CUR Institutes are two- to three-day meetings on a college campus at which a small group of people (approximately 45-65 individuals) meet to discuss an issue related to undergraduate research and faculty development, leading to plans for improvement on their own campuses. Since the goal is institutional as well as individual change, persons usually come to the institute in campus-based teams of 3-5 individuals. The only current exception is the Proposal Writing Institute, where individuals are accepted.
The general format is a mixture of plenary sessions meant to inspire and provide background information, small-group sessions where the heavy work of the Institute takes place, and "town meetings" where free discussion takes place among the entire group. Sessions in which the team members from each school work with a facilitator to develop their campus plans are central to a CUR Institute. Each facilitator works with up to three teams. Therefore an institute might require approximately 5-8 facilitators. Two Institute Coordinators are responsible for general program planning and logistics; they may also serve as facilitators. The plenary speakers (2-4 plenary slots) may be facilitators as well, or they may come to the meeting only to present a talk. Much of the work of the coordinators occurs before the meeting is held while most of the work of the facilitators occurs during the sessions.
The site for a CUR Institute is usually the campus of one of the coordinators. It is important that the coordinators know the site well and can work easily with those responsible for food, housing, and meeting space. It is good if the latter can include a somewhat relaxing setting rather than being in a classroom building. If the campus has a retreat site where meetings can be held, that would be ideal.
Housing arrangements can be either in very high quality dorms or in a nearby (but inexpensive) hotel. The cost and ease of local transportation is a major factor --- both to and from the housing site and to and from the airport. We try to keep the cost of the Institute as low as possible for participants while maintaining a high quality experience.
An alternate arrangement for a CUR Institute could be a retreat site in a recreational area. Some such sites in mountain or lake or shore settings are surprisingly inexpensive. They may be run by academic or religious groups, and some are only available for use by not-for-profit organizations. Housing and meeting rooms plus natural settings (hiking, water recreation are available in a package. Sometimes food is also provided as part of the package; in other cases, food must be brought in and cooked. The advantage of a retreat setting is the camaraderie that is generated. Evenings become powerful times for networking and brainstorming. The outdoors element prevents the fatigue that can otherwise set in during such an intense meeting.
All Institutes should include some social together-time, either in the form of an outdoor experience or a special dining experience.
Process for Organizing a New CUR Institute
Interested persons should come together and develop an informal proposal, which should be forwarded to the Executive Officer for review. It will be helpful for the new institute organizers to talk with those who have been CUR Institute Coordinators in the past as they develop their package. The usual case is that the organizers will be the first set of coordinators, although after a few years they will pass that responsibility on to others. The EO will provide names of past Institute Coordinators who can be helpful. Once the information is assembled, the Executive Board makes the final approval of the Institute as an official CUR program.
Below are the items that are necessary for the Executive Board to consider a new CUR Institute. However, you don’t have to come with the whole package completed. It can be an iterative process. The draft budget is required for the final approval of the Executive Board.
- Title of the proposed Institute
- Names of two persons willing to take initial responsibility for organizing the Institute and to be the first official "Coordinators".
- A list of names of potential facilitators and whether or not they are committed to participate
- Purpose/goals/outcomes of the Institute --- what the participants are expected to gain from the experience and what tangible outcomes are expected (e.g., grant proposal written, plan drafted for campus activities, etc.)
- Outline of the program for the Institute --- this is the plan for accomplishing the goals. Provide the content of the workshop in the form of a draft agenda, annotated to explain the various sessions. Also include any pre- or post-meeting activities (such as a written self-study or plan)
- Audience for the Institute and how we might market the Institute to them
- How the Institute relates to other CUR programming (including other CUR Institutes) --- e.g., is this an Institute that stands alone, or would it be one that is more "advanced", requiring familiarity with other CUR programs?
- Is there a textbook or set of readings for the Institute, or will something new be written (e.g., will the coordinators also write a CUR "How To" booklet)?
- Whether or not teams or individuals are expected to participate
- First site (or a short list of possible sites)
- Approximate time of year or proposed date of first Institute
- Draft budget (The CUR EO will work with you to draft the budget once the proposed site is known.)