Leverage the Celebration of Undergraduate Research for Your Classes

After last year’s Celebration of Undergraduate Research, we published the following blog post on the OUR Blog about integrating CUR into courses. This is a great way to make use of Carolina’s talented undergraduate researchers and we hope some of you might be inspired by Dr. Gulledge’s practice. Please join us at this year’s Celebration on Monday, April 14, 2014 from 1:00-3:15 in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see the range and depth of research conducted by UNC-CH undergraduates, and the students appreciate your attendance and your interest in their work. The Celebration will be followed by an award ceremony at 3:30 in FPG Student Union Room 3206.

The 2014 Celebration program will be up on the website shortly.

Written by Suzanne Gulledge, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education

The Celebration of Undergraduate Research 2013 was both an inspiration and a resource for me as a faculty member. I attended the event after seeing the list of participants in the Daily Tar Heel, even though none of my current students were presenting. Even though I had no involvement in any of the work represented, I felt proud and energized when I left. The event reminded me that ours is a university that nurtures and celebrates research effort and achievement by our undergraduates. It was indeed a celebratory event and so much fun to attend! I learned a great deal just by talking to students at random as I passed through the aisles of posters.

I also found inspiration to pursue another brainstorm that came to me as I attended the event. I went shopping for examples of projects and ideas to enrich the curriculum of my First Year Seminar. And, I hit the jackpot at the Celebration. I found students from a variety of departments and disciplines whose work had relevance to the topics of my course. I was able to invite those students to bring their posters to my classes the next week and talk about their research. It was a great way for first year students to hear first-hand accounts from more advanced students about their research and motivation. In addition to gaining additional information about topics that are relevant to our course, my students heard other Carolina students talk about the value of in-depth and self directed study, the importance of good research, and the joy of pursuing a topic about which one has a passion. The experience and the products that were the result of undergraduate research projects were compelling evidence of the value of Undergraduate Research, not only to the students who do it but to our entire university community! Thanks, Office for Undergraduate Research, for your serendipitous contribution to my teaching and to scholarship at Carolina in ways you may not have realized!

Becoming an Effective Mentor Workshop

Are you a graduate student or a postdoctoral scholars who is currently mentoring or planning to mentor an undergraduate? Here is an opportunity to build your mentoring skills in a workshop being offered by OUR Liaison Dr. Jenny Hayden and her colleagues.

Good mentoring can be learned! Effective mentoring in the lab can lead to greater research productivity, efficiency, and satisfaction. This mentoring skills workshop will offer a framework for developing a philosophy and style to guide decisions and actions in working with undergraduate students as well as a forum in which to discuss dilemmas that arise in working with those students. The six-week workshop curriculum was developed by the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching and is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  Those who complete the workshop will earn a certificate in effective mentoring in the research laboratory.

During the workshop, you’ll delve into the following questions:

- How do I design a (good) research project for an undergraduate student?

- Why are clear expectations so important?

- How do I establish effective communication with my student?

- How do I know when my student is ready to be more independent?

- My mentoring experience is going terribly, how can I fix it?

- What is my mentoring philosophy?

Other seminar goals:

- Discuss strategies for recruiting high quality undergraduates to assist with your research

- Write and revise your personal mentoring philosophy

- Network with other mentors from different disciplines

- Learn how to effectively manage your relationship with your own mentor

The discussion-based workshop will meet for six weeks, at one hour per week.  Participants can choose one of two sessions.

Session 1: Tuesdays March 25-April 29 from 4-5 pm in MacNider 132

Session 2: Wednesdays March 26-April 30 from 4-5 pm in Bondurant 4074.

Participants will be expected to attend all six sessions.

Space is limited, so we cannot accept everyone that registers. By registering here, you will be entering an application process wherein the workshop administrators will select the participants. You will receive a follow-up email if accepted or waitlisted.

Questions? Please email Jenny Hayden.

OUR Seeks a Graduate Assistant

Title of the position: Graduate Assistant
Department: Office for Undergraduate Research
Reports to: Associate Dean, Office for Undergraduate Research


The Office for Undergraduate Research (OUR) was established in 1999 to expand the opportunities for undergraduates at UNC-Chapel Hill to engage in innovative research, mentored scholarship, and creative performance. Accordingly, we have a variety of resources, including financial support, to help research become a distinctive feature of the undergraduate experience. See http://our.unc.edu for more information.

