2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 15
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


HLUCHY, Michele M., Geology and Environmental Studies, Alfred Univ, One Saxon Drive, Alfred, NY 14802, fhluchy@alfred.edu

Participation in undergraduate research has been mandatory for Environmental Studies majors at Alfred University since the programs was initiated in the early 1970s. Independent thinking and development of research skills are threaded throughout the major from the first introductory course, through intermediate-level required courses and electives, and culminating in a year-long senior research project. The addition of a research methods course at the sophomore level and a research planning course at the junior level have greatly improved our studentsÂ’ preparation for doing independent research during their final year at Alfred, and, perhaps more importantly, these courses have increased the confidence level and focus of our students as they enter into this capstone experience. Small research projects are done in groups at the introductory level, requiring data acquisition and analyses at a level that is attainable by first-year students. A sophomore-level, year-long course, Research Methods in Environmental Studies introduces our students to a variety of techniques used by environmental professionals both in the field and the laboratory. Students learn the techniques by doing research-type exercises and a more involved project that requires them to answer a research question using several of the techniques they have learned throughout the year. During their junior year, our students must choose and plan their senior projects. During the spring semester, the students take a two-credit hour class called Research Planning, during which they choose a research topic for their senior year, find a faculty sponsor, and write a research proposal which is often submitted for funding. By the end of this course, students are ready to start their project and begin either during the summer or as soon as they return in the fall of their senior year. By threading the research theme into several courses, we have found our students to be much better prepared to do their projects. They also accomplish more in the time they work on the project because they have spent a fair amount of time planning and doing background research during the semester before they begin. Students have commented that they feel much better prepared for research by the time they reach their senior year because of the research thread throughout our curriculum.