Posted February 24, 2016
This summer, up to 30 UW-River Falls students will be able to pair up with faculty — referred to as “mentors” — to conduct research projects related to their studies and earn a leg up in their futures.
The Summer Scholars program began in 2010, granting students the opportunity to “do” — rather than only read or learn about — their areas of study and to receive a stipend of $3,000 in the process, with an additional $500 available for relevant supplies and other expenses.
According to the program’s website, “Undergraduates may propose to assist a faculty member in an on-going research, scholarly or creative project, or they may elect to work collaboratively with a mentor by designing a new project of mutual interest.”
While the program has been competitive in past years, with an acceptance rate of around 25 percent, students will now have greater opportunities to take part. This summer, the program’s sixth iteration will see its capacity triple from 10 to 30 student-faculty teams.
The program used to be attached to the campus Grants and Research office. It has since become a part of the Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity (URSCA) office, which opened in 2013’s spring semester.
A further change for the program is the broadening of its geographic scope, said as URSCA Director Lissa Schneider-Rebozo.
“In the past, we wanted an on-campus cohort, and because there were only 10 spots, the rule was that they had to do their research basically on campus,” she said. “This summer… they can do their research on campus, or at a regional, national or even international location.”
A “cohort” in this situation refers to the group of summer scholars for a given year.
The Summer Scholars program is open to students of all fields.
“Sometimes, if a student is from a program other than a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) area, they think something like this wouldn’t be a program for which they would qualify,” said Schneider-Rebozo, “and that isn’t the case at all.”
Schneider-Rebozo stressed that students should not worry about having an exceptionally high academic standing.
“We don’t even ask (applicants) what their GPA is, and we don’t ask to see their transcripts or DAR,” she said. The only requirements for consideration are that the applicants be full-time students in good standing — holding a grade point average equal to or greater than 2.0 — in the spring of their applications; that they remain full-time students in the fall after the program, graduating in December of the same year at the earliest; and that the student has a faculty member to work with.
Faculty mentors earn $1,000, either as a stipend or for expenses. Each mentor is allowed to work with as many as three students on their respective research projects.
Schneider-Rebozo described the work between faculty mentors and students as “wonderful. And there can be a learning curve, depending. As a mentor the situation works best if you can be available to the student — ideally face-to-face — weekly.” Skype is a good alternative, she said, if location or circumstance prevents a meeting in person. While the two work closely, she pointed out that students should in no way expect their mentors to hold their hands or do their assigned work for them.
The work expected from summer scholars has shifted since its inception. In the past, students were required to take part in full-time research for 10 weeks, and were not to take classes or other jobs. Now, because, as Schneider-Rebozo said with a laugh, “$3,000 plus $500 in expenses doesn’t go quite as far as it used to,” the expectation is for roughly 30 hours per week for nine weeks. Regardless of the change, “Typically, our best undergraduate researchers are working way more hours than the traditional 40,” she said.
Schneider-Rebozo stressed the importance of knowing one’s subject and plan of attack before applying. The application process is especially rigorous and must be filled out thoroughly. Involved are an introductory statement, background, statement of the problem to be addressed, significance of the problem and a discussion of existing research on the subject, objectives, methodology, timeline, detailed budget, and a detailed plan on spreading and informing others of one’s work (not just on the UWRF campus).
“The first time a student writes a proposal like this, it can be really new for them,” she explained. “We actually consider the proposal writing process almost as important for their professional development as the research project itself. They’ll learn as much from writing this proposal — if they write it up well — as they will from pursuing that research.”
The deadline for applications is 11:59 p.m. on March 10. Students can find the online application on the program’s website, www.uwrf.edu/URSCA/SummerScholarsProgram.cfm.