Key areas of responsibility:

We are seeking a Graduate Assistant who can advise undergraduate students interested in research and who will serve as the OUR’s webmaster and database administrator.  In addition, the Graduate Assistant has a major role in coordinating  the Celebration of Undergraduate Research,  assists with the coordination of other events sponsored by the OUR, and manages communication in the OUR e-mail inbox.  During the summer, the Graduate Assistant assists with the OUR’s participation in orientation for incoming students and their families.  As needed, the Graduate Assistant will also assist with general office duties, develop publicity materials, and help oversee work-study students assisting with web development and event planning.

Key Qualifications:

Qualified candidates should have a strong interest in promoting undergraduate research, the ability to work well in a team, and the ability to design and maintain websites. This position requires experience programming in HTML and CSS as well as competency in PHP, JavaScript, Oracle, and other relational databases such as MySQL.  Qualified candidates should also be skilled users of WordPress, Photo Editing software such as Photoshop, and other standard software such as MS Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Publisher.  Qualified candidates will be expected to work independently, attend weekly staff meetings, and demonstrate strong writing, presentation, and organizational skills.

Terms of employment and Compensation:

The Graduate Assistant will be expected to work 15-20 hours per work during both the academic year as well as the summer and will be reappointed on an annual basis.  The Graduate Assistant will be paid $20/hour.  In-state tuition benefits are not available.

To apply: Submit a cover letter and resume to Monica Richard at mrichard@email.unc.edu. The cover letter should explain why you are interested in the position and undergraduate research.

Start Date:  We aim to fill this position by March 1.  During the first 3 months, the incoming Graduate Assistant will work closely with the current Graduate Assistant who can provide additional training and support.

Closing Date:  Applications will be reviewed continuously until the position is filled.

Undergraduate Research in ARTH 055H Art, Gender and Power in Early Modern Europe

Written by Beth Fischer, GRC and graduate student in the Department of Art

In my second year of being the Graduate Research Consultant for “Art, Gender and Power in Early Modern Europe” with Professor Tania String, I’ve learned that often my most important role is to encourage students to talk as much as possible. My first year, I assumed that students would have trouble carrying out and documenting their research, but now I spend most of my time helping our students design and shape their topics. For those topics to be original, my role needs to be listening, not talking, as students begin to identify the threads of new ideas that emerge from their own examinations of images of early modern women and men.

Most students come into this first-year class never having read original research in art history. The content is new, but the whole field and its methodology are new to them as well. They often imagine that there is nothing they, as novice historians, could say about works of art that have been around for half a millennium. When they first come to see me, I hear statements like “I want to do something about women.” “Well,” I’ll say, “what interests you about that?” “What images make you curious?” For the first ten minutes at least, most students will tell me what everyone else has said about those paintings and prints. As the students talk more and more, as they begin to get excited, their own directions and ideas start to emerge.

Students are often startled when they get to this point, where they ask why something looks like it does or what it means, and I say that not only do I not know, nobody else does either (yet)! Then we can begin to work on how to structure the project: what sources and evidence they will need, and how to limit the thesis to something manageable in one semester. Soon, they have a set of evidence based around a group of images and a question about how those images help explain or define the experience of gender and power. The role of the GRC is great for this process precisely because we aren’t instructors. We aren’t grading the students and we’re in the intermediate place between professors and fellow students, so they often feel more comfortable testing new ideas and asking questions about things they think they should already know.

In the past year Professor String and I have also added more training on how to undertake research in art history. We go over subject-specific resources, how to organize projects, and pitfalls of research in this field. Students are often surprised to learn that, while a painting may have existed for over 500 years, the research on it will have changed and that they need to consult up-to-date sources, often very recently developed databases. The digitization of archives and museum collections is making entirely new objects and resources easily available. The best part of having research be such an integral part of this introductory course is that we get to show students that art history isn’t a “finished” field, with everything already known. In a large lecture class, it can be hard for students to see art history as a field that is dynamic and still contributing new knowledge. The result, every once in a while, is a reward like the comment I got last semester: “This is what you guys do all the time? This is awesome!”

