Lab research enhances student experience

By Susan Pohorski

Undergraduate research opportunities at Madison College are helping students get more engaged and gain critical-thinking skills.

According to Madison College Provost Turina Bakken, finding new insights to complex problems requires people with the ability to ask the right questions.

During the 2018-2019 academic year, Madison College instituted the first cohort of Course-Embedded Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) students. These students, in partnership with instructors, set out to apply research to learning by asking questions.

Student engagement in meaningful learning experiences increases the likelihood that they will complete their degrees. Engagement also increases students’ grade point averages.

At the end of the year, 75 students presented their findings at the Celebrating Student Research and Scholarship Symposium. Todd Stebbins, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, calls them “innovative and creative discoverers.”

A panel of Madison College directors and administrators judged the presentation posters. Many of the research projects addressed the need for sustainable food sources to solve hunger problems caused by increased population and climate change throughout the world. Other projects focused on finding new sources for antibiotics.

Through research and scholarship students develop communication, critical thinking and the ability to ask the right questions. Employers value these skills in their employees.

“CURE resulted in new skills-based digital badges, internship opportunities, new research-based curricula and a new structure for faculty-mentored open-lab opportunities,” Stebbins said.

A Madison College Innovation Grant and a National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education grant supported the CURE initiative.

An emphasis on undergraduate research

To assist community colleges and other stakeholders in accelerating the value and impact of undergraduate research experiences in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and workforce development, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) this fall will convene the Community College Undergraduate Research Experience Summit.

The meeting on November 20-22 in Washington, D.C. — underwritten by NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program — will focus on the role of community colleges in building, implementing and sustaining undergraduate research experiences (UREs). Learn more here.

Susan Pohorski

is a PR and marketing writer at Madison College in Madison, Wisconsin.