Undergraduate Research Report Presented to Learning Leadership Council

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Valencia’s Learning Leadership Council (LLC) met on Wednesday, May 18, 2016, at the West Campus. During the meeting, Nick Bekas, campus dean, academic affairs; Jerry Reed, professor, computer programming/analysis; and Laura Sessions, professor, chemistry shared the Undergraduate Research Final Report and made recommendations for moving this work forward.

In 1998, the Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University recommended a significant reform of undergraduate education in U.S. research universities: make research-based learning the standard and construct an inquiry-based freshman year. These recommendations have led to a drastic increase of undergraduate research programs and initiatives at colleges and universities nationwide. Participation in undergraduate research during freshman and sophomore years is no longer an option, but a requirement.

Community colleges play an important role in transforming higher education in the U.S. In 2013-14, 46 percent of all bachelor degree recipients in the U.S. started at a community college (National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 2015). Additionally, many University of Central Florida faculty report that the high student-to-faculty ratio makes finding a research position more challenging for transfer students. Therefore, there is a need for developing programs introducing and promoting undergraduate research at community colleges in general and at Valencia in particular.

Some Valencia faculty already involve their students in undergraduate research by introducing elements of research in their courses, mentoring and guiding their students in individual undergraduate research projects and sponsoring student clubs. These students deserve credit and recognition for their work. A relatively small number of students enrolled in Valencia’s Honors Program can participate in undergraduate research through the Seneff Honors College Undergraduate Research Track. However, as of today, Valencia does not have a collegewide initiative or program aimed at making undergraduate research available to all Valencia students, nor does the College create standards and supports for the work already being done. Such an initiative needs to be established to provide the opportunity for a high quality inquiry-based learning experience for all Valencia students.

The Undergraduate Research Committee recommends that an undergraduate research initiative be implemented over the next two years, building on nationally recognized models and current practices, while expanding the opportunities for students to partner meaningfully with faculty members pursuing a specific course of research.

Click here to view the full report, which includes affirmation that an undergraduate research initiative aligns with the College’s search for “high-impact” interventions, in accordance with the strategic plan; a definition of undergraduate research; examples of undergraduate research in disparate disciplines; models for the forms that undergraduate research activities can and should take at the College; and detailed plan recommendations.

Recommendations made during the LLC meeting on the immediate next steps include:

  • Form an implementation team that will codify the models and consider staffing needs.
  • Make decisions about designating completed research on student transcripts.
  • Designate a person to lead this effort, possibly a faculty member who receives release time to coordinate these efforts collegewide. This individual will organize a poster showcase for undergraduate research and develop new opportunities for undergraduate research at Valencia.

The Council endorsed these recommendations, noting that grant work and Honors work specifically need to be taken in consideration by the implementation team going forward.

The Learning Leadership Council will meet again for the Annual Governance Retreat on Friday, July 29, 2016, at the School of Public Safety in the Auditorium from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

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