Honors 353: The History of the 2008 Financial Crisis

Written by Benjamin C. Waterhouse, Assistant Professor of History

Five years ago this past Fall, the world almost ended. Remember? In the spate of a few weeks, several of the world’s largest financial institutions disappeared from the face of the earth, stock markets plunged, billions of dollars of wealth vanished, and entire national economies teetered on the edge of total meltdown.

Historians—and students in history courses—don’t typically try to engage such recent events, but the Honors students in this course took on a daunting challenge: understand the complex details of crisis, place this latest crisis of modern capitalism in its historical context, and then use their own research acumen to write the real “first draft of history” (sorry, journalists).

For six weeks, we dove in tremendous detail into the financial shenanigans that led to the acute economic problems between 2007 and 2009—the American housing market, the rise of unregulated derivatives and the massive proliferation of collateralized debt obligations, the tremendous leveraging of financial houses. And we traced out how this complex house of cards unraveled a little bit at a time, asking how factors like greed, structural conflicts of interest, market ideology, and income inequality both set the stage for and perpetuated the crash. Then for the next four weeks, we zoomed our historical lens backwards and took the long view, examining earlier economic crises—from the bizarre speculation in tulips in 17th-century Amsterdam to the Great Depression to the “financialization” of the American economy in the 1980s.

What Hath the Crisis Wrought?

All this historical study put students in a great position to dive into their research projects on the effects of the Financial Crisis in the last five years. Their task: work in groups of 2 or 3 to conduct original research on a specific aspect of the crisis, collectively creating a portfolio of new knowledge about its consequences. They would have to choose a particular focus, dive into academic and journalistic writing, and, most importantly, conduct oral history-style interviews with at least two people (per group) whose experiences would add perspective to their research.

Enter the Graduate Research Consultant! Students worked closely with history grad student Liz Lundeen, who used her tremendous experience with oral history to help students organize in-person interviews with local Carolina alums (and other professionals that some groups sought out on their own). After some in-class practice with group interviews, including talks with Carolina alum and chairman of Bloomberg Ltd. Peter Grauer and Duke Law Professor Lawrence Baxter, the students ventured out into the wild.

Liz helped the students learn how to conduct background research on their subjects, how to ask open-ended questions to get their subjects talking, and how to steer the conversations in fruitful ways without forcing a particular topic or agenda.

The results were astounding! The 8 groups of students presented their findings in a conference setting in lieu of a final exam, and hit on a tremendous range of issues. Some focused locally, arguing that the Triangle real estate market—which was relatively less affected by the housing bust than other areas—doesn’t seemed to have learned much of a lesson. Others were more optimistic, finding that local banks have responsibly scaled back their risk-taking even without the strong hand of the regulatory state forcing them to do so. (They cautioned, however, that such “discretionary” self-regulation is risky, since financial institutions could always decide later to go back to their risky ways.) Several got to interview local and state politicians and thus contrasted conservative and liberal interpretations of the potential for regulations, the effects of the crash on the poor, and the responsibilities of government. Finally, others took a national view, examining strategic changes at asset management companies, tracking patterns of consumer debt, or asking how the psychology of speculative bubbles has persisted through such concepts as Bitcoin.

Throughout the course, I was deeply impressed with the commitment and energy the students put into their research, reading, and classroom debate. From business students with practical experience in money management to history majors to scientists, they represented a range of backgrounds, but showed a tremendous ability to rise to a daunting challenge and produce impressive research. GRC Liz Lundeen outdid herself as an advisor and consultant during the research phase, and I am very grateful to her as well as well as the Office for Undergraduate Research for helping make this course such a positive teaching experience.

Interpreting the South from Manuscripts: Undergraduate Research in the Archives

Written by GRC and graduate student Jeannine O’Brian

The word “research” has been thrown around in every undergraduate and graduate class I’ve taken at UNC, but the opportunities Interpreting the South from Manuscripts (ENGL 075) provides for students to conduct original research are second to none. Under the guidance of Dr. Connie Eble and Ms. Laura Clark Brown, ENGL 075 students use the Southern Historical Collection, housed in Wilson Library, to conduct original research and produce written reports, oral presentations, and a video documentary. Students work directly with letters, diaries, photographs, ledgers, oral histories, and other primary sources.

