CFP Spring 2015

What does undergraduate research and scholarship mean to you, either generally or in your discipline? What is your discipline’s or academic community’s approach to fostering undergraduate research and scholarship?

We've started to ask these questions of our campus leaders, including the more than one hundred professors in disciplines across campus who have served as JMURJ reviewers.

Jonathan Alger, President of James Madison University

Undergraduate research provides a great opportunity for students to collaborate with faculty members—and each other—in going beyond the learning of existing knowledge to the creation of new knowledge. The process of discovery and analysis in research provides one of the most powerful, high-impact learning experiences any undergraduate can have. I hope all of our students will seek to take advantage of such opportunities, which are one of the hallmarks of James Madison University.

At James Madison University, we look for a variety of ways to involve undergraduates in significant research in all of our academic disciplines. We believe that great teaching and great research go hand in hand, and that students learn in transformative ways from participating in research that is original, creative, and collaborative. Research helps students learn how to ask new questions, and how to identify and solve complex problems. We believe that these skill sets are valuable in every field, and instill in students a sense of excitement about learning and the development of new knowledge. Accordingly, we look actively for ways to foster undergraduate research in all academic areas as part of our institution’s strategic plan to be the national model of the engaged university: engaged with ideas and the world.

Dr. George Sparks, Dean, College of Visual and Performing Arts: 

In the College of Visual and Performing Arts we engage in many types of undergraduate research. 1. The traditional approach in VPA is rooted in creative accomplishment (e.g. performance and exhibition). Both performance and exhibition require traditional research in the form of the study of historical performance/exhibition practice/craft practice, creation of a program or exhibition, followed by presentation.  The presentation can also include a lecture performance or exhibition.  2. A second traditional approach is the writing and publication of original research, much the same as an English or History professor. 3. There are presently numerous research initiatives that involve artists working with engineers, health providers, entrepreneurs, etc. in interdisciplinary teams.  

Dr. Bob Kolvoord, Dean, College of Integrated Science and Engineering: 

Undergraduate research means offering students the opportunity to combine their content knowledge, curiosity and creativity to attack challenging problems and find solutions. It’s also an opportunity to cross disciplinary boundaries in the same way that real world problems do. Undergraduate research is the epitome of engaged learning and a gateway to a deeper understanding of our world. In the College of Integrated Science and Engineering, our faculty offer a wide range of opportunities for undergraduate research, ranging from independent study to capstone projects. The research spans a broad range of topics from public science and technology policy to alternative energy to information security to biotechnology to engineering, and students regularly present at conference and publish papers with faculty.

Dr. Jeffrey Tang, Associate Dean, CISE; Associate Professor, Integrated Science and Technology: 

In intelligence analysis (IA), undergraduate research means that students define an intelligence question on a topic devised either by themselves or by a sponsor. They then research that question using all available sources and use the methods learned in the IA program to answer that question. Intelligence questions must be action-oriented; that is, answering the question should help in the decision-making process about an issue that matters. It can be in a business, national security, or law enforcement context. Originality per se is not essential, though in practice the work will almost always be original to some extent given the methods of the program.

Dr. Vanessa I. Rouillon, Assistant Professor, Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication:

Undergraduate research is a mode of discovery, a way for students to find a locus, compose key questions, care for their answers and intervene in their worlds. Send them out into their worlds. What do they see? What seems interesting/new? How can they intervene? Have students become fieldworkers—observe, take notes, and think.

Dr. Chris R. Colocousis, Assistant Professor, Sociology:

I take a wide view of undergraduate research, and to me the most important criterion is that the student is producing new knowledge about the world, be it on the basis of data collection and analysis, critique, application, synthesis of existing empirical work and/or theoretical perspectives, etc. So as long as there’s something new there in the context of a well-developed treatment of the topic in question, I’d define it as undergraduate research.

Dr. Hak-Seon Lee, Associate Professor, Political Science:

Undergraduate scholarship is a way for students to undertake their own research experiences to learn the process of how researchers gain reliable knowledge about the society we live in. In humanities and social science disciplines, undergraduate students often do not make a distinction between normative statements/arguments and empirically supported theories/findings. Undergraduate research definitely helps students learn the difference and understand social phenomena scientifically.

Dr. Cathryn Molloy, Assistant Professor, Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication:

There is more and more attention to the potential for undergraduate students to contribute meaningfully to the creation of new knowledge in writing studies, and I am a big proponent of this movement. Many of our upper level courses include open-ended, creative research-based assignments that allow students to see themselves as thinkers who can and should be engaging carefully and critically with pressing research questions. 

Dr. Kathryn Stevens, Assistant Professor, Art History:

Undergraduate scholarship at JMU means that our students are engaged with the world around them. At the core there is a question, or a questioning of what is currently understood, that is examined through the lens of scholarship. I think that all students from all disciplines should be engaged in scholarship as it gets at the core of education; that is the process of learning, reflection, and questioning. This process is one that all citizens should engage with throughout their lives.

Dr. Michael J. Galgano, Professor, History:

Undergraduate scholarship is a necessary component to the study of history. Students learn history best by researching and writing about it. In the process, they master the discipline's methods as well as its content and previous interpretations. They also learn to develop their critical faculties in the discovery of new knowledge, new approaches, and new interpretations. Undergraduate research is an apprenticeship in the discipline and provides students the opportunity to become independent practitioners. Without serious, reflective undergraduate research at various levels of sophistication, students cannot really learn the discipline. From introductory surveys, through the required Methodology Seminar, to upper level classes, seminars, internships, and other experiences, students develop the abilities to search for primary and secondary evidence, analyze and interpret their findings, and present the results to multiple audiences. 


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