AURA Nominations Process

The Council on Undergraduate Research invites applications for the annual CUR Campus-Wide Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments (AURA). CUR’s publication, Characteristics of Excellence in Undergraduate Research (COEUR), describes the organization’s criteria for excellent undergraduate research programs. This award recognizes higher education institutions that have successfully implemented the characteristics of excellence, have devised exemplary programs to provide high-quality research experiences to undergraduates, and have evaluated the success of these programs. The depth and breadth of the institutional commitment to undergraduate research as well as the innovative nature of a sustained, exemplary program that shows considered growth over time, and that thoughtfully engages issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion are important criteria for award selection. 

Nominations may be submitted by all types of higher education institutions. CUR will present up to three awards per year, with efforts to recognize institutions in the different Carnegie classification groups. Note: Letters of Intent and Finalist Submissions must strictly adhere to the standards provided below. Submissions that do not adhere to the guidelines will not be considered for the award. 

Letters of Intent (LOI)

  • A letter of intent (up to 750 words) summarizing the institution’s commitment to undergraduate research and highlighting a specific high-quality exemplary program is required and is typically due in the spring. The LOI should be data-driven and describe the size and scope of the UR program and its impact on campus. With respect to the exemplary program, describe the program goals, program execution, and evidence of assessment activities measuring campus outcomes.
  • Letters of intent should be submitted to
  • A subset of institutions submitting an LOI will be asked to submit a full application portfolio. The criteria to select the institutions invited to submit a full application portfolio are the following:
    • Does the applicant describe a commitment to undergraduate research that promotes, evaluates, and sustains high-quality, campus-wide undergraduate research that is an exemplar of key COEUR principles?
    • Does the applicant describe and document with objective measures an undergraduate research program that is broad in scope and depth?

Letters of Intent are due July 24, 2024. 

Finalist Application
Finalist applications, for the subset of institutions invited to submit a full application portfolio, are due in September. Specific details will be communicated in an invitation letter. 

A full application portfolio consists of the following materials: (sub-header)

  • An application form signed by the senior academic officer responsible for campus-wide undergraduate research activities.
  • A description (Section I, up to 10 pages) of the institution’s overall undergraduate research efforts, including assessment information. This description should address identify by name and address 5 of the 12 characteristics of excellence listed in the COEUR publication and provide evidence for achieving excellence in these areas. Successful applications will support claims of excellence by providing objective qualitative or quantitative data. Comparison to national or organizational norms is encouraged.
  • An in-depth description (Section II, up to 8 pages) of one COEUR program element that has been exemplary. Exemplary programs should positively impact the campus as a whole and be validated by supporting data. The review committee is especially interested in innovative programs that might serve as models for other institutions. 
  • Supplementary materials (up to 10 pages) providing qualitative or quantitative data evaluating evidence in direct support of the application narrative. The supplemental information should provide supporting data that is not easily communicated in the narrative and should bolster claims of excellence or transformative change.  Relevant supporting data should be contextualized and summarized in the application narrative.

Note: Supplemental materials should be developed to specifically support application claims to the AURA competition, and be tailored to the submission. For those invited to submit materials will be due in early fall. 

Evidence might include the following:

  • Student outcomes: enhanced learning, including evidence that student learning outcomes have been achieved; increased retention and graduation rates; peer-reviewed publications in scholarly journals; presentations at professional conferences; success in obtaining postgraduate employment in the major-related field; higher acceptance rates into graduate or professional programs; increased scholarship or fellowship awards that include scholarly work as criteria.
  • Faculty outcomes: peer-reviewed publications and presentations coauthored with undergraduates, recognition of the role of mentoring undergraduate researchers and/or developing undergraduate research opportunities in the promotion and tenure process, other activities engaging with students
  • Institutional outcomes:
    • increased diversity, retention, satisfaction, and graduation rates
    • innovative or particularly effective fiscal or administrative approaches that have allowed the program to serve a growing number of students and faculty
    • institutional efforts with demonstrated success with a specific population of students
    • program effectiveness (growth, scope, and depth; broad participation among faculty and students, including demographic and disciplinary diversity; sustainability; institutionalized and/or adoption beyond the home campus)
    • administrative efficacy (efficient use of resources; increasing institutional commitment and support)
    • Evidence for quality of the undergraduate research being conducted, such as depth of student engagement, venues of dissemination of student-conducted work, and the quantity of work disseminated. 

Application Checklist

  • Submissions that do not adhere to guidelines will not be considered.
  • Description should address 5 of 12 of the COEUR characteristics.
  • Exemplary programs should positively impact the campus as a whole and be validated by providing supporting data.
  • Supplemental materials should support application claims, and be tailored to the specific submission. 
  • Application: Use page limits instead of word counts. Font 12, times new roman, 1-inch margins, and double-spaced, no more than 3 lines per inch. Graphics and other non-narrative items are included in page limits.
    • Section I: 10 pages
    • Section II: 8 pages 
    • Supplementary materials: 10 pages 

Awardees Receive:

  • A one-year enhanced institutional membership in CUR with no cost for the awarded institution.
  • Recognition through CUR’s newsletters, press releases, and/or notifications through appropriate higher education publications.
  • A plaque for public display presented at a highly visible CUR-sponsored event.  
  • An opportunity to have the institution and the exemplary program featured as subject for a CUR webinar.

Award Announcement and Presentation

Recipients will be contacted in February 2025 with a public release in the spring followed by a June award ceremony. Representatives from awardee institutions may be asked to serve on future AURA selection committees.

All CUR Award recipients are responsible for any and all applicable tax obligations associated with receipt of the award. 

Questions may be addressed to Lindsay Currie, CUR Executive Officer.