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Undergraduates bring passion to research projects


June 10, 2008

Valencia Johnson points to symbols on a research poster and makes her message very clear: these are not just numbers on a page.

“These are women who have suffered childhood emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and they need help,” says Johnson, a sophomore at the School of Community Resources and Development.

She’s working closely with Dominique Roe-Sepowitz of the School of Social Work on a faculty research project focusing on women from a Phoenix-area residential exiting program for prostitutes.

The empathy and passion in Johnson’s voice is contagious. It spread among the faculty and staff at the College of Public Programs when she won a presentation contest during the college’s first symposium highlighting undergraduate research.

The college in downtown Phoenix is among numerous ASU schools and colleges that offer undergrads the chance to work with faculty members on a faculty research project each semester. The Office of the Provost, in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President for Research, plans to develop a funding mechanism that will expand undergraduate research opportunities across the university within the next year, says Delia Saenz, ASU’s vice provost for undergraduate education.

“We think it’s very important to incorporate research into the undergraduate experience because it reaps benefits – not only for the students, but also for the departments and the colleges that are involved,” Saenz says. “Involvement in research with faculty is a key to undergraduate student engagement and success; it is linked to both persistence and graduation.”

Other academic units that offer formal undergraduate research programs include the College of Nursing and Healthcare Innovation, W. P. Carey School of Business, Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness, the College of Teacher Education and Leadership, the School of Life Sciences, the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

At the College of Public Programs, upon recommendation of a faculty member, students can work for at least 10 hours a week with an instructor during their undergraduate education. For the first semester, they get a $500 scholarship from the dean’s office. They receive a $1,000 scholarship for the second semester and a $1,500 scholarship for the following semesters.

Fourteen students have been involved in undergrad research projects with faculty at the college so far.

For winning the contest, Johnson will receive a small travel grant to a conference, where she’ll present her research to colleagues in the field.

The symposium took place in tandem with a scholars’ reception that brought together about 50 students who were among those on the dean’s list this semester. Guest speaker Gordon Shockley, an assistant professor at the School of Community Resources and Development, spoke about his own educational journey.

Other student research projects presented at the event included an analysis of state tourism brochures to determine the ways gender is marketed in tourism, an examination of bias and self-determination among social workers, and an assessment of the ways religious communities can help elderly victims of abuse.

For information about undergraduate research projects at the college, contact Dana Newell at (602) 496-0416.

Corey Schubert, corey.schubert@asu.edu
(602) 496-0406
College of Public Programs