"Truth be told,
the most satisfying moments of thesis advising are, simultaneously,
the most humbling. They can best be summed up under the simple heading:
'Hey, why didn't I think of that?'"
in Research: A Comprehensive Approach
Ellen Woods, Senior Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education,
There may be
no institution more optimistic in its core missions than a research
university. As Henry Rosovsky puts it in The University, An Owner's
Manual, "Research, especially academic research, is a form of optimism
about the human condition." Each discovery promises the possibility
of a better life and a better world. Undergraduate education demonstrates
a similar commitment to improving the human condition both individually,
one person at a time, and collectively, for each future generation.
between faculty research and undergraduate education has traditionally
been expressed through teaching: professors infuse their courses
with new discoveries and modify the curriculum to reflect the creation
and evolution of knowledge in their field. But the Boyer Commission
report and the Reinvention Center activities challenge research
universities to reformulate this connection so that students and
faculty can take full advantage of the special character of the
research university. Undergraduate education should bring students
into closer connection with the research enterprise as partners
with faculty in research.
To foster these
research partnerships, all components of undergraduate education
should be consciously structured in a comprehensive approach toward
the goal of preparing all students to become involved in research.
Two factors characterize successful undergraduate researchers: a
close association with a faculty mentor and an inquiring habit of
mind. These characteristics should be nurtured through a carefully
crafted pattern of progressively organized educational opportunities,
starting in the students' first year, progressing through their
choice of major, and culminating in meaningful participation in
the research of a faculty member or an independent research project.
At every stage
of this continuum, the mentoring relationship is key. As research
mentors, faculty members affirm the value of active learning. They
challenge students to go beyond acquiring information to transforming
it creatively into knowledge, thereby developing the inquiring habit
of mind. The mentoring relationship itself embodies the values and
process of scholarly research. Curious about some issue or problem,
a scholar gets an idea, shares it with a colleague and discusses
it critically. He or she conducts research to test and explore the
dimensions of the idea, drawing from the field's perspective and
methods. He or she may present a talk at a conference and write
about the discovery, thus broadening the community of colleagues
with whom the idea is shared. In response to critical questions
leading to further research, he or she revises and rethinks the
findings. This iterative process that distinguishes academic scholarship
also characterizes the faculty/student interaction. Faculty mentors
model the research process interactively with their students; the
research partnership thus brings to life the educational experience
of scholarship. Mutual interests inspire both professor and student
toward high levels of achievement, and a natural community of scholars
evolves over the course of the project.
of the research university is decentralized by its very nature and
the demands of the research enterprise - such as graduate education
and disciplinary obligations - create enormous tensions for faculty
who set undergraduate education as a high priority. A comprehensive
approach to bringing more faculty and students into productive research
partnerships goes against the grain of fragmentation and decentralization
that characterizes the autonomous activities of research and teaching.
Such an approach requires multiple strategies, ideally drawn into
an integrated and coordinated whole under the vision and leadership
of a central administrative office such as that of a vice president
or provost, that target faculty, departments, research centers and
institutes, and the students themselves. When they succeed, these
strategies truly reflect the optimism that is at the heart of research
The Center spotlights four universities that exemplify different strategies
for engaging undergraduates. At Princeton University
the focus is the required senior thesis, which represents the culmination
of students' classroom experiences and of independent work carried out
in the junior year. Stanford University has implemented
a step-by-step process that begins in the first year and enables students
to move from one level of research participation to the next. The University
of California at Berkeley offers multiple pathways through which students
can gain critical skills and take advantage of the vast array of opportunities
the University offers. The University of Delaware
engage students and faculty in two ways: in the classroom: through
Problem-Based Learning approaches and out of the classroom through its
Undergraduate Research Program, which is one of the oldest in the country.
also offer many opportunities for students to participate in their own
or faculty research and creative projects. While space does not permit
us to profile all of them, we refer you to our Resources
page for links to a wide range of programs.
