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Undergraduate research earns top national honors


While Jenna Jandrt won’t begin her master’s program until the fall, already she is immersed in the research that she expects will shape her graduate studies and make the future career she envisions possible.

For the last two years, Jandrt, a Cadott native who will graduate from UW-Eau Claire in May with a degree in psychology, has been researching the ways that Montessori schools intentionally foster socio-emotional development, the way our personalities, emotions and relationships with other people develop and change over our lifetimes.

“Having the good fortune to participate in student-faculty collaborative research has allowed me get a head start into graduate school, while also exploring my interests,” Jandrt says. “It’s my research on Montessori methods and practices that revealed to me my passion for education and my desire to pursue a master's program in educational psychology.”

UW-Eau Claire’s success in supporting highly effective undergraduate research programs that benefit students like Jandrt has earned the university top honors from the Council on Undergraduate Research.

CUR, which has about 900 member universities, named UW-Eau Claire the top master’s-level university in the country in providing excellent undergraduate research programs.

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Provost Patricia Kleine, Dr. Karen Havholm and Chancellor James Schmidt accept the Council on Undergraduate Research Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments. (Photo by Michael Ferguson)

UW-Eau Claire leaders were presented with the Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments in January.

“Our campus community long has understood and celebrated the many and far-reaching benefits these kinds of research experiences give our students,” Chancellor James Schmidt says of the CUR award. “We also know that these real-world research projects can greatly benefit the campus, the state — and in more recent years — regions throughout the world.”

Undergraduate research has been a priority on campus for decades thanks to the hundreds of faculty, staff, administrators and students who have supported research across all disciplines, Schmidt says.

As a result, Blugolds graduate each year with the kinds of skills, knowledge and experiences that help them get into top graduate programs and land jobs in their fields, he says.

For Jandrt, becoming involved in research as a McNair Scholar helped strengthen her connection to her field of study and helped her better plan her future.

“While my first two years at UWEC were good, having the opportunity to create my own research project with the guidance of a knowledgeable and supportive mentor, Dr. Nicole Schultz, greatly enhanced my college experience,” Jandrt says. “I have grown personally and professionally as I’ve been challenged, motivated and rewarded through my research projects.

“Student-faculty collaborative research has been the highlight of my four years at UWEC.”

In awarding UW-Eau Claire its top research award, CUR noted the program’s long history of success, as well as its ongoing efforts to grow its research program to meet the needs of even more students.

For more than 50 years, since the first student-faculty co-authored publication, undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activity has flourished at UW-Eau Claire. It has expanded across disciplines, class rank and diverse student populations to become deeply rooted in the campus culture.

Data show that, on average over the past three years, 45 percent of Blugolds have had at least one in-depth scholarly research experience by the time they graduate. Those experiences include funded projects, research-based coursework, and/or presentation of findings at professional conferences or at CERCA, UW-Eau Claire’s annual Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity.

“Undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activity have been embedded in the culture of UW-Eau Claire for decades,” says Dr. Karen Havholm, assistant vice chancellor for research and director of the university’s Center of Excellence for Faculty and Undergraduate Student Research Collaboration. “Building on years of grassroots activity in these areas, visionary faculty and administrators set up a central office in the 1980s to support and enhance faculty, staff and student scholarly activity.”

In 1988, the UW System Board of Regents designated UW-Eau Claire as the system’s Center of Excellence for Faculty and Undergraduate Student Research Collaboration.

The goals of the center were to increase opportunities for collaborative student-faculty research, incorporate research results into the curriculum, identify and address issues requiring multidisciplinary solutions, and provide a public service by contributing to economic development.

“The CUR award is a good measure of just how successful we have been in not only meeting, but exceeding those lofty goals set for us nearly 30 years ago,” Havholm says.

Among the strengths CUR noted in its award letter is UW-Eau Claire’s success in using research as a means to globalize undergraduate studies, giving even more undergraduate students opportunities to have an international experience.

UW-Eau Claire’s International Fellows Program, which CUR calls a model for internationalizing research, has given nearly $1 million in funding in the past six years to support more than 200 students in 68 research projects across 35 different countries. In addition, 58 faculty mentors in 27 academic departments have gained international experience that they bring back to their students on campus.

In the last decade, the total number of projects of all kinds supported by the Center of Excellence for Faculty and Undergraduate Student Research Collaboration has grown, with 809 projects in 2015-16.

During that same time period, the number of student presentations at UW-Eau Claire’s annual student research conference has grown to 313 projects presented by 595 students assisted by 172 mentors in 2016, and overall funding for projects in all center programs reached $935,915 in 2015-16.

“This level of success is possible because of the dedicated faculty and staff who continuously create opportunities for and work alongside their students,” Havholm says. “Each year faculty collectively put in thousands of uncompensated hours mentoring their students in wide-ranging and complex scholarly projects.”

Top photo caption: For the last two years, Jenna Jandrt, a Cadott native who will graduate from UW-Eau Claire in May with a degree in psychology, has been researching the ways that Montessori schools intentionally foster socio-emotional development, the way our personalities, emotions and relationships with other people develop and change over our lifetimes.


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