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New undergrad badge program inspires research involvement among students

By Eula Mengullo, June 29 2023— 

A new undergraduate-focused badge program is being offered annually by the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning.

The program is designed to give students an introductory guide into the intricacies of conducting research and prompts students to start a research project of their own. During its pilot year throughout the 2022 – 2023 academic semester, the inaugural cohort of the program saw more than 700 participants. 

Dr. Kyla Flanagan, the academic lead for the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation, highlighted that over the years she has interacted with students who were enthusiastic about pursuing research but did not know where to begin.

“So that brought the idea into this program because we were really hoping to help give students some support and structure for learning about what research is and where it happens,” said Flanagan in an interview with the Gauntlet.

“It was really sparked by students asking what is research, where does it happen, how can I get involved, and wanting to provide that support and structure for those keen and curious students,” she continued. 

To earn the badge, the program is comprised of hybrid online and in-person workshops, amounting to a total of approximately 15 hours to be completed during the Fall and Winter semesters. The badge is designed to be a low stakes commitment for students and the hours are spread out between the two regular semesters to provide flexibility.

“We’re really hoping that it’s quite manageable and that it’s accessible for students who want to access these materials in a variety of different ways,” said Flanagan.

Hence, video recordings of the workshops are also available for those who cannot attend them in-person.

“So trying to be as flexible as possible for everybody’s busy lives and busy schedules to make sure as many students as possible can benefit from the badge,” she said.

The workshops and exercises are focused on providing students the necessary skills and information to prepare them to participate in research.

“Some of that is building curiosity about how to ask a really great research question,” Flanagan explained. “Some workshops focus on how to reach out to potential supervisors or find mentors to support you in your research journey, how to go about applying for summer research funding.”

They also cover other areas crucial to the process such as how to effectively conduct literature reviews and synthesize information from scholarly articles. 

Currently, the program is collecting responses from students who participated in its pilot year. Flanagan highlighted that so far the most common remark by students was that it provided them with the confidence to get started on research, fulfilling what she had hoped the program will accomplish. 

“Students loved the chance to get together and meet with others who were interested in research across campus so that was a neat way to facilitate people to get to know each other through their shared passion for research,” said Flanagan.

“But mostly I think its really about building up those skills and confidence in students to see themselves as researchers,” she continued. “To get them to think that anyone can be a researcher and give them some skills and tools to build that confidence to get involved.”

The program is offered annually at the beginning of the Fall academic year. Although it is heavily advertised for incoming students, the program is open to any undergraduate student across all programs with no pre-requisite required. 

Registration begins in August and can be found on the Taylor Institute website.

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