An NSF Sponsored Workshop on Implementation of Undergraduate Research Centers

ATTENTION: Project Kaleidoscope was asked to forward this announcement on to the PKAL community. The information posted on this page is all the information that we have available. Questions should be addressed to either Amy Shachter or Michael Doyle.

About the Workshop
How to Request an Invitation
Agenda (subject to change)

About the Workshop

In the first year of this pilot program, proposals describing the potential participation of over a hundred colleges and universities were received, approximately twenty planning grants were awarded, and one undergraduate research center was announced.

This program sought

  1. new models and partnerships with the potential to expand the reach of undergraduate research to include first- and second-year college students; and
  2. to enhance the research capacity, infrastructure, and culture of participating institutions, thereby strengthening the nation's research enterprise.

For this pilot program, research should be in the chemical sciences or in interdisciplinary areas supported by the chemical sciences. Projects should provide exposure to research of contemporary scientific interest that is addressed with modern research tools and methods.

This solicitation supports both planning grants that can be used to develop models, partnerships, and pilot projects; and awards in support of the full scope of URC activity." Attractive concepts and plans that extend the original RFP were seen in many of the proposals, but there were identifiable deficiencies common in others. The Workshop on September 17th will serve to encourage new developments in the pilot program that are consistent with the original program intent, and the Workshop will also provide a midterm correction in public perception and understanding of the URC program.

A Workshop entitled "NSF Workshop Exploring the Concept of Undergraduate Research Centers" was held March 30 - April 1, 2003 at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. Organized by Jeanne E. Pemberton (University of Arizona) and Moses Lee (Furman University), this Workshop explored answers and opinions on questions that included: "how can we provide active and engaging modes of learning such as research opportunities, with their inherent pedagogical value, to a larger number of students earlier in their undergraduate careers in a manner that will attract and retain them as majors in these disciplines? And, how can we successfully broaden utilization of these models beyond the current confines of research universities and the more elite four-year colleges to institutions with no history of research and to the growing population of students starting their undergraduate education at two-year colleges?"

According to the Executive Summary of the Workshop, several themes emerged that highlight the philosophical values embedded in the concept of URCs. One central theme was that of collaboration: participants agreed that URCs should bring institutions with divergent missions together to their mutual benefit. A second strong theme that emerged was that, as often as possible, students should be involved in real research and actively contribute to the production of new knowledge. The utility of community-based research experiences in attracting students to the sciences, particularly at urban and nonresidential institutions, was recognized in this context.

While it was agreed that URCs should focus initially on expanding research opportunities for freshmen and sophomores, participants articulated an expansive vision in which URCs support research-based learning "from cradle to grave," from elementary school to civic involvement within the local community. Finally, the themes of institutionalization of the culture of research as the cornerstone of scientific literacy for all students and curricular reform necessary to successfully support such a vision of URCs were also emphasized.

With proposals received by January 16, 2004, and subsequently reviewed, reviewers pointed to some common misconceptions regarding the URC program and to common difficulties in the development of a cohesive plan for implementation. Among the misconceptions were that the URC centers were not adaptations or extensions of the existing Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, nor were they to be structured as are graduate programs for students undertaking a career in the chemical sciences. Some common difficulties evident in submitted proposals were assessment and evaluation, student recruitment, as well as sustainability and scalability, and they suggested the need for a Workshop that could alert the community to ways in which these areas could be addressed.

In one sense, this Workshop will provide renewed attention to the program, its objectives, and its potential benefits for workforce development in the chemical sciences. In another, the Workshop provides a mid-term correction for those who expect further engagements with the URC program.

How to Request an Invitation

Workshop attendance is by invitation to those who would benefit most (so requests to Amy Shachter or Michael Doyle should state why the correspondent wishes to attend), and the number of places is limited.


Agenda subject to revision

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Participants will arrive during the afternoon and check into the hotel

Friday, September 17, 2004

8:00 am Introductions and opening remarks
8:10 am Implementation of the First Year of the NSF-NRC Program
8:50 am Presentation by Leader(s) of the first full URC
9:45 am Sustainability and Scalability 10:25 am Curricular Models
11:00 am Breakout Sessions on morning presentations
The Report from the 2003 Workshop emphasized that URCs would be expected to demonstrate how their presence will influence curricular reform at one or more of the participating institutions, and how this reform will be sustained in the long term.
11:45 am Reports from Breakout Session
12:00 noon Lunch set up for interactive discussions
1:00 pm Partnerships and Center Management
1:40 pm Assessment and Evaluation
Issues here are singularly significant because of the non-traditional nature of the program, perhaps requiring new models. The Report from the 2003 Workshop emphasized that URCs would be expected to undertake assessment of the benefits and outcomes of the undergraduate research experiences that they provide, and the impact of these experiences on the career paths of the specific target populations of the URC.
2:20 pm Break
2:40 pm Student Recruitment
3:20 pm Breakout Sessions
4:10 pm Reports from Breakout Sessions
4:40 pm Concluding Remarks
5:15 pm Adjourn