November 23, 2019

Day 3 – Community College Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) Summit 2019

Posted by Laura Guertin

This post is part of a collection of blog posts I made from the Community College Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) Summit, held in Washington DC from November 20-22, 2019. Be sure to also check out Day 1 and Day 2.


The final day of the Community College Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) Summit was a half-day for wrapping up all that we had just uncovered, and figuring out the pathway forward. All of the responses to the question prompts from our breakout discussions the previous day were summarized and placed on the walls around our main meeting room. We engaged in a gallery walk exercise (which is a great pedagogical tool – check out the gallery walk teaching material on SERC!) and were given blue dots to vote for ideas that we believe are most important for the community college sector or pay to pay attention to, as it pertains to UREs.

We went around to the corners of the room with our sticky dots in hand to explore the compiled benefits, opportunities, challenges, and successes in scaling and sustaining, partnerships, equitable access, and measuring impact (more about these discussion points can be found in my Day 2 post).

Although there will be a full report and other forms of dissemination that will be coming out from this summit in 2020, I don’t think I’m stealing any thunder by calling attention to some of the items that received the most votes/dots – and I don’t think they will be a surprise to anyone at a 2-year or a 4-year institution:

  • Evaluate how URE fits in with degree programs, strategic plan, instituion mission and goals
  • Incentivize research with awards, recognitions, compensation
  • Demonstrate benefits of UREs through stories on campus, to stakeholders, and with alumni
  • Align UREs with local/regional needs, geographic relevance, real-world and application based
  • Build institutional capacity (sustained funding, staff support, finance office, marketing team, etc.)
  • Expose students to research in the first semester, even through a library research project
  • Build a student community of support
  • Educate faculty on universal design, cultural awareness, disabilities (seen and hidden)
  • The need for assessment – of individual experiences, of impacts in the workforce, even after our students have left our campuses
  • Help students realize their STEM identity, where they say (and believe the words) I am a scientist!

I am really looking forward to seeing how all of this information is pulled together and hope to do my part to share these results and to continue these conversations.

And if you read my blog post from Day 2, you may recall I stated that none of the student video vignettes showcased anything from the Earth or space sciences. Turns out that the two videos we viewed on the final day both pertain to the geosciences! The first one describes the UNAVCO Geo-Launchpad internship program, open to community college students in Colorado. The second one describes the SUREC (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience Course) program, where 12 Austin Community College students spent the summer learning about geosciences from faculty at Texas A&M and The University of Texas, preparing them for transfer to complete STEM degrees.

Although I left the summit feeling appreciative of the opportunity to come together with colleagues from across the nation (yes, even someone from Hawaii!), there were some definite gaps that I felt were really obvious in the presentations and discussions.

For example, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) is an organization with a mission to support and promote high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship. Their journal, conferences, workshops, and incredible network have so much to offer faculty interested in establishing or sustaining UREs. In 2015, the National Academy of Sciences hosted a Convocation on Integrating Discovery-Based Research Into the Undergraduate Curriculum (see my blog posts from this event) and published a final convocation report (free PDF available for download). David Lopatto’s name was never heard, nor his work on assessment of undergraduate research (I blogged about Lopatto’s 2018 CUR Conference talk). Or AAC&U’s listing of undergraduate research as a high-impact practice (see Lopatto’s article and the AAC&U High-Impact Practices webpage). There are also excellent discipline-based materials that have been created, such as the Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education at Two-Year Colleges (SAGE 2YC) “Engage 2YC Students in Research.”

I know our time was short, but I think there was a missed opportunity to share some of these key resources with the audience in the room – we will be much better at advancing our field if we are aware of and build upon the foundation that already exists. But I’m certain there will be movement forward, and I’m eager to be a part of the building process.