Office of Research and Sponsored Programs to receive UW System award for excellence

Thirty-seven percent of UW-Eau Claire students have opportunities to work on collaborative research and other scholarly and creative projects with faculty. Through those hands-on experiences, students gain skills that prove invaluable when it comes to landing a job or gaining acceptance to graduate school.  

That doesn't happen in a vacuum. 

In fact, important work is done year-round by a team of professionals whose mission is to maintain a supportive environment for the research, scholarship and creative activity of faculty, academic staff and students. That team, the staff of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, will be honored June 5 as recipients of a UW System Academic Staff Excellence Award. Dr. Karen Havholm, who leads ORSP, will accept the award along with Jeremy Miner, ORSP's director of grants and contracts, during the UW System Board of Regents meeting in Milwaukee.

"We are honored to have been nominated for this award by our colleagues at UW-Eau Claire, whom we have the privilege to serve and support in their scholarship, grant-seeking and mentoring of students," said Havholm, UW-Eau Claire's assistant vice chancellor for research. "There is no student research without the active scholars who mentor them." 

ORSP, designated in 1988 by the UW System Board of Regents as the system's Center of Excellence for Faculty and Undergraduate Student Research Collaboration, excels at providing development opportunities for faculty, staff and students to ensure students have transformative research experiences, said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt. 

"ORSP provides an essential service to the university," Schmidt said. "By providing students with an opportunity to participate with faculty in research projects, the ORSP staff is advancing an experience for students that increases gains in academic performance as well as the likelihood that students will stay in school and graduate. It also improves their rates of employment in major-related careers and acceptance into graduate school. ORSP's work is critical as UW-Eau Claire remains committed to increasing from our current 83 percent to 100 percent the number of students who engage in at least one high-impact learning experience — opportunities such as faculty-student research, cultural immersion either in the U.S. or abroad, and internships."

UW-Eau Claire's annual Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity (expanded from the former Student Research Day) has been coordinated by ORSP for 23 years. Sixty student posters were featured at the first event in 1993, and by 2015 the event included 632 students and 228 faculty mentors who shared more than 370 projects via posters, performances, oral presentations and exhibits.

ORSP also is recognized statewide and nationally for fostering learning through research and contributing to the international community of undergraduate research practitioners. In 2010, ORSP took a leadership role in securing a grant from the Council on Undergraduate Research to establish a workshop program on improving the quality of undergraduate research at the campus level across the UW System.

ORSP's leadership in securing the CUR grant led to additional major accomplishments. In 2012 and 2014, ORSP secured awards from the Growth Agenda for Wisconsin program to continue efforts across the UW System to institutionalize undergraduate research. Those grants led to the formation in 2014 of the Wisconsin System Council on Undergraduate Research, for which ORSP served as the inaugural chair.

ORSP staff have gone on to co-facilitate workshops and conferences, and present their own findings nationwide on the best practice standards and strategies in undergraduate research.

"ORSP has a long-standing history of supporting undergraduate research, and most recently they have demonstrated remarkable success moving faculty and the campus culture to embed undergraduate research and scholarly creative activity into the curriculum," wrote Elizabeth Ambos, CUR executive director, in a letter supporting ORSP's nomination for the UW System Academic Staff Excellence Award. "The contributions UW-Eau Claire's ORSP has made extend beyond the campus and system. Their impact can be felt nationwide." 

Visit the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs website for more information on its efforts in support of collaborative research and other scholarly and creative work of faculty, academic staff and students, or contact Dr. Karen Havholm, assistant vice chancellor for research and director of the Center of Excellence for Faculty and Undergraduate Student Research Collaboration, at havholkg@uwec.edu or 715-836-3405. 

Photo caption: Office of Research and Sponsored Programs staff to be honored with a UW System Academic Staff Excellence Award include, from left, Kelsey Dery, university services associate; Heather Johnson Schmitz, grants coordinator; Dr. Karen Havholm, assistant vice chancellor for research; Ann Statz, business manager; and Jeremy Miner, director of grants and contracts. Staff members not pictured are graduate assistants Erik Williams and Chris Zimmerman.