The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) has recognized Denison University as a leader in undergraduate research with the organization’s 2017 award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments (AURA). This annual award recognizes institutions that have developed exemplary programs providing high-quality research experiences to undergraduates.
“Denison is very proud of this recognition of our achievements in student research,” said Denison University President Adam Weinberg. “We believe that excellence in academics starts in the classroom, then continues beyond it with amazing opportunities for student research. Each summer, more than one hundred Denison students are working under the guidance of our faculty to conduct research. These projects give students an opportunity to explore issues they care about, to develop strong research and other academic skills, and to receive fantastic mentorship from our faculty. These projects prepare students for top graduate schools, post-graduate fellowships and jobs.”
“Denison University’s achievements as a leader in undergraduate research set it apart from other finalists for this award,” said Elizabeth L. Ambos, executive officer of the Council on Undergraduate Research. “In addition to making substantial progress in creating an undergraduate research-supportive institutional environment and hewing to CUR’s ‘Characteristics of Excellence in Undergraduate Research,’ Denison University’s exemplary program features a strategic commitment to creating a sustainable funding model for faculty-student summer research across all disciplines through the Summer Scholars program endowment. The growth and breadth of this program is impressive. This is a model that other institutions may wish to emulate.”
Denison’s Summer Scholar Program provided Alexis Lopez ’19, the means to execute pre-production for a documentary short film. The film will be a case study, following a young man living with HIV in Rwanda who contracted the virus from his mother after the Rwandan Genocide.
“I’m always interested in telling stories that impact. I like exploring things beyond what is on the surface,” said Lopez, who is a cinema major. “When you’re in Rwanda, you see the excitement for progress and collaboration to work to improve people’s lives. It’s an environment that’s very loving and encouraging.”
Denison students and faculty receive support for undergraduate research through the college’s Lisska Center for Scholarly Engagement. Lisska Center faculty and staff promote intellectual life on campus, offering mentorship and support for students, faculty, and recent alumni as they apply for nationally and internationally competitive fellowships and scholarships. In addition to coordinating Denison’s Summer Scholar Program, the Lisska Center is a funding hub for a wide range of academic enrichment programs and events.
“This achievement is wonderful recognition that we are accomplishing our mission,” said Margot Singer, associate professor and director of the Lisska Center. “More than one third of our faculty members spent the summer on campus, mentoring students who researched projects across arts, humanities and sciences. Denison’s support of this program through generous endowed funds is part of our overall culture of vigorous undergraduate research and mentorship.”
Now in its third year, the AURA award is modeled on the organization’s Characteristics of Excellence in Undergraduate Research, a document that presents criteria for exceptional undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity programs. AURA recognition requires campuses to have depth and breadth in their undergraduate research initiatives and evidence of innovation of a sustained nature. Nominations are open to all types of higher education institutions. Three awards were made this year to recognize outstanding institutions from different Carnegie classification groups.
The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) and its affiliated colleges, universities, and individuals share a focus on providing undergraduate research opportunities for faculty and students at all institutions serving undergraduate students. CUR believes that faculty members enhance their teaching and contribution to society by remaining active in research and by involving undergraduates in research, and students succeed in their studies and professional advancement through participation in undergraduate research.