ENGL 075 was the first class I attended as an undergraduate at UNC in 2006. This fall, I’ve had the pleasure of being the Graduate Research Consultant for this same First Year Seminar.

Arthur Franklin Raper papersThis semester, the coursework has focused on the Arthur Franklin Raper Papers. Raper (1899-1979) was a rural sociologist, civil rights activist, and social science analyst, both in the United States and in other countries. Using this manuscript collection, which documents Raper’s work, ENGL 075 students have explored issues such as agricultural reform, the Great Depression, education, sharecropping, court cases, and race relations, particularly in the American South. Students learn by searching, reading, observing, analyzing, questioning, and hypothesizing rather than receiving information passively. The collection’s 38,000 documents include (but are not limited to) letters, correspondence, photographs, drawings, pamphlets, and newspaper articles. Students can use digital copies of some documents, but are required to spend time at the Southern Historical Collection’s reading room examining materials in person. The assignments challenge students to examine these primary sources and think critically about the purpose of the materials in the context in which they were created.

Arthur F. Raper, courtesy of the New Georgia Encyclopedia

Arthur F. Raper, courtesy of the New Georgia Encyclopedia

For the summative project, students are making short documentary video presentations. They started by choosing a topic that fits within one of the following broad themes: class conflict, economic conditions, education, farm tenancy, interracial cooperation, labor lynching, race relations, rural conditions, and women’s lives. Based on their research within the Raper Papers, students drafted a storyboard and narrative for their video. Students are currently working on the final videos, which will synthesize their findings and analyses.

As a student in ENGL 075, I loved touching the manuscripts, hunting for details on a specific topic, and deciphering handwriting. Writing about my own research was completely new to me, and it seems to be similarly new to many ENGL 075 students. In my role as GRC, I’ve helped students define the scope of their projects, identify things to look for in the Raper Papers, and refine their writing. With a few years’ perspective, I enjoyed watching the process that students go through in becoming researchers. While the course is about research, it’s also about using a library, handling archival materials appropriately, learning southern history, and communicating in a variety of formats.

The Graduate Research Consultant Program From Two Perspectives: Part One, Instructor

Hello!  My name is Dr. Steven Buzinski.  I’m a social psychologist and the Director of Undergraduate Research in the Department of Psychology.  I am also a lecturer and in that capacity I became interested in the Office of Undergraduate Research’s Graduate Research Consultant program.  For approximately four years now my colleague, Dr. Scott Roberts (Director of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park), and I have taught courses on the psychology of attitude change & persuasion featuring a large-scale civic engagement project.  The project, which we direct at our respective institutions, involves student teams identifying a social problem (e.g., binge drinking), empirically supporting its deleterious effects, creating a persuasive public service announcement video (which is placed on YouTube©), marketing it to as wide of an audience as possible, evaluating its effectiveness in changing attitudes and/or behaviors, and defending the entire campaign to a board of social psychologists.  If you are interested in viewing a selection of the PSA videos, please click on the following for videos created by UNC students or for videos created by UMD students.

After years of intensive work creating, structuring, and refining the project with Dr. Roberts, I assumed that we were near a point of diminishing returns.  The project was consistently producing efficacious videos, student reviews noted its impact on their self- and academic-efficacy, and administrators approved of the civic engagement component.  Was there really much else that we could do to improve on the project?  I was not sure, and the reason that I initially applied for a GRC was simply to have another skilled researcher on board to manage the project, as is. 

What my GRC, Kristjen Lundberg, turned out to be anything but a project manager.  Rather, she was a strong stimulus for improvement.  Kristjen approached the project with fresh eyes, a host of outstanding ideas, and the motivation to put them into effect.  Her enthusiasm reinvigorated my own approach.  The parts of the project that were previously good enough no longer were, and together we mapped out how to make the project more rigorous, intellectually and experientially more demanding yet more time efficient.  What resulted was a series of “project phase worksheets” (with accompanying mini-lectures) that scaffold the development of each team’s project.  Students are currently spending more time and energy on what they need to and less on what they do not.  I am more excited every new semester to start these projects, our students are even more engrossed in their campaigns, and I credit these improvements entirely to the presence, determination, and skill of my GRC Kristjen.  If you are reading this blog then it is likely because you are interested in, or at least curious about, the GRC program.  Take the leap.  It is well worth it…for you and your students.  

