May 8, 2015

Date of Meeting: 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Attendance:  Ed Gillan, Bob Kirby, Faryle Nothwehr, Barbara Eckstein, Claire Sponsler, Cara Hamann, Nicholas Borcherding, Ryan Tinnes, Carolyn Colvin, Paul Soderdahl, George Hospodarsky, Alberto Segre

Others:  Cheryl Reardon, Lindsay Marshall

Item 1 & 2:  Welcome and Updates (Ed Gillan)

  • Research Council Charter Revisions have been approved through shared governance and will go into the UI Operations Manual pending approval by President Sally Mason
  • Minutes were reviewed and approved

Item 3:  OVPR Updates (Cheryl Reardon)

  • Rewards and Recognition event was held on April 28th.  Research Council Post-Doc Member Cara Hamann received the postdoc award.  OVPR is looking to expand the number of awards for next year and would like suggestions from faculty and Research Council.
  • NEH Summer Workshop Scheduled for May 18
  • Team Science is coming to campus May 19-21
  • EntreFest will be held in Iowa City this year at the end of May
  • Communicating Ideas Workshop is scheduled.   Intensive Workshop targets a small number of faculty to help communicate their research to media.
  • STTR Economic Development grant program officers will visit the UI Research Park
  • Institutional conflict of interest policy has been approved
  • Jim Walker’s replacement has accepted the position and is scheduled to start June 22nd
  • Grainne Martin is retiring this summer.  A search for her replacement will be underway soon.

Item 4:  Discussion of Report and recommendations from Undergraduate Research Subcommittee (Bob Kirby, Lindsay Marshall, and Ed Gillan)

  • The timing of this discussion is important based on changing enrollment at UI as well as a national push to increase student involvement in undergraduate research.  Studies have shown many benefits in Undergraduate Research including higher, GPA and Graduation Rates.  It also serves as an excellent recruiting tool for undergraduate students.  It’s important to balance a push for increased undergraduate research and the affect/strain on faculty time.
  • Subcommittee was composed of: Nicholas Borcherding, Carolyn Colvin, Patricia Gillette, Bob Kirby, Rebekah Kowal, Lindsay Marshall, Alberto Segre, Ryan Tinnes, and Sarah Vigmostad.  A copy of their report is included as an appendix to these minutes.

Research Council Discussion:

RC members walked through most of the bullet points in the committee’s document with guidance from Bob Kirby.  Several things that arose during the discussion included:

  • Focus needs to be on recruiting the right students for higher level undergraduate research positions.  Many students see undergraduate research as a necessity for graduate school application.  Researchers would like to recruit students who ‘want’ to do research as opposed to those who ‘need’ to do research.
  • RC members were supportive of Kirby’s desire for ICRU or other UI groups having a more quantitative way to easily assess participation in the undergraduate research enterprise since currently such information is fragmented or incomplete.  This hinders our ability to make strong cases to external funding agencies for new undergrad research grants.
  • The idea of a website to advertise undergrad research positions (portal) around campus is a good way to connect researchers to specific students.
  • First year seminar (research focused course) students could be tracked throughout their undergraduate career to get metrics on the success of the program and of scaling undergraduate research.  Also to identify strong prospects for future UG research opportunities.
  • Favorable comments were made about the research intensive courses or even spring semester “first year seminars” that had a more faculty research focus.  The idea of “introduction to research” type courses late in year 1 or early in year 2, also seemed desirable, even ones with a selected group of faculty working in research areas with some thematic link.
  • Electronic student portfolios are a good idea.  The infrastructure is in place, just needs to be implemented for this purpose.  Drawback is that the portfolios are not necessarily checked against actual research or coursework so the opportunity for misuse exists.  Bob Kirby noted that some departments use similar tools and like a CV there is no UI stamp of approval on the student-generated content.
  • Increased grant funding for undergraduate research should be pursued, but with the current federal funding landscape, may be unlikely.  Universities need to continue to find ways to do ‘more with less’ and recognize that with increased enrollments, additional funding for UG research is desirable and necessary
  • More recognition of undergraduate research is good for visibility and recruitment.  Developing a Minor in Undergraduate Research program is unlikely as minors tend to focus on a specific departmental area of study, but there could be an opportunity to develop a Certificate in Undergraduate Research so that research work can be tracked on a transcript and more easily verified.  Research projects as well as research-intensive courses could contribute to the certificate.  The Certificate in undergraduate research was met with caution by some faculty who were unsure whether such a certificate may draw students away from other certificates currently on campus.  The general nature of this certificate may also run counter to other more area-specific certificates on campus.

