Recognizing Student Capital in Mentored Undergraduate Research
by Buffie Longmire-Avital
There are numerous articles, studies, and discussion pieces outlining the benefits of the undergraduate research (UR) experience for students. For example, Madan and Teitge (2013) suggest that UR amplifies the knowledge gained by the student in the classroom. They also recognize the growing need for persons to expertly navigate between engaging in independent work and contributing to the “collaborative effort.” Madan and Teitge reflect on the fact that this navigation is not a skill easily taught out of context, but is instead a skill developed through experience. Prolonged or multi-year research experiences aid students in developing the foundational skills needed for advanced study while socializing behaviors and dispositions that Thiry, Weston, Laursen and Hunter (2012) perceive as essential for a successful research career. The benefits of engaging in UR are immeasurable and long-lasting.
Perhaps one of the most powerful benefits of UR is that this experience is also the vehicle by which many students will gain deep mentorship. According to a recent Elon Poll/Center for Engaged Learning poll summarized by Lambert, Husser, and Felten (2018), mentorship is a critical determinant for educational quality and post-graduate success.
As someone who benefited greatly from my own UR, it is then no surprise that my study of diversity and inclusion in High Impact Practices for historically underrepresented students (HURMS) started with undergraduate research. In previous blogs I have discussed the benefits of and challenges to engaging in UR for HURMS. However, what I have not until now thoroughly addressed are the benefits faculty gain from working with HURMS in undergraduate research.
When I conjure the mental image of a mentored UR, I will admit that visions of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker or Morpheus and Neo immediately appear in my mind. If I am also being honest about my hopes regarding the lasting impact I will have on my students through UR, the mental image of me as Mufasa-like, appearing in the stars above to guide my former student through whatever challenge they are encountering, briefly passes through my mind as well.
Aside from being iconic cinematic relationships, they are all reflective of the traditional dynamic that paints the mentor as the one with all the knowledge (i.e., capital) and the student, who is often on a need-to-know basis, as less powerful and with everything to gain. Yet if a faculty mentor takes a critical race theory (CRT) approach to framing UR then they must recognize that the student actually has much to give (or capital) and the faculty mentor actual has much to gain. To me this mutually beneficial outlook on mentoring is essential for working with HURMS.
- Lambert, L., Husser, J., & Felten, P. (2018). Mentors play critical role in quality of college experience, new poll suggests. The Conversation Retrieved 2018, August 22 from https://theconversation.com/mentors-playcritical-role-in-quality-of-college-experience-new-poll-suggests
- Madan, C. R., & Teitge, B. D. (2013). The benefits of undergraduate research: the student’s perspective. The mentor: An academic advising journal, 1.
- Thiry, H., Weston, T. J., Laursen, S. L., & Hunter, A. B. (2012). The benefits of multi-year research experiences: differences in novice and experienced students’ reported gains from undergraduate research. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 11(3), 260-272.
Buffie Longmire-Avital, associate professor of psychology and coordinator of African and African-American studies, is the 2018-2020 Center for Engaged Learning Scholar. Dr. Longmire-Avital’s CEL Scholar project focuses on diversity and inclusion in high-impact practices.
How to cite this post:
Longmire-Avital, Buffie. (2019, March 4). Recognizing Student Capitol in Mentored Undergraduate Research [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/recognizing-student-capitol-in-mentored-undergraduate-research/