Leveraging Local Connections to Provide Combined Research and Professional Development Opportunities for Undergraduates

Thursday 3:15pm TSU - Humphries: 221


Katie Farnsworth, Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus
Holly Travis, Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus
Matt Genchur, White Township, Indiana County, PA
Students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) are provided with opportunities to participate in undergraduate research. This provides them with many well-known benefits. These well documented benefits include higher achievement and retention rates, increased oral and written skills, and acquiring lab and field skills that help with their future career or educational paths. By partnering with local organizations to develop projects for undergraduate research, the benefits multiply for everyone involved, but especially the students.

Local non-profit organizations are provided knowledge and understanding about specific issues relevant to their organization. It also often initiates, or strengthens, a connection to the local university community that expands outside of the science departments. For example, one of the non-profits we work with was connected with faculty teaching a communications course, and soon another student project developed create new web-content. We have also found many students expanding the volunteer force of these non-profits, helping out on additional non-science projects.

The University and the individual faculty also receive benefits from these connections. The students help build bridges between IUP and the community. When our neighbors are interacting with students in productive ways, it helps to mitigate the negative interactions that pop-up in all college towns. The faculty also benefits in multiple ways. The connections with local organizations help facilitate applied research in the region. Faculty also gain a co-mentor for these student projects. This helps to ease the time burden on faculty working with undergraduates.

The biggest benefit, by far, is to the students. To name just a few, students have enhanced career exploration opportunities, learn to publicly advocate for their science to communities of non-scientists, and get to contribute knowledge to problems that impact their own communities. Experiences such as presenting to county commissioners is eye-opening, as well as skill building.

Presentation Media

Farnsworth Presentation (Acrobat (PDF) 5.2MB Jul18 19)