University of Richmond has a stronger undergraduate research program than many other colleges and universities who are also on U.S. News and World Report’s top 30 list, said Vincent Wei-cheng Wang, associate dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
Wang recently attended a meeting for the Association of American Colleges and Universities. He was there with senior administrators who oversee and support undergraduate research at other schools.
Many schools have realized that undergraduate research is a good way of blending theoretical and practical classroom knowledge, Wang said.
“Employers and graduate schools have found out that students with research experience have the requisite knowledge and problem-solving skills,” Wang said.
The university has had an Arts and Sciences research fellowship for more than a quarter of a century. Participating students complete eight to 10 weeks of research with a faculty mentor.
“The faculty plays a very crucial role in this, because our motto is faculty-mentored research,” Wang said.
In the sciences, faculty members prepare labs to complete with students. In the humanities and social sciences, however, faculty members often guide students who develop their own intellectual interests and point them to valuable sources.
“The kind of learning that goes on in these projects is nothing like what [students] get in the classroom during the academic year, when they have so many other things going on,” said Elizabeth Baughan, professor of classics and archaeology.
Each summer since 2009, Baughan has brought students with her to Hacimusalar Hoyuk, an excavation site in southwestern Turkey. The students help record archaeological remains and analyze the findings.
The School of Arts and Sciences funded 114 research fellowships last summer, each up to $4,000. The Spider Research Fund financed 14 fellowships, anonymous donors funded three fellowships and external grants or departments funded 71 fellowships.
In total, 202 Richmond students received research funding from the university or with its support. Last year, the funding rate was about 80 percent from the School of Arts and Sciences.
In the application process, the School of Arts and Sciences looks for topics that are interesting, significant and feasible. The reviewers consider the strength of the proposal, the students’ intellectual preparation (GPA, coursework and familiarity with the research topic) and a faculty recommendation letter.
Sequioa Roscoe, a sophomore, recently applied for a research fellowship from the School of Arts and Sciences. The project she proposed was about the relationship between China and India. Roscoe wants to study their relationship in global business and in politics.
“This is an important case worth researching, because perhaps in the next 10 to 20 years, either China or India will surpass the United States as being the top world power,” she said.
Roscoe is drawn to the program because it gives students an opportunity to complete research at the undergraduate level rather than waiting until graduate school, she said.
The university wants to emphasize to prospective students that they would get to have a one-on-one relationship with professors here, Wang said. This is one of its distinguishing features.
Applications for summer 2014 research opportunities from the School of Arts and Sciences were accepted until Monday, Feb. 10. The research period will begin May 18 and last until Aug. 3.
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