Tribal College Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program

Attracting students to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies and retaining them to graduation demand creative strategies. Among other efforts, engaging the students in research experience is one activity that has the potential to motivate undergraduate students in community colleges to consider pursuing STEM degrees. The exposure to research methodologies and to ongoing interesting engineering research projects will not only improve the critical thinking skills but also the measurement and analytical skills essential to success in STEM education. The key elements of research - posing a research question, gathering supporting information, designing or selecting an appropriate computational or experimental scheme to gather data to test hypotheses, writing reports, presenting posters - all provide a rich learning environment. This experience also furthers their knowledge of STEM principles and concepts. Making available university research mentoring resources for community college students is a step in the right direction. Recognizing the importance of the research experience in motivating undergraduate students to pursue STEM degree programs, NATURE initiated the Tribal College Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program in 2007. The two research universities and five tribal community colleges in North Dakota, participate in this program with the expectations that it can lead to long-term undergraduate research capacity building in the community colleges. In this model, the students in the community colleges develop project proposals with the guidance of the community college faculty serving as on-site mentors. A university faculty with appropriate research expertise is paired with the community college faculty to serve as a university mentor. The mentors are jointly responsible for providing a quality research experience for the students. The emphasis in the student projects is on imparting research skills rather than discovery, though opportunities for discovery research were utilized to the extent possible. The collaborative model has the potential of generating mutually beneficial outcomes, such as developing larger-scope research proposals for funding agencies. Workshops on research methods were conducted for community college STEM faculty to enable them for better research mentoring of students. The experience with the model is already showing positive results. In five semesters, 32 student projects were completed. In addition to writing final completion reports, almost all of the students presented their projects in some forum or the other as either podium or poster presentations.

Paper on the Research Model in the 2008 ASEE Global Colloquium
Workshop Agenda
Workshop Introduction Slides
Workshop on Research Methodology
Program Accomplishments