Making the most of your undergraduate experience at VCSU entails beating through the hard classes, building relationships, celebrating yours and your friends successes, and possibly, participating in what educators call a “High Impact Learning Practice.” These include conducting research with a faculty mentor, traveling abroad to study for a semester, or partnering with other students on completing a selected sequence of courses.
Conducting research as an undergraduate is really a different type of “classroom” experience, its one that is necessarily hands-on, highly interactive with faculty, and more often than not pursuing a solution to one of your own problems or developing an entrepreneurial idea. And oh wait, you get paid!
Key here is that in a context of your own academic endeavors you seek to resolve a significant challenge over a period of months and at a pace that suits your schedule. For example you may fancy developing an IoT project that instruments a greenhouse with monitoring and control, study a technique to minimize ankle sprang in woman’s basketball, or choreograph a tribal dance for elementary students which demonstrates the impact of fracking on a rural community or reservation.
Obviously a goal for you must be to graduate with at least some distinctions: accomplishments or activities that might grab the attention of a potential employer, or a graduate school recruiter, maybe impress a companion. Some students are awesome in sports, others academics, some both and earning highest honors, others manage with average grades but are punctual, respectful, curious; with researching solutions to problems, in reality the essential ingredients are having an inquisitive soul and a tenacious spirit, while in this case the projects we are encouraging will require 100+ hours of your effort.
Participating in research or creative activities via the SOAR program provides the unique opportunity to distinguish yourself alongside a faculty mentor, whatever your academic background is, and likely energizing a relationship that will continue beyond your undergraduate days at VCSU. A faculty-mentored research experience will certainly be a feather in your cap for any medical or graduate school application, but may also indicate your ability to stand against the fray, to understand complicated situations, resolve issues, behaviors consistent with say being a Director or CEO.
Some students admit: “who me, research, really, do I have to wear a white coat and a pocket protector full of pencils?” Actually beyond any stereotypes, you might find yourself chest deep in the Sheyenne River’s muck sampling mussel populations, investigating the chronology of a black cadet’s eventual command of the Tenth Calvary and his influence on post Civil War officerships, wearing VR glasses and designing exploratory landscapes in virtual reality as a potential therapy for Alzheimer’s, or traveling to South Dakota to help build components for the installation of high energy particle detector located nearly one mile underground.
There really is no end to the topics that could be explored. So why participate? To learn, to inquire, to discover, and to solve a problem or create a tapestry in a rich learning environment that you can not match in any traditional classroom.
It’s up to you what creative practice to embrace and to leverage the SOAR program for that outcome. Every student who participates in a project will report “wow, I would do that again, what an amazing experience!”
So what are you waiting for, find a faculty mentor and apply!