National Science Foundation award for integrating research

February 18, 1997

ANN ARBORFThe University of Michigan will receive one of 10 Recognition Awards for the Integration of Research and Education (RAIRE) from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The award, which is in recognition of the University’s commitment to integrating research and undergraduate education, is for $500,000 over three years.

“I am pleased that the National Science Foundation has identified Michigan as one of a handful of exemplary research universities, each recognized not only for general excellence in science and engineering education but also for noteworthy achievements unique to the institution,” said U-M President Lee C. Bollinger.

Michigan?s RAIRE award, which is especially for Michigan’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) and the Women in Science and Engineering-Residential Program (WISE-RP), recognizes the University for fostering student diversity in undergraduate science and engineering education by engaging students in research experiences and learning communities.

The award ceremony will be held Friday (Feb. 21) at NSF headquarters in Arlington, Va.

“The Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and WISE-RP have accomplished two goals that are critical to the University’s mission: increasing diversity among students in the sciences and engineering—a goal expressed in the Michigan Mandate and the Michigan Agenda for Women—and the goal of engaging undergraduate students in the U-M research community. The result has been not only enhanced retention rates among students at risk but also the creation of research opportunities that are of tremendous benefit to all capable students,” said Homer A. Neal, U-M vice president for research and former interim president.

UROP is the largest undergraduate research program at Michigan. It was launched by the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) in 1989 with 14 minority student and faculty research partnerships and is now up to 750 students and 450 faculty. More than 2,500 students have participated in the program since its inception. Although UROP now includes first- and second-year students of all backgrounds, it maintains an emphasis on minorities (40 percent) and women in science (25 percent). The LSA program involves faculty and students from across the University.

UROP received the TIAA-CREF Hesburgh Certificate of Excellence for undergraduate education in 1996 and also is cited as a model program by the U.S. Department of Education in its publication, “Lessons Learned.”

“The centerpiece of UROP is the student-faculty research partnership where students become engaged in cutting edge laboratory research, collaborate on new books, help create instructional technology, or even participate in the development of a new course,” said Sandra R. Gregerman, director of UROP.

UROP students are assigned peer advisers—alumni of UROP who help students find research projects, monitor progress and assist in student-faculty communication. “Peer advisers also run biweekly sessions in which students in similar research fields can discuss and present their projects and meet guest researchers who discuss issues ranging from ethics to emerging research trends,” Gregerman added.

As a result of their research experience in their first and second years, UROP alumni often have access to other research opportunities such as the Fogarty Minority International Research Training Fellowships that fund undergraduate student summer research projects in South Africa, Chile, Bolivia and China.

The Women in Science and Engineering-Residential Program focuses on retaining women in the sciences and engineering by creating a supportive academic environment outside the classroom.

WISE-RP houses first- and second-year women students with similar academic interests on a floor in Couzens Residence Hall. “Our purpose is to reduce the sense of (18) isolation many women feel when they are one of only a few women in a science or engineering class,” said Cinda-Sue Davis, director of the University-wide WISE program at the Center for the Education of Women.

“Bringing these young women with similar interests together in a small, close-knit living environment facilitates the formation of supportive peer groups—both academic and social. The women share an intellectually stimulating and supportive environment and join in social events. They also participate in an outdoor challenge rope course in the fall and a retreat on team-building and communication skills in the winter.”

WISE-RP, a collaborative project between WISE and the U-M Housing Division, began in 1993-94 with 57 students and now includes about 110 women. The students participate in formal and informal collaborative learning study groups in mathematics, chemistry and physics. The women also attend academic and career workshops and have the opportunity to participate in research partnerships with faculty.

The RAIRE award, which will be administered by the U-M vice president for research, will allow UROP and WISE-RP jointly to expand undergraduate research opportunities at U-M and develop descriptive materials that can be used by other colleges and universities to develop their own undergraduate research programs.

Other universities receiving RAIRE awards are the University of Arizona, the University of California-Los Angeles, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Delaware, Duke University, Kansas State University, the University of Missouri, the State University of New York-Stoney Brook, and the University of Oregon. More information is available on the NSF Home Page

National Science Foundation