If a chemistry student has always had a passion for social work, wouldn’t it be great for her to find a faculty member in social work and team up on research? The new Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity at UTC is crackling with the excitement of pairing faculty with students to conduct independent intellectual activity.
Traditionally, the UTC Honors College has fostered opportunities for undergraduate research. The honors thesis introduces students to the formal documentation and presentation of their research.
Now the University is poised to encourage all students across disciplines to participate.
Members of a faculty planning committee led by Dr. Gary Ligouri, head of the Department of Health and Human Performance, participated in the 2014 Institute on High-Impact Practices and Student Success hosted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities at Vanderbilt University.
Committee members brainstormed to decide how this pedagogical initiative will evolve. It was decided the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity would be part of the UTC Honors College, which will help promote the culture of undergraduate research across campus.
“There is a lot of room beyond the Honors College to expand this active learning across campus,” said Dr. Linda Frost, Director of the UTC Honors College. “High impact practices include all students and help them succeed and stay in school.”
In the 2014-15 academic year, Frost explained that Dr. Salvatore Musumeci, the new director of the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, will work his way across campus to determine what’s already being done. The next step will be to create a UTC web database for students, to direct them toward faculty with shared academic interests.
Musumeci, a historian, is excited to work in all disciplines among “a faculty known for its research and classroom excellence.” Most recently Musumeci worked at Bryan College, where he and a colleague established a way to “demystify undergraduate research.”
At UTC, he hopes to help students understand how to write an abstract, present research while using accepted norms and decorum, and encourage faculty to ask questions during student research presentations.
But first, there are three areas he wants to address.
“We want to help students identify why they love what they love. We want them to improve their understanding by pushing beyond the classroom, and we want them to share their knowledge with classmates, faculty in the department, the University community, and the community of Chattanooga,” Musumeci explained.
Honors students embrace these methods, and those with a higher GPA will also be interested. Musumeci wants to also reach the student who has a lower GPA.
“You’ll often hear a student with a 2.5 GPA say their parents want them to do better. We want to help them improve by encouraging them to maximize their academic experience and retain them at UTC,” he said.
Chattanooga is the perfect place for University students to be involved in undergraduate research. Many partnerships are already in place, and more will be developed as professionals are invited to campus to explain to students what it’s like to run their businesses, and students and faculty explore ways to conduct meaningful research that can affect community outcomes.
“We are not talking about just one semester. In some cases, this academic research will be developed and expose students to multi-year endeavors,” Musumeci said. “When the new UTC library comes on line, it will make these experiences even richer.”