Research certificate to be available for undergraduates

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Undergraduate researchers from across the 40 Acres will be able to earn a certificate in research for the first time, after the Senate of College Councils unanimously passed a resolution.

The Senate and the Undergraduate Research Council created a resolution this semester calling for an undergraduate research certificate intended for student researchers at UT. The resolution passed 15 to nothing at a Senate meeting held Thursday. When the certificate program goes into affect will be dependent on students working with administrators to create the program, said Senate spokesperson Michael Morton.

A certificate program will give recognition to undergraduates who take the initiative to get involved in extracurricular research, said Shannon Jacobson, a communication sciences and disorders junior. Jacobson is researching how bilinguals acquire, organize and assess two languages in order to target language milestones in typically developing bilingual children and identify ways to determine language impairments.

Jacobson said undergraduate researchers who dedicate time outside of the classroom should have a credential to show on their degree.

“Undergraduate researchers dedicate hours of time outside of the classroom to working on important projects,” she said. “That achievement deserves some sort of acknowledgement and a certificate would do just that.”

Currently, there is no formal research-based program at the University that is available to all undergraduates, said biology sophomore Ryan Hirsch, co-chair of the undergraduate research council.

“Creating a research certificate program can really make undergraduate research a seamless part of the academic culture here at UT,” Hirsch said. “A program like this would enable all types of students to add a sense of practicality to their education because research promotes further exploration and a deeper understanding of a topic.”

Students could yield significant benefits from this program such as improved academic performance, higher retention and graduation rates and a greater development of critical thinking, Hirsch said. Consolidating research methods and inquiry-based courses into a transcript-recognized academic certificate will facilitate engagement in undergraduate research, expand access to research opportunities and introduce students to the research process early in their undergraduate careers, she said.

The certificate program could also encourage students to enroll in more research-based courses by enhancing the visibility and support for undergraduate research participation, Hirsch said. The program that the resolution calls for will also be cost efficient because it will draw from resources already available at the University, she said.

Printed on Tuesday, October 8, 2011 as: Student researchers to be acknowledged