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 some or all of 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 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.

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. For the 2020 AURA, watch for upcoming announcement of deadlines. The LOI should describe the size and scope of the UR program and its impact on campus. With respect to the exemplary program, describe the execution of the program, program goals, and assessed impact on campus.
  • Letters of intent should be submitted to the CUR Executive Officer with a copy to CUR Submission.
  • 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 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?

Institutions are generally notified of the status of their application in late spring.


Finalist Application

Finalist applications, for the subset of institutions invited to submit a full application portfolio, are typically due in early summer. 
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 (up to 2,500 words) of the institution’s overall undergraduate research efforts, including assessment information. This description should address at least 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 (up to 2,000 words) of one program element that has been exemplary, including evidence that it has been effective.
  • Supplementary materials (limited 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.
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 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. 
    • Section 1: 10 pages
    • Section 2: 8 pages 
    • Supplementary materials – 10 pages 


Application Form

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 at an award symposium or panel discussion at a CUR-sponsored conference (CUR Biennial Conference or CUR Dialogues), as subject for a CUR webinar, and/or in an invited feature article of CUR’s journal Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research.
Award Announcement and Presentation
Awards are typically announced in the fall with a ceremony and presentation to awardees made the following year at a CUR-sponsored event. Representatives from awardee institutions may be asked to serve on future AURA selection committees.
Questions may be addressed to Lindsay Currie, CUR Executive Officer.