University opens Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry
Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014
MANHATTAN — When it comes to undergraduate research and creative inquiry, Kansas State University has one goal: much more of it.
To assist that goal, the university has opened the Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry in the Wildcat Landing building, 1800 Claflin Road. The office's mission is getting more undergraduates, regardless of major, involved in research and creative inquiry.
"We hope to serve as a conduit for undergraduate Research & Creative inquiry at K-State," said Anita Cortez, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry. "I think that K-State's long-established reputation of professors who willingly introduce undergraduates into the realm of research is well known, and the Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry hopes to make more undergraduates aware that they can be actively engaged in inquiry and discovery with renowned experts; they can do this in any field, whether in the laboratory, the library or through performance, for example; and even this early in their careers, they can make a real-world difference and contribute to the world they are going to live in."
Creative inquiry is an important part of the office's name and emphasizes that discovery is not limited to a laboratory, said Steven Dandaneau, vice provost for undergraduate studies.
"To some people, research conjures only images of white lab coats, yet the concept refers to a broad range of creative and discovery-oriented activities that advance the boundaries of knowledge, so the term 'creative inquiry' is meant to signal that," Dandaneau said.
Opening the Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry also is an important part of the university's goal of becoming a Top 50 public research university by 2025.
"Expanding and enhancing undergraduate involvement in research, scholarship, creative activity and discovery is one of the eight overarching benchmark measures by which we have chosen to chart our progress toward the K-State 2025 goal," Dandaneau said. "Thus it is no surprise that the university's Undergraduate Research Task Force and other observers advocated for an office dedicated exactly to that goal."
As administrative director since 2000 of the university's Developing Scholars Program, which helps underrepresented students get involved in research, Cortez is excited about the expansion of her duties to help even more students get involved in undergraduate research.
"It has always been my dream to help undergraduates find their passion and discover not only how they can advance themselves, but also how they can be of use in the world," Cortez said. "When I began with Developing Scholars, there were people working with undergraduates in research, but it was less formalized and students were less likely to know how to get into research. We have been fortunate at K-State because even early on, we have had progressive administrators who supported undergraduate research. That support has brought us to today: Undergraduate research is burgeoning at K-State. More and more faculty are interested in getting involved. The diversity of students also is adding to the breadth of perspectives."
Offering many ways to get involved in undergraduate research is what makes Kansas State University stand out, Cortez said. Students can join established research programs such as the Developing Scholars or McNair Scholars programs, or get involved in any number of summer research programs on campus. Other students are introduced through research projects as part of their classes. More monetary support for students conducting research also is being made available.
"The Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry is establishing a campuswide research grants program for undergraduates, fashioned after the College of Arts & Sciences' Undergraduate Research Awards, and as a way to provide awards beyond those already being offered through the colleges," Cortez said.
Perhaps more important, Cortez said, is that the types of research and creative inquiry students are involved in is progressing, earning Kansas State University undergraduates recognition at national and international levels.
"The Division of Biology’s Ecological Genomics program is a good example of undergraduates involved at a very high level of research expectation. For this competitive internship, they are paid $15,000," Cortez said. "In exchange, students are expected to present at national conferences. They work toward publication and work year-round. Another example is cancer research on our campus. Our students are getting involved in major breakthroughs."
To highlight Kansas State University's commitment to undergraduate research and creative inquiry, the university will observe Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry Awareness Week, Sept. 22-26. The week will include several informational events about undergraduate Research & Creative inquiry, including an address by Karen Burg, the university's vice president for research, at 3 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22, in the Big 12 Room at the K-State Student Union. Burg will present "Igniting the Passion for Learning Through Undergraduate Research." Her speech is open to the public and will be streamed live at http://www.k-state.edu/undergradresearch.
All of the university offices in the Wildcat Landing building — Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry, Honor and Integrity System, Teaching and Learning Center and English Language Program International Technology Commons — will have an open house from 3-5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25.
A complete listing of the week's activities is available at http://www.k-state.edu/undergradresearch/.