Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 1:05 PM
THE YELLOWSTONE RIVER RESEARCH CENTER: A MODEL FOR UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH AT SMALL INSTITUTIONS
We present a model for undergraduate research that blends student-driven scientific investigation and service learning in a small, liberal arts setting. The Yellowstone River Research Center (YRRC) at Rocky Mountain College (Billings, MT) is a multidisciplinary research center whose faculty is composed of natural scientists, social scientists, mathematicians, and geographers. The YRRC is situated in a microcosm of the northern Rocky Mountain region, where some of the nation’s most pristine environments and landscape coincide with human activity (e.g. resource extraction, agriculture). This location provides the perfect opportunity to meld research and service learning. Research programs are field-based and student-driven, with the aim to deepen understandings of the natural, physical and social processes that shape our region. Faculty and students work together with experts from the private and public sector who make up the YRRC’s steering committee. The committee helps connect YRRC research to the needs of the community, expand community partnerships and identify additional funding opportunities. The YRRC supports student research through a competitive summer grant program that provides stipends for summer research, defrays cost of equipment purchases, and offers free on-campus summer housing. Students work closely with a faculty advisor to develop their research proposals through independent study in the spring and compile their oral and written research products in a 2-credit research class in the fall semester following their summer research. Students are required to present their findings at the annual YRRC research symposium each fall and complete a research report for public dissemination. Since its inception in 2012, the YRRC has: 1) awarded research grants to eight students (some of whom have returned for a second summer of research); 2) conducted twenty-one workshops, outreach programs and public service projects; 3) been the subject of fourteen popular press articles; and 4) earned over $275,000 grants, in-kind donations, volunteer hours and leveraged funds.