AACC summit focuses on undergraduate research

A paid internship for Baton Rouge Community College students involved gathering samples of freshwater sponges for a Louisiana-wide study that Mary Miller, associate professor of biology and undergraduate research coordinator at the college, conducted in collaboration with the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative at Finger Lakes Community College in New York. (Photo: BRCC)

To assist community colleges and other stakeholders in accelerating the value and impact of undergraduate research experiences in STEM education and workforce development, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) this fall will convene the Community College Undergraduate Research Experience Summit.

The meeting on November 20-22 in Washington, D.C. — underwritten by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advanced Technological Education program — will focus on the role of community colleges in building, implementing and sustaining undergraduate research experiences (UREs).

UREs use the scientific method and/or the engineering design process to promote student learning by investigating a problem where the solution is unknown to students and faculty. UREs provide students with essential workplace and life-long learning skills, such as collaboration, problem-solving, critical thinking, creative thinking and communication.

Examples of UREs on tap for discussion at the summit include:

  • course-based research
  • STEM design challenges and competitions
  • employer-based research, such as internships, co-ops and apprenticeships
  • student-driven research, such as independent studies and honors projects
  • mentored research that is part of a larger project

AACC invites community college educators who currently use UREs to apply to participate in the summit. Applications are due September 18. Summit participants will receive travel support.

‘Transformative experiences’

At a planning meeting in July, V. Celeste Carter, lead program director of the ATE program, said she is “excited” about the summit. “Undergraduate research experiences are one of these transformative experiences for students anywhere,” she said, adding that NSF leaders hope the summit sparks wider use of diverse undergraduate research experiences at two-year institutions.

“We are honored to work with the National Science Foundation to advance the applied learning models that so many community colleges offer to the nation’s students,” said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus. “Our partnership with the National Science Foundation is something that we value greatly and hope that this event will brighten the spotlight on the great work of our community college students and faculty, as well as serve to amplify these best practices to our members across the country.”

Related article: Exploring research experiences at community colleges

AACC intends to assemble STEM educators from a cross-section of disciplines who use various types of UREs so that they can share their proven practices and lessons learned to inform summit participants’ thinking about how to broaden community college participation in UREs.

The summit will be a working meeting of 135 thought leaders from community colleges, federal agencies, non-profit organizations and universities. It will strategically use plenary sessions and small-group discussions to develop recommendations for broadening community colleges’ use of UREs.

Educators selected to participate in the summit will be expected to incorporate the resources and promising strategies highlighted during the summit at their home institutions, to help disseminate the summit recommendations, and to participate in the network that will promote the expansion of UREs at community colleges.

About the Author

Madeline Patton
Madeline Patton is an education writer based in Ohio.
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