A. Purpose of the course
URS (listed as Inter – L&S 250) is a two-semester course for first and second year undergraduates to participate in the research and creative work of faculty and staff campus wide. Students are expected to stay with their mentors throughout the academic year.
URS is designed specifically for early undergraduates who have little to no background or experience, but are motivated to participate and grow through their efforts. Each year approximately 200 students take URS, participating in areas of investigation as diverse as molecular biology, physics, art history, economics, theatre, sociology, archaeology, genetics, textile art, political science, engineering, psychiatry, dance, social work and much more.
B. Course design
1.) The core of URS is the partnership forged between student and mentor through the student’s research experience. Developing this partnership depends on how you guide the student as his/her mentor. Mentors guide students in learning many aspects of a research process including but not limited to:
- Data gathering techniques
- Critical reading of literature
- Developing a thesis, question, and/or hypotheses
- Research design
- Presenting research results; communicating research
- Careers in research
- Research writing (proposals, writing for research in process, )
- Research ethics
URS course evaluations and exit interviews show students find their experience in URS a major influence in shaping their educational and career paths and helping them succeed in the crucial transition to college. Compared to their peers, URS students declare their majors earlier, finish their degrees at a higher rate, and finish with higher GPA’s even though many enter UW-Madison with comparatively lower ACT and other test scores. For these and similar reasons URS is recognized as a high impact educational experience. We attribute this successful impact to your involvement and commitment as a mentor.
2.) All URS students attend a weekly 1-hour seminar. There are 10 seminar sections, each with about 15-18 students. Each section is led by two Fellows, upper-level undergraduates with research or creative practice experience who are trained and supervised by URS staff. These peer-led seminar sections comprise the “classroom” component of URS. They foster a diverse, close-knit learning community among students. Note: the seminars are mandatory, meeting every Wednesday from 5:30pm – 6:30pm each semester (see“Important Dates”).
The sections are diverse by virtue of students’ research areas, intellectual interests, and background and experience. Students are exposed to each other’s research, thus to how research happens in various areas and modes of inquiry. They practice writing and presenting their research/creative work. They develop their critical thinking regarding research-relevant societal issues beyond the immediate research project. Students must complete required writing and presentation assignments including but not limited to:
- Response papers to critically analyze their own research/creative work, that of their classmates, and research in different fields
- Position papers to develop their thinking in regard to research- and arts-related societal issues
- Presentations during the fall and spring to practice integrating and articulating the research, develop a presentation style, and share work across fields/projects
- A research abstract as part of the spring semester application to the Undergraduate Symposium
- A final research summary/report, due at the end of the spring semester
Peer leadership fosters an atmosphere of frank discussion without attempting to impress or get the right answer. Fellows lead in part by encouraging students to develop and articulate their own ideas and arguments through academic engagement (theses, types of evidence, chains of logic, etc.). Fellows also encourage students to explore curricular tracks, post-graduation options, and more.
3.) During the spring semester (April) each URS student will present their research in a talk, poster, or roundtable session at the campus wide Undergraduate Symposium. You must approve the student’s research abstract to ensure their acceptance to the Symposium (see “Timeline”). This abstract will be published in the Symposium program. Please work with the student as they develops both an abstract and a presentation. It will likely be the student’s first formal research or creative practice presentation. Therefore, they will need substantial guidance to for this to be a successful and rewarding experience.