2023 AURA Awardees Announced: College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University; University of Florida; Worcester Polytechnic Institute

CUR Honors 2023 Recipients of the Campus-Wide Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments

CUR congratulates its 2023 Campus-Wide Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments (AURA) awardees College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University (CSBSJU) (St. Joseph, MN), University of Florida (UF) (Gainesville, FL), and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) (Worcester, MA). This award recognizes institutions with exemplary programs that provide high-quality research experiences for undergraduates. A celebration of these awardees will take place on June 11, virtually.

Now in its ninth year, the AURA award draws on CUR’s Characteristics of Excellence in Undergraduate Research (COEUR), which outlines criteria for exceptional undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity programs. For AURA recognition, campuses must demonstrate depth and breadth in their undergraduate research initiatives and evidence of continual innovation. Institutions of different Carnegie classifications are considered for the award.

“The 2023 AURA recipients reflect achievements as leaders in undergraduate research that set their institutions apart. Each awardee has demonstrated a diverse portfolio of undergraduate research programs, building a culture around undergraduate research in their overall curriculums that increases engagement and practice, and investing in student-faculty recognition. These institutions exemplified steadfast commitment, no matter their size.”

Lindsay Currie, CUR Executive Officer

“The 2023 AURA recipients reflect achievements as leaders in undergraduate research that set their institutions apart,” said Lindsay Currie, CUR’s executive officer. “Each awardee has demonstrated a diverse portfolio of undergraduate research programs, building a culture around undergraduate research in their overall curriculums that increases engagement and practice, and investing in student-faculty recognition. These institutions exemplified steadfast commitment, no matter their size.”

College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University

CSBSJU embraces an academically rigorous collaboration between two of the nation’s highest-rated liberal arts schools. CSBSJU launched the Emerging Scholars Program with the mission of making undergraduate research accessible to students from all backgrounds and abilities. This program caters to first-year students who have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education or their field of study. Students who are selected into this program, are offered a full-time, paid, on-campus research position for an academic year under the mentorship of a faculty mentor. According to CSBSJU, 100% of the first cohort of students in the program graduated on time. Although CSBSJU has a young and growing program, almost 30% of all students are engaged in undergraduate research, and approximately 40% of faculty regularly serve as mentors. Even without the resources of most AURA-receiving schools, CSBSJU has built an enviable suite of programs that demonstrate how innovation driven by a clear vision can yield exceptional outcomes.  

“It is truly the highest honor for The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University to be named a 2023 AURA Awardee, as this award helps us amplify our story on a national level that we have known for quite some time at our institutions: that we are wholeheartedly a community that celebrates and invests in scholarship and creative work opportunities for our students, faculty, and staff.” Says Lindsey Gunnerson Gutsch, Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research & Scholars at CSBSJU. “Since the introduction of CSC Day in 2001, you’ll see foundational pieces of our undergraduate research program be introduced and become part of our campus culture and traditions. Since 2017, institutional investments in staffing and resources have been made to build on that strong foundation and elevate undergraduate research into a signature experience, ensuring that any student could become a part of our scholarly community – which you can see in the nearly 1 in 3 of our students are doing research or creative work every year. I am particularly grateful that the Emerging Scholars Program, an initiative designed by myself, Dr. Kate Bohn-Gettler, and Dr. Mary Stenson, has been uplifted as an exemplary research program in the United States. Thank you to the faculty mentors and students who have been part of our cohorts. Recognition from the Council of Undergraduate Research that CSB+SJU embodies so many of CUR’s Characteristics of Excellence in Undergraduate Research is invaluable. I hope that receiving this award says to our current students and faculty in our scholarly community that we immensely value the work you do. I hope this award says to future students that if you want opportunities to ask and investigate your biggest questions, if you want to challenge yourself to be innovative and creative, if you want a faculty mentor and a community that will coach you and be by your side in the lab or in the studio, CSB+SJU and the Office of Undergraduate Research & Scholars has a place for you. This is where you go in Minnesota for a scholarly and community-centered experience.”

CSBSJU Academic Dean Dr. Karyl Daughters adds, “We are thrilled by this recognition of the outstanding undergraduate research achievements on our campuses. This honor sheds light on the diverse opportunities offered at St. Ben’s and St. John’s, inspiring more students to participate in enriching research experiences.”

University of Florida

According to the Wall Street Journal, UF was ranked the number one public university with over 95 nations represented among their students, a 17:1 faculty-to-student ratio, and 40% of graduates reporting the completion of a research experience by graduation. UF has invested in funds for staffing and supporting research that has manifested through a diverse group of activities that share a long-term vision of providing “undergraduate research for all” via thoughtful and deliberate approaches delivered at an R1 institution with over 38,000 undergraduates. Despite the complexities inherent in a large R1 campus, UF has incorporated a creative and successful collection of opportunities to acclimate diverse high school (Summer Science Training Program) and entering students (UF Quest, Undergraduate Research Scholars and Emerging Scholars Programs) to early research experiences, including access for transfer students and an online research program. UF has demonstrated a meaningful way to prioritize undergraduate research through their programming and continues to be a valuable leader in the undergraduate research community.

According to the UF Provost, Dr. Scott Angle, “Undergraduate students have played an essential role in the University of Florida surpassing 1 billion dollars in research expenditures. The UF AURA award is an acknowledgment that our amazing students are doing amazing research here at UF. The research is making Florida better today and training better citizens to make a better future.”