University: The Senior Thesis
to write a senior thesis sets Princeton apart from other colleges
and universities. The thesis presumes that through the foundational
work of general education and the focused study of departmental
concentration, undergraduates develop the capacity to engage in
independent study in their chosen fields. The thesis gives the student
the opportunity to pursue original research on a topic of the student's
own choosing, with the guidance and supervision of a faculty adviser.
As such, the thesis enables students to apply a craft that they
have spent years studying and, at best, to make their own contribution
to knowledge in their respective disciplines.
departments assign thesis advisers early in the fall of the senior
year, attempting insofar as possible to take account of student
preferences. The adviser works with the student through the year,
although in practice the advising becomes more intense during the
spring term. Some students begin their research over the previous
The thesis topic
is chosen in consultation between the adviser and the student. Some
students come to the process with a specific topic already in mind;
others develop the topic in discussion with their advisers. The
experience of doing junior independent work (also required of all
students) provides a preview of the research strategies and writing
skills needed for the senior thesis. Sometimes the thesis grows
directly from the junior paper.
thesis is a substantial written report based on scholarly investigation
or scientific experimentation. Some students produce creative theses,
including novels, plays, collections of poetry or short stories,
films, photography exhibits, and dance performances.
Funding to support
some of the expenses that may be involved in thesis research is
available from academic departments, from endowments administered
by the Office of the Dean of the College, and from alumni class
information, consult Nancy Weiss Malkiel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or Richard G. Williams (email@example.com),
respectively Dean and Associate Dean of the College.
University: Stanford Introductory Studies and Undergraduate
In the past
five years Stanford has put in place a model that involves students,
faculty, departments, and administration in a carefully designed
progression of academic experiences that guides students from one
level of research to the next. This is accomplished by two major
initiatives administered by the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education:
Stanford Introductory Studies (SIS) and Undergraduate Research Programs
(URP). These provide a pathway through the research university that
emphasizes mentoring and active learning, with the ultimate goal
of increasing the number of students who reach the level of independent
research. The Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
also organizes activities to bring together the faculty from across
the university who are engaged in these initiatives.
An outline of
the Stanford model is provided here. For a more detailed discussion,
please click here to read
the expanded version of this essay.
Stanford Introductory Studies (SIS) represents a re-conceptualization
of education in the first two years. It consists of required first-year
general education courses and elective introductory seminars, both
of which contribute uniquely to preparing students for participation
in research. The required year-long Introduction to the Humanities
course sequence [http://ihum.Stanford.edu]
is team-taught by faculty members from different humanities disciplines,
who offer multiple approaches to the interpretation of selected
texts and challenge students to decide for themselves which approach
yields the most convincing meaning. These foundations are reinforced
by the Program in Writing and Rhetoric [http://pwr.Stanford.edu],
in which workshop-format courses are supplemented by one-on-one
conferences. In addition, Stanford Introductory Seminars [http://introsems.stanford.edu]
offer over 200 small elective classes for freshmen and sophomores
on topics typically drawn from the professor's current research.
The seminar approaches one form of pedagogical ideal - a small class
where students elect to study what the research faculty elect to
Programs Beyond the Freshman Year Sophomore College, a residential
program before the opening of the autumn term, gives about a quarter
of the class access to the seminar experience in an intensive time-compressed
In Sophomore Seminars, faculty focus on directing students toward
committing to a field of concentration and on identifying potential
Students working on independent projects, primarily for departmental
honors, had been well served for almost two decades by a student
grant program, Undergraduate Research Opportunities [http://uro.stanford.edu].
