CA – 2013 URPD WOO, Day 1

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June 23, 2013 by Dr. G

If you read my last blog post that summarized the end of the CUR Business Meeting, you saw my explanation of RX R US.  So I’m hoping that it does not surprise you that there are even stranger letter combinations for this next meeting!  Let’s break it down….

URPD stands for the Undergraduate Research Program Directors Division, one of the few non-discipline based divisions within CUR.  This division contains faculty/staff that manage the undergraduate research programs on their campuses.  Some schools have full-time directors, where all that person does is manage undergraduate research efforts, while other schools have faculty that manage the campus undergraduate research program as an “add-on” to their existing faculty duties.  No other professional organization exists for URPDs, so this group made CUR their home and holds a biennial conference for undergraduate research program directors right before or right after the CUR Business Meeting.

WOO comes from the name of the conference – Windows of Opportunity for Undergraduate Research Program Directors.  Why WOO?  I just learned today the significance of the phrase “Windows of Opportunity,” which is also explained in this blog post.  Chapman University uses the symbol on the right to portray the windows open to all students on campus, to let students know about the numerous opportunities that are available to them.  This symbol is in the framework of buildings, on windows… pretty much everywhere on campus!  Personally, I think this is a cool concept.  I like what this image stands for and that Chapman uses the “window” in a variety of ways and displays.  In my remaining time on campus, I am going to see how many windows of opportunity I can find!

But, back to the conference…. The goal for the URPD WOO is “to provide a central forum for undergraduate research program directors, as well as those people who are interested in undergraduate research, to discuss pertinent issues in the field and to provide an opportunity for seasoned and new colleagues to network and collaborate” (taken from the conference program book).  Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Dr. G – you’re not an undergraduate research program director – are you?”  The answer is – not yet!  I’m beginning a year-long sabbatical very soon (blog post coming about that in the near future!), and when I return to campus in Fall 2014, I have been told I will be the chair of the campus undergraduate research committee (but we’ll see if that still holds true in a year from now….).  But this is a great conference that I can learn much from and apply it to other parts of my job.  For example, I went to the first URPD conference two years ago, and I attended all of the marketing and public relations sessions.  I took that information and used it to create marketing materials for the Laboratory for Civic Engagement, which I have been the coordinator for since its beginning in 2011.  Since that meeting was so valuable, I couldn’t pass up the “window of opportunity” to attend this second conference to see what else I could learn and apply to the various parts of my job.

The URPD conference began with opening introductions by Chris Kim, a geoscience faculty member at Chapman that also serves as the campus undergraduate research program director AND a GeoCUR Councilor.  I admire and respect Chris – he is so professional and so passionate about his work, and I was super-excited to hear him share some of the programs that Chapman does for undergraduate research.  For example, his Office of Undergraduate Research not only has a student research symposium, but he holds a faculty research symposium early in the fall semester for students to learn about the research faculty members are conducting and to talk to faculty about research opportunities.  I have never heard of this before, and I think it is brilliant!  I also really like the Faculty Research Profiles on video (you should watch one – they are informative and do an excellent job in detailing undergraduate research experiences).  I have included one of the Faculty Research Spotlight videos below.

Then, I headed off to the first official session of the conference.  I have to say, I was extremely disappointed in the session, and I actually left early.  I RARELY leave sessions early, but instead of having an organized presentation, the 1-1/2 hour timeslot was mostly a Q&A with audience members asking anything and everything related to undergraduate research.  I really wanted to hear about the topic described in the title and abstract.  Strike one for me.

But the next session was certainly a home run!  Two people from Bridgewater State University led a session titled, “Scaffolding Research Skills Across the Curriculum, from the First Year to Capstone Courses.”  Their presentation was well organized, filled with supporting statistics with references, and great examples from across different institutions.  I have been thinking for some time about designing four 1-credit courses in Earth & Mineral Science for my advisees that focuses on building research skills, so that when my advisees transfer to the Penn State University Park campus to finish their degrees, they are well-prepared to jump into an undergraduate research experience.  This session was extremely valuable and gave me much to think about!  Thank you, Jenny and Jenn!  (Interestingly, Jenny Shanahan and I go back for years, to when we were both honors coordinators at our schools.  We even gave a talk together at the National Collegiate Honors Council conference on undergraduate research!).

Another person I reconnected with today was Loyd Bastin, a chemistry faculty member at Widener University in Chester, PA.  Loyd and I first met at the PKAL Leadership Institute last summer in Colorado (I blogged about that trip here).  We joked that we met in Colorado a year ago, we are now seeing each other in California, and that it would be much easier just to connect with each other in PA, as our two campuses are only 8 miles apart!  We’ll have to work on this, Loyd.

Besides running out of dessert this evening (which did not bother me, but wow, some people were not happy!), the dinner and post-dinner conversations were professionally and personally valuable.  I look forward to another day of sessions, and after Jenny and Jenn’s amazing session today, I am hoping all of tomorrow has that WOW factor – or is it WOO factor?

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