SSRP Assessment 2007
The Summer Student Research Program (SSRP) is a UNK activity that gives undergraduate students opportunities to conduct original research, scholarship, and creative activity in a multi-disciplinary setting. It is open to projects from all academic areas.
Program Format and Goals
In 2007, eighteen students spent about 10 weeks in the summer designing and conducting their projects, and writing papers reporting on their results.
The key characteristics of the program are:
- One-on-one collaboration with a faculty expert
- Design, conduct, and dissemination of original scholarly projects
- Exposure to research and scholarship in a broad range of disciplines
- Work within a supportive, challenging, and engaging community of scholars
The multi-disciplinary theme provides an opportunity for student-scholars to recall their general studies education and reinforce the integrated nature of knowledge and learning. In some cases this comes through weekly discussion groups, and in others students have been known to cross disciplinary lines and help each other on projects.
Upon completion of the project, students disseminate their results in three ways. Students:
- Write a scholarly paper that is published on-line
- Create a poster presenting their results
- Give an oral presentation at a Fall Symposium
The goals include fostering:
- Independent, applied learning experiences
- Integration of knowledge from general studies and field of study
- Critical thinking and dissemination skills
- Understanding and experience in scholarly activity
One week after their oral presentations in the fall, students were asked to complete an on-line exit survey. All 18 of the students responded.
- Most students learned about the program from faculty (78%). The second strongest source of information was other students (11%).
- The two strongest reasons for applying were to learn more about their major, and enhancing their resume or graduate school application.
Effort, Independence, and Mentoring
- 6 students spent 5-10 hours per week on their projects, 7 spent 10-20 hours per week, 2 spent 20-30 hours per week, and 2 spent 30-40 hours per week. One student reported spending less than 5 hours per week.
- 65% of students met with their mentors once a week or more. Two students met with their mentors once a month or less.
- 94% said they had a lot of independence in project management, and 6% said they did not get as much guidance as they wanted.
- Most students had to develop a workplan (72%), direct their own work (77%), and solve unexpected problems (88%).
- 55% had to manage their project funds.
- 100% say they feel more comfortable working with faculty now.
- 61% of the 2007 students kept journals throughout the summer, and:
- 15% of students shared their journals with their mentors
- 38% of students said journaling affected the planning of their work
- 46% of students said journaling helped in writing their paper and preparing their oral presentation.
- 67% of students discussed their work with faculty who were not their mentors during the summer.
Application of Coursework
- In conducting projects:
- 100% said they applied knowledge from courses in their major
- 67% applied knowledge from general studies courses
- 83% say they developed a better understanding of what they have learned in coursework.
- 88% agree or strongly agree that they learned more about current issues in their academic field.
- 67% developed a greater understanding of other disciplines.
Enriching Educational Goals
- 94% say that participation in SSRP supports their career plans, and 11% changed post-graduation or career plans because of their summer experience.
- 77% of students plan to go to graduate school or professional school after graduation. 71% of students planning on professional school indicate they will go to a Nebraska institution, and 28% of those going to graduate school plan to go to a Nebraska institution.
- 72% say they improved their writing skills.
- 88% say they improved their critical thinking skills.
- 100% say participation in the program benefited their undergraduate education.
- 67% said the overall experience was "wonderful," and the other third said it was “good.”
We had two open-ended questions at the end: What were the best and worst aspects of the program?
The positive comments focused on the direct experience with original research and working with faculty experts. A couple students commented that the sheer volume of learning was impressive, compared to what they learn in classes. Freedom and control of learning were also mentioned.
The negative comments were mostly related to specific project problems (e.g. missing data). The programmatic concerns identified the weekly meetings and the journal requirement as problems because they were not directly related to research projects.