To expand access to research opportunities for students who were
not ready for or interested in designing and conducting independent
work, the Vice Provost established two pilot grant programs: one
that supported department-wide undergraduate research programs and
another that provided funds for individual faculty to involve students
in their research projects. In 2000-01, all three categories of
support were consolidated into the Undergraduate Research Programs
office. To make the full resources of the research university available
to undergraduates, the URP also extends support to research institutes
such as the Humanities Center, Hoover Institution, the Institute
for International Study, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator. Most
participating departments and institutes did not previously have
an effective way to publicize faculty research and locate undergraduates
interested in working on projects. Hundreds of students are now
working on research projects with hundreds of faculty through the
expanded URP grant programs. Many of the participating faculty work
with students whom they met as freshmen or sophomores in an SIS
class. Most of these students plan to undertake independent honors
projects under the supervision of the faculty member, thus completing
the progression from SIS to honors.
of California, Berkeley: The Smorgasboard
for undergraduate research stems from the diversity and range of
its offerings - a smorgasbord of opportunities rather than a single
An outline of
them is provided. For more detailed discussion, please click
follow a natural progression from apprenticing on faculty research
projects, to developing independent projects, to seeking opportunities
for publication and presentation. Within this sequence, Berkeley
offers multiple opportunities for students to forge their own unique
paths. The Office of Undergraduate Research serves as a virtual
and physical gateway to the rich array of opportunities. The office
serves as a clearinghouse to help undergraduates access research
opportunities, rather than as an administrative unit to centralize
programs under one roof. The office sponsors a Web site [http://research.berkeley.edu]
that links to campus undergraduate research programs and opportunities,
offers ongoing workshops and downloadable documents for students
on how to get involved in research, and provides advising and related
Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) [http://research.berkeley.edu/urap],
over 400 students annually apprentice on faculty research projects
across all majors, departments, and schools. A select group of students
receive summer support to continue their apprenticeships. The College
of Engineering's program [http://www.coe.berkeley.edu/Students/uro/index.html]
offers a more focussed array of apprenticeships only open to Engineering
majors. Many other students find opportunities through their major
departments, serendipitous encounters, or their own persistent legwork.
This is especially true in the sciences and engineering where virtually
every lab involves undergraduates and many faculty find students
outside of formal structures. As one former physics major counseled
peers aspiring to be undergraduate researchers, "seek and ye shall
To further recognize
and promote undergraduate research, the Deans of the College of
Letters & Science inaugurated a new award in Spring 2001 to honor
individual faculty who have done exceptional service as undergraduate
have gained foundational skills both in and outside the classroom,
many go on to initiate independent research under faculty sponsorship,
through independent studies or senior thesis courses. In addition
to departmentally-based opportunities, a number of campus programs
offer funding to permit more ambitious and enriched research experiences.
Small grants are available for students to travel to collect data
or to present their research findings at professional meetings [http://research.berkeley.edu/travel/].
Campus programs such as the McNair Scholars Program [http://www-mcnair.berkeley.edu/]
and the Haas Scholars Program [http://research.berkeley.edu/Haas_scholars]
offer the experience of participating with an interdisciplinary
cohort of advanced undergraduate researchers.
been a pioneer in expanding undergraduate research into the non-laboratory
disciplines, involving students in humanities research that is more
traditionally done solo rather than as part of a team. Recent student
projects include assembling bibliographies and researching archival
images. In 2000/2001, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, which
primarily serves faculty and graduate students, partnered for the
first time with URAP to invite URAP apprentices to join two of the
Center's working groups.
One of the most
exciting aspects of participating in the creation of knowledge is
getting to share those accomplishments publicly. Opportunities abound
on campus, from departmentally-sponsored poster sessions to interdisciplinary
research symposia. The most accomplished students may travel off-campus
to participate in professional conferences and a few fortunate undergraduate
researchers may co-author professional papers with their faculty
mentors. Berkeley is home to two long-standing student-run undergraduate
research journals, the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal in the Humanities
and Social Sciences [http://learning.berkeley.edu/buj/index.html]
and Berkeley Scientific [http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~bsj/].
