Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


WILCH, Thomas I., BARTELS, William S., LINCOLN, Beth Z., LINCOLN, Timothy N., MCRIVETTE, Michael W. and MENOLD, Carrie A., Department of Geological Sciences, Albion College, 611 E Porter St, Albion, MI 49224,

Undergraduate research is an integral part of the mission and curriculum of the Geology Department at Albion College. The Geology program currently has 60 majors and minors and 5 FTE faculty members. Our Introductory Geology course for majors and non-majors includes a 3-week environmental group research project with both field and lab components that takes students from proposal writing through the presentation of results. Group research projects in several upper level courses mimic the Introductory Geology projects in form but emphasize higher level research skills, requiring mastery of discipline-specific methodologies and an iterative approach to hypothesis testing.

The requirements for Geology majors include an independent research component that can be completed with summer research, an in-semester directed study, or an internship. Students may cap their research experiences with a senior thesis. The establishment of the College’s competitive Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (FURSCA) research program in 2001 made it possible for us to develop several long-term research projects. FURSCA provides students with stipends for 8-10 weeks and modest funds for research expenses. The department leverages the FURSCA program by using alumni donations to provide additional support for supplies, equipment, and travel to field areas, labs, and professional meetings. It is common for mentors to encourage paired projects in both summer and in-semester research. These pairings have been very successful as they encourage collaborative peer-mentoring and problem-solving. Research in classes and directed studies helps us recruit and prepare students for summer research, while the summer research provides new avenues to explore in classes and directed studies.

In 2011, we began to assess independent thinking, integrative thinking, and initiative in for-credit directed studies. The formative assessment results are used to reflect on research mentoring strategies. We also compile outcome data on meeting presentations, awards, theses, graduate school admissions, and employment. These summative assessment data are important for student recruiting, program review, and encouraging alumni engagement.