I would like to say that I have benefited Kristjen with my guidance and experience, but I know that she has done more for me than I could have possibly done in return.  So, I will let her tell you about her experience in her own words in Part Two. 

The Graduate Research Consultant Program From Two Perspectives: Part Two, GRC

Written by GRC and graduate student Kristjen Lundberg

Social psychologists pride themselves on belonging to a discipline with clear applications to the real world. We explain in classes and in writing and in conversations how you can use social psychological concepts to improve your life, relationships, health, and academic performance. And, most of us truly believe that the knowledge produced by social psychological research can change the world for the better. Because of this belief, instructors of social psychology courses often ask students how they can apply the knowledge they are gaining to the real world. But, feeling somewhat constrained in the classroom, these applications are usually just speculations written up as papers. Or, even more simply, we may just cross our fingers and hope that students take our messages to heart. That is not the case in Dr. Steven Buzinski’s Attitude Change class (PSYC 566).

What attitudes, if developed, reinforced, extinguished, or altered, would benefit the UNC community? How should students start (or stop) behaving in order to make the UNC community an even greater place? Most importantly, what is personally important to you? What will make you proud to say, “I helped make that a reality here at UNC”?

This is the set of questions posed to students at the beginning of PSYC 566. And, their intention is to stimulate ideas for the semester-long implementation of a theoretically-grounded public service campaign. As a Graduate Research Consultant (GRC) for this course (now in my third semester!), I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Buzinski to help students craft their answers to these questions, implement large-scale public service campaigns, and measure the impact that they have had on the community. And, the results have been inspiring.

In Spring 2013 alone, one group challenged the UNC community to confront issues of accessibility on campus with collaboration from student leaders in housing. Another group, tackling the problem of unhealthy eating, found themselves in The Pit hosting a contest to see if passersby could guess the “correct” portion size for various snack foods. Students working to change attitudes toward the reporting of sexual assaults designed a hauntingly powerful video and even managed to secure a guest appearance from former Chancellor Thorp. And, with support from the Chapel Hill Police Department, a fourth project group strove to increase recognition of the dangers of fake ID use, gaining coverage of their efforts with a front-page article in The Daily Tar Heel.

These student-designed public service campaigns have been, by turns, clever, eye-opening, scary, impassioned, and funny. And, many have shown evidence of successful attitude change (stronger intentions to make healthy eating choices during times of stress; improved attitudes toward minority students; increases in the priority of accessibility funding on campus). Most critically, though, these campaigns have served as opportunities for the students to learn what they could not have learned otherwise: that research in the real world is full of joy and potential, as well as messiness and challenges.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from Dr. Buzinski’s experience and expertise about how to pull off an undertaking as grand as this and how to inject more hands-on research in my own teaching, and grateful for the support of the Office for Undergraduate Research that makes it all possible.

You can read Dr. Buzinski’s reflections on this course in Part One of this blog series.

GRC Alum Profile: Timothy Diette

Dr. Timothy Diette ’05 is an Associate Professor of Economics at Washington and Lee University. His specialty is Economics of Education. Tim served as a Graduate Research Consultant in Dr. Rachel Willis’s First Year Seminar AMST 064: Access to Work and recently talked with us about that experience.

Tim notes that the undergraduates in this research-exposure course were a little surprised about what would be expected of them, but excited at the idea of doing less-traditional assignments. Tim spoke to students at several points throughout the course on topics such as how to put together a research paper, how to identify appropriate background readings, how to frame a research question, how to get data to try to answer the question, how to present the results of a project in a coherent way, and how to summarize a bigger project in a small amount of time.

One of the important pedagogical practices Tim developed while he served as a GRC is the compelling need to understand where the students are coming from and what level of research skills they do or don’t already have. Of course there are varying levels of skills and ability within the students in any class, so he was conscious of trying to add value to the experience for each of them.

