Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative

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Title of Abstract: Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative

Name of Author: James Hewlett
Author Company or Institution: Finger Lakes Community College
Author Title: Professor of Biology
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum, Faculty Development, Introductory Course(s)
Approaches: Assessment, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development
Keywords: Undergraduate Research Case Study Method

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): John VanNiel, Finger Lakes Community College Jackie Crisman, Jamestown Community College Virginia Balke, Delaware Technical Community College James Jacob, Tompkins Cortland Community College

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The primary goal of the project is to test models for integrating an undergraduate research experience into a community college science curriculum.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: The project utilizes a case study method of instruction in introductory science courses. The cases are designed to promote a deeper conceptual understanding while at the same time exposing students to the ongoing CCURI research projects. The case study method of instruction introduces students to the process of science and helps prepare them for their undergraduate research experience. Traditional cookbook laboratory activities have been replaced by activities that expose students to contemporary research methods. In some cases, the freshman are engaged directly in data collection and analysis. The first year experience in the CCURI model is designed to expose students to the research and engage them in a path toward a STEM career. After engaging students in the research questions as part of the freshman courses, the CCURI model involves the creation of opportunities for students to explore those questions in greater depth through a course-based, program-based, or summer-based research experience.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: The evaluation plan focuses on both institutional and student impact. Institutional impact is measured through a series of surveys that capture the development of new curriculum, courses, and infrastructure required for sustaining an undergraduate research program. For student impact, the program utilized surveys to collect data on recruitment and retention in STEM programs and increases in the number of students pursuing advanced degrees and careers in STEM fields. In addition, the program utilizes the CAT instrument (Tennessee Tech) to measure gains in critical thinking.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: The primary impact on the 26 partner schools has been the development of customized strategic plans for developing an undergraduate research program at their institutions. These partners are at various stages of implementation, and data collection involved surveys and interviews to measure progress. Among these partners, the project has measure gains in courses, curricula, infrastructure (sustainability), retention in STEM, and critical thinking gains.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: One of the primary challenges we have faced has been the effective communication of expectations to our 26 partners. It was clear from early one that the approach of several of the partners was to see this grant as an opportunity to obtain additional resources for their existing initiatives. The challenge was in developing a message that included ways that partners might contribute to something larger than themselves as part of a national movement to bring the undergraduate research experience to the two-year college. To meet this challenge, we have encouraged partners to take on leadership roles (CUR leadership) and have solicited invited talks on best practices as part of our dissemination efforts.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: In addition to the project website ( we hold two annual regional and one national conference focused on undergraduate research at community colleges. The Council on Undergraduate Research is our primary partner and a critical component of our dissemination plan. We co-market and disseminate our activities. In addition, we support faculty development at our partner institutions and have provided support for faculty to present their work using the CCURI message, logo, and brand. Faculty at partner institutions have published articles, and CUR publications include information on CCURI activities.

Acknowledgements: Beth Ambos, Council on Undergraduate Research Celeste Carter, National Science Foundation Heather Bock, Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative