Jan. 25, 2016 – The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) presented Allegheny College with the inaugural Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishment (AURA) at the annual meeting, on January 22 in Washington, D.C., of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The award was presented to Allegheny — the only baccalaureate college in the nation to receive the award — for the exceptional research experiences that Allegheny provides to its students.
Provost Ron Cole accepted the AURA award, which recognizes the depth and breadth of Allegheny’s undergraduate research initiatives, as well as its sustained innovation.
“Our faculty illustrate every day that great teaching and cutting-edge research go hand in hand at our nation’s best liberal arts colleges,” Allegheny College President James H. Mullen Jr. said. “Professors Aimee Knupsky and Lee Coates have spearheaded many of the efforts to give significant research opportunities to our students, and they have set the bar high. I am so proud that the Council on Undergraduate Research has recognized our faculty’s work — just as I am proud to see our students published alongside faculty in scientific journals, presenting their research at national meetings, and exceeding expectations every day as they pursue their work in classrooms, in labs and in the community.”
In announcing the award, CUR noted Allegheny College’s well-designed and developmentally appropriate undergraduate research experience. That experience is supported by deliberate scaffolding, which begins during a student’s first year, continues throughout the sophomore and junior years and culminates in a required capstone research project. Allegheny’s holistic and sustained student development approach, CUR noted, prepares Allegheny students for both graduate study and post-baccalaureate employment.
CUR also noted that Allegheny’s faculty are actively engaged in publishing undergraduate research and that the college’s promotion and tenure process supports faculty’s work with undergraduate research.
“As an institution with undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activities at the heart of its mission, we appreciate the recognition the Council on Undergraduate Research has given to the importance of this work for both student and faculty development,” Provost Ron Cole said in accepting the award on behalf of Allegheny College.
In a panel discussion preceding the award ceremony, Cole spoke about the college’s long tradition of undergraduate research, which dates back to the college’s founding in 1815, and enhanced efforts in recent years to build on that strong foundation. He noted as one example the college’s summer research community, supported by college and grant funding, which includes a weekly seminar series during which students present their research projects to an audience of faculty, students, administrators and campus visitors. Last summer, 49 students from 19 departments and programs presented their projects to an average audience of more than 100 people.
A few of the recent research projects at Allegheny on which students and faculty collaborated are assessing community health needs in a rural area, research that was published in the journal Health; ongoing research on neural and chemical control of breathing in vertebrates, work that may have implications for research on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; predicting effects of species shifts in elevation associated with climate change in alpine ponds, research that was presented at the 100th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America; and studying citizen responses to insecurity and violence in a working-class neighborhood in Mexico City.
Allegheny’s support of undergraduate research is centered in the college’s Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities, which promotes student research, organizes on-campus presentations of student projects, and provides information and support to students who present their projects off-campus.
Three AURA awards were made this year to recognize outstanding institutions from different classification groups. George Mason University received an award in the category of research university, and the College of New Jersey received an award in the category of master’s level institution.
Elizabeth Ambos, CUR’s executive officer, and CUR President Roger Rowlett joined together to say, “Excellence in undergraduate research programming is found in all types of institutions, and CUR is proud to honor these national leaders who have thoroughly connected research to the undergraduate education process.”
More than 700 institutions and over 10,000 individuals belong to CUR, which supports faculty and student development for high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research, scholarship and creative activities.