Tim describes Rachel Willis as an “amazing mentor,” and expressed his gratitude to her for giving him the opportunity to spend time with the students and providing him with feedback and suggestions about his own pedagogy. DietteTim

Tim’s experience as a GRC helped instill in him the value of trying to include student research in every course in whatever ways are appropriate for the course. No matter which course it is, he finds a way to package in a research experience. He affirmed the importance of guiding students through the research process to help them learn how to think about questions, to learn what other people have said about the topic, and to discover how they can create new knowledge. He creates checkpoints throughout his courses so he is able to identify early if students are struggling and need extra assistance. This also distributes the work through the semester, so students are not able to wait until the last minute to think about their project. Working on the project over a longer period of time produces more robust, richer results for Tim’s students. It also, Tim observes, comes closer to mimicking the research process in which faculty actually engage. He finds that “students buzz with excitement when they’re going to be able to ask a question and generate knowledge.” Tim’s former students tell him that the opportunity to conduct research is what they remember most about his course.

Tim recommends that current graduate students seek out the opportunity to serve as a GRC, stating that “it is an excellent opportunity to grow as a teacher. In addition, it will give you valuable experience that is valued on the job market at institutions that hold undergraduate education in high regard.” The advice he offers to new GRCs is this: “Be sure to challenge students, but also provide structured opportunities for them to seek out assistance throughout the research process. Help them see the full road ahead as they embark on their project.”

Ball Games, Music, Dance and My American Woman Writers course

Written by Donna M. Bickford, Associate Director, Office for Undergraduate Research

I recently finished teaching a Summer Session II course, ENGL/WMST 446: American Woman Authors. I teach the course as a contemporary multicultural woman writers course, and it’s one of my favorite courses to teach. This was my first time teaching the course with a Graduate Research Consultant.

Our class met Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:00–8:35 p.m. Summer school is a challenge to teach because of the compressed nature of the course and that is especially true when the students are conducting research. My students were expected to design a research question that enabled them to perform a comparative literary analysis on two of the texts we read. I was intentional about creating assignments that served as building blocks for their research project. They were required to write Critical Reflections on two of the texts we read during the course, and I encouraged them to think about using at least one of these as a way to brainstorm about their paper topic. They were also required to write a source summary and analysis, so I knew they were locating some of their secondary sources in time to work effectively with them.

My GRC, Heath Sledge, met with each student individually at least once. In addition, she facilitated two workshops for the students. The first, early on in the semester, helped them think about strategies for narrowing a broad research topic into a focused research question (Heath plans to blog about this workshop later). The second was a peer review workshop, where students worked in small groups to read and provide constructive feedback on each other’s papers. It was exciting to see the students practicing active reading and listening practices and to see them deeply engaged with their peer’s drafts.

I always teach discussion-based classes and they are usually very lively. Because our class met for 2½ hours, I was especially conscious of varying my discussion strategies. We incorporated write-arounds (I used a hybrid version of this and this), I borrowed Jennifer Ho’s ball game exercise, and in a couple of classes the students generated our initial discussion questions. In addition, students could choose to use one of their Critical Reflections to create an original artistic creation of some kind that represented their interpretation of a text. Students were required to present their creation to the class and then write a brief reflection about their process. After one brave student broke the ice, several students took advantage of this option. We saw various kinds of drawings, paintings and collages, heard an original song with guitar accompaniment as well as an original piano composition, and watched a classical Indian dance — all of which represented a thoughtful interpretation of our texts and helped us understand the readings in a different way.

The course concluded with the students presenting their research projects to each other (and me). In addition to continuing to cement our learning community through sharing their discoveries, this also required the students to think about audience and rhetorical genre – they couldn’t simply read their paper aloud but had to think about what information to present and how. Some simply talked about portions of their project, some used powerpoint slides to structure their presentation, some incorporated video clips, some used the whiteboard to outline important points, etc.

I wrote earlier about how my own thoughts had shifted about teaching since I came to work at OUR; it was very satisfying to be able to put those thoughts into practice and to see generally stronger research projects as a result.