The council discussed ideas of what may be the most important issues to tackle first.  There was general agreement in the overall direction and specific recommendations from the UG research subcommittee.  The initial ideas of better tracking UG research on campus and establishing an avenue for either advanced “first year” seminars or intro to research courses for select students seemed desirable.  It is anticipated that RC will continue to weigh in on this issue further as details of new proposed initiatives and their implementation develop.

PDF iconCreating an Integrated Approach to Undergraduate Research at the University of Iowa.pdf

Item 5:  

  • Due to time limitations and lively undergraduate research discussion, RC did not discuss possible topics for the next year, but Ed Gillan will query current and departing members and OVPR for suggestions and input. 

Appendix: Creating an Integrated Approach to Undergraduate Research at the University of Iowa

Undergraduate research enhances the research and creative scholarship of our faculty and enriches the education of our undergraduates. Over 25% of Iowa undergraduates will take part in mentored research before they graduate. This involvement provides millions of dollars of support for their education through scholarships and student employment from funded grants. In addition, undergraduate involvement in research improves the academic performance and graduation rates of students and provides the next generation of scholars.

Undergraduate research has gained tremendous attention nationwide as a “high impact” practice benefiting student success. However, the traditional model of a student mentee and faculty mentor is no longer tenable with increasing undergraduate enrollments nationwide. To address how undergraduate research can best serve undergraduates at the University of Iowa, as well as benefit the scholarship of our institution, a committee of faculty, staff, and students was brought together under the auspices of the Research Council.

The committee found three guiding principles that shaped their recommendations. These principles are to:

  1. Broaden opportunities for undergraduate research
  2. Maximize fit for students in undergraduate research
  3. Better recognize current undergraduate research

Ideas that received significant support from the committee under these three areas are outlined below.

Broaden opportunities for undergraduate research

  1. Create a web-based research portal where researchers could post positions and students could look for positions. This would tap into the many opportunities available for research experiences in colleges that have few or no undergraduates such as the College of Medicine and the College of Public Health.
  2. Create opportunities with institutional partners that engage in research. Identify areas where research is done outside of traditional departments such as the UI Libraries, UI Museums, Office of the State Archeologist, etc. and engage students in their research efforts.
  3. Integrate graduate and postdoctoral students more fully into undergraduate research mentoring. Could develop a mentoring practicum experience for graduate students similar to the teaching practicum that departments offer.
  4. Develop “research intensive” courses to introduce students to scholarly research. An example would be to make an inquiry based First Year seminar around a topic of interest to the faculty member who would then have groups develop and address questions related to that topic. Research intensive courses offer the best opportunity for scaling up undergraduate research involvement.
  5. Explore team option for research opportunities.  Students can benefit from coming into research experience with a peer and recent work has shown this does not diminish their interactions with a research mentor.

Maximize fit for undergraduate research

  1. Create pathways for research involvement to identify students who are genuinely excited to do research rather than those who feel they need to. The pathways approach would ensure a developed skill set and degree of commitment before moving to the classic faculty-mentored research level.
  2. Develop an “Intro to Research and Scholarship” course as one pathway. Course would focus on broad skillset development and might be developed as online course to meet demand. Importance of making students better understand what research is about across the disciplines and making it engaging for students.
  3. Students could develop an electronic portfolio to document their engagement in research. The portfolio would highlight skills developed and aid them in getting research positions and cataloging their experiences (presentations, publications, etc.). These portfolios could then be queried to track undergraduate research within the University and identify those who may be eligible for specific experiences (scholarships, summer research opportunities).

Better recognize current undergraduate research

  1. Large amount of undergraduate research involvement is happening with significant impact, but not consistently recognized as research. Need to better recognize that breadth of undergraduate research and scholarship. Examples include: capstone experiences such as graduation with University Honors, engineering senior projects, senior dance choreography and performance.
  2. Identify courses that are “research intensive” and denote them in the student record system. There are more than 60 independent study research courses offered for undergraduates and many more structured classes that focus on research and scholarship within a discipline. Have departments identify these courses, mark them in the student record system, and make them searchable in ISIS.
  3. Identify bi-weekly student positions on campus that are research intensive. Have students register for these under URES:3992, the 0 s.h. Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects class so they will be recognized on the transcript and can be tracked by the University.
  4. Develop an undergraduate Certificate in Undergraduate Research and Creative Projects to recognize student involvement in research, highlight our institutional focus as a research university, and greatly improve tracking for student involvement in research. The certificate could incorporate coursework from research intensive courses and the experiences highlighted through the electronic portfolio.