Start-up journals also emerge, fueled by student energy. Notable
recent examples include The Thinker, created by students in Cognitive
Science, and Clio's Scroll in the History Department. These journals
are exciting venues for publication of student research and provide
opportunities for undergraduates to take on other roles as peer
reviewers, editors, designers and business managers, all contributing
to the production and dissemination of new knowledge.
of Delaware: Undergraduate Learning In and Out of the Classroom
of Delaware believes that the development of its undergraduates
into productive, proactive citizens is best accomplished in an environment
of discovery where research and education are, at all levels, integrated
pursuits. The key to successful integration of research and education
is the faculty. The first level of integration occurs directly in
individual faculty research programs where undergraduate students
along with graduate students are collaborators in the research of
over 60% of our faculty. Over 90% of the faculty in engineering,
physical, and life sciences; over 80% of those in social, behavioral,
and economic sciences; 60% in humanities; 56% in art; and 55% in
mathematical sciences supervise undergraduate research. Between
600 and 700 undergraduates are working in faculty research collaborations
at any one time. They are served by the Undergraduate Research Program
(www.udel.edu/UR), an academic
support unit founded in 1980 that operates under the auspices of
the University Provost through the Office of Undergraduate Studies.
The Program helps departments connect undergraduates with appropriate
faculty researchers and provides university resources to units developing
special undergraduate research programs. It also provides financial
assistance for research-related expenses and about 200 full summer
research scholarships annually. The Program sponsors numerous opportunities
for students to present ongoing work, among them a university-wide
senior thesis program through which students prepare a research
proposal, make oral presentations of research-in-progress, establish
a formal thesis committee, and give an oral defense of their thesis.
The second level
of integration takes place in classrooms dedicated to active, research-based
student learning. Although not all undergraduates can experience
research collaborations with faculty, all can experience research-based
discovery learning in their course curricula. Since 1992, UD faculty
have pioneered the development of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) for
undergraduate education (www.udel.edu/pbl).
Faculty obtain training in PBL through workshops and follow-up support
offered through UD's Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education
makes available a number of fellowships each year for faculty who
wish to receive training through the Institute. Over one-third of
UD's entire faculty have taken the workshops and are making use
of discovery-based pedagogy in their courses. Further, substantial
resources are newly available through the UD General Education Fund
for faculty who wish to redesign a general education course or develop
a new one to optimize a pedagogy of discovery learning (www.udel.edu/cte).
To support undergraduate
research and inquiry-based pedagogy, UD takes advantage of the fact
that it is a residential university to initiate incoming undergraduates
into an environment of discovery learning. Living-Learning communities
are provided for students' first-year experience through two programs,
the University Honors Program (www.udel.edu/honors)
and LIFE (Learning Integrated Freshman Experience) Program (www.udel.edu/life).
Together these communities currently serve approximately 20% of
the first-year class. Expansion is planned to make the LIFE learning
communities available to all first-year students. Living-Learning
communities are also available for upper class students through
special interest housing.
University faculty have resolved by 2003 to require of every UD
graduate an integrative Capstone Experience within the major and
a Discovery Learning Experience outside the classroom that allows
every student, whether in the research endeavor itself or in an
internship, service-learning, or other field experience, to develop
the ability to integrate knowledge and skills gained through academic
inquiry with experiences beyond the classroom (www.udel.edu/facsen/reports/genedrpt1.htm).
If you have an undergraduate
research program you would like listed on the Resources page, please send
us a brief description (250 words maximum). Be sure to include the
name of the program and its target population. Also give us a link to
a Web site or the name and email address of a contact person.
We invite you to take the lead in framing future
Thoughts and Models.
If you're interested and have a "Thought" in mind, please
send us an e-mail: reinvention@MIAMI.EDU. We will identify "models"
that relate to it.
The Thought will consist of a short essay focusing
on an issue central to undergraduate education at research universities.
The specific topic to be addressed may vary. It may for example relate
to an institutional challenge, an aspect of student learning, a societal
need, or a recent research finding that may influence the way undergraduate
education generally or in a specific discipline is conceived and delivered
at research universities.
Each Thought will be accompanied by reports
on programs and experiences that exemplify or expand upon the Thought.
The models will be drawn from different research universities, utilize
different strategies, and, to the extent possible, focus on different
disciplines. Collectively, they will become part of a database that will
yield insights into what works or does not work and why.
and Models will be incorporated into reports to be distributed through
this web site, professional society newsletters and our own mailings.
We welcome your comments
and look forward to hearing from you.