In addition, Dr. Anne Donnelly, Director of UF Center for Undergraduate Research, explains, “The UF AURA award would not have been possible if not for the exceptional faculty who have served as research mentors to thousands of undergraduate students over the years. Also integral to the success of the program is the strong commitment of the UF Higher Administration, which has continued to support our efforts. Receiving the AURA award is a direct recognition of the collective efforts and time donated across colleges to help train and support undergraduate researchers.”

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

With more than 70 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across STEM-related fields, WPI offers a distinctive, noteworthy project-based curriculum that combines theory and practice to tackle critical global challenges. A unique and impressive data point, 100% of WPI’s full-time faculty are mentors to undergraduates in research as part of their teaching responsibilities. These mentorship responsibilities are mapped out across WPI’s increasingly complex and open-ended four-year research platforms that include, first-year projects on “Great Problems”, second-year inquiry or creative capstones in the humanities and arts, junior-year interdisciplinary projects at the intersection of technology and societal needs, and senior capstone research or design projects in the major.  WPI exemplifies how investing in their faculty and students, showing passion for undergraduate research, and building a career-readiness mindset around undergraduate research provides a model for many other campuses to follow.

“At WPI, our commitment to project-based learning has made us a leader in undergraduate research, design, and creative activity for over 50 years,” states Arne Gericke, Dean of Undergraduate Studies ad interim, WPI, “We understand the profound benefits that arise from fostering strong connections between our students and faculty researchers, empowering them to undertake projects of significance to our state, nation, and the world. We are deeply honored to receive the Council on Undergraduate Research’s Campus-Wide Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishment recognizing our dedication to transformational research, design, and creative activity as we continue to elevate this work to unmatched levels.”

Arthur Heinricher, Senior Vice President and Provost ad Interim at WPI adds, “We are grateful to The Council on Undergraduate Research for singling out the great work being done by WPI faculty, acknowledging the impact our approach has on preparing students for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.  While this award recognizes WPI’s decades of success in pioneering holistic undergraduate research and inquiry in courses and stand-alone project experiences, I think it underscores the importance of engaging students, at all levels, in research as a critical skill for the workforce of the future.  Our graduates will live in a world where innovation is demanded and practical skills must intersect with visionary thinking.”

Please join CUR and the undergraduate research community in continuing to celebrate these prestigious institutions and their achievements on June 11, 2024, from 2:00-3:30 PM ET. You can RSVP at CUR.org/CUREvents.   

Founded in 1978, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) focuses on providing high-quality and collaborative undergraduate research, scholarly, and creative activity. Among the many activities and networking opportunities that CUR provides, the organization also offers support for the professional growth of faculty and administrators through expert-designed institutes, conferences, and a wide-range of volunteer positions. The CUR community, made up of nearly 700 institutions and 13,000 individuals, continues to provide a platform for discussion and other resources related to mentoring, connecting, and creating relationships centered around undergraduate research. CUR’s advocacy efforts are also a large portion of its work as they strive to strengthen support for undergraduate research. Its continued growth in connections with representatives, private foundations, government agencies, and campuses world-wide provides value to its members and gives voice to undergraduate research. CUR is committed to inclusivity and diversity in all of its activities and our community.

CUR focuses on giving a voice to undergraduate research with learning through doing. It provides connections to a multitude of campuses and government agencies, all while promoting networking and professional growth to its community.

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University are historic Catholic, Benedictine liberal arts schools that blend 3,300 acres of Minnesota lakes, forests and trails, and college-town experiences into a unique residential community. This integrated, one-of-a-kind, undergraduate college for women and undergraduate college for men have proven to be the perfect choice for Bennies and Johnnies. With two campuses connected by decades of traditions, Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s combine top-tier academic programs, a strong commitment to experiential learning, a fun and vibrant residential experience, and a network of alums blazing trails and opening doors. For more information, visit csbsju.edu.

The University of Florida attracts the best and brightest students, staff and faculty, places them together and connects them with world-class resources to spark extraordinary discoveries and innovations. UF’s momentum is reflected in the university’s designation as a No. 1 public university in the country by the Wall Street Journal. Artificial intelligence is a centerpiece at UF, spanning all disciplines so that every student has the opportunity to acquire competence and expertise in AI. The University of Florida is a place where limitless potential meets boundless opportunity through teaching, research, scholarship and service to the state, the nation and the world. 

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is a top-tier STEM-focused research university and a recognized pioneer and global leader in project-based learning. Founded in 1865 on the principle that students learn most effectively by applying the theory learned in the classroom to the practice of solving real-world problems, WPI’s continued mission is to transform lives, turn knowledge into action to confront global challenges, and revolutionize STEM through distinctive and inclusive education, projects, and research.  WPI’s project-based curriculum engages undergraduates in solving important scientific, technological, and societal problems throughout their education and at more than 50 project centers around the world.  Today WPI offers more than 70 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs across 18 academic departments in science, engineering, technology, business, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts. To help address ongoing challenges, improve lives, and help create a more sustainable world, WPI faculty and students pursue groundbreaking research in such areas as the life sciences, smart technologies, materials and manufacturing, and global initiatives.

By Elizabeth Moris

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