How Can REUs Help Retain Female Undergraduates?
REUs INCREASE ENROLLMENT IN GRADUATE PROGRAMS AND RESEARCH CAREERS
Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) can increase the rates at which women and under-represented minorities enter the highest levels of IT research and development. REUs lead to greater understanding of research, confidence in research skills and general mastery of the discipline, and awareness of career paths requiring an advanced degree. As a result, students become more interested in pursuing an advanced degree.
CRAFTING A PROJECT FOR UNDERGRADUATE SUCCESS
Student confidence and motivation to enter graduate school improve with positive research experiences. Positive REUs give students the feeling that they have made a real contribution, despite their lack of computing research background. Ideas for creating such an experience come from The University of Wisconsin’s “Entering Mentoring” manual for training scientists to mentor (see URL below.) It recommends projects that:
Faculty and graduate mentors should talk to students about their skills and interests, mentor them about scientific inquiry, and establish clear expectations for project outcomes.
The National Science Foundation makes it easy to support an undergraduate researcher. You can ask for a supplement for almost any NSF grant – or one held by a colleague – to support an undergraduate researcher with a substantial stipend. Ask your program officer for details.
When advertising REU opportunities, it’s helpful to know what motivates students to get involved. For example, many students participate in REUs because they want help in making career decisions; these students also are more likely to consider an advanced degree as a viable option, according to research by SRI International. A valuable tool for communicating the benefits of a research career is a slide show entitled, “Why choose a Ph.D. in CS?” available on the Computing Research Association’s website: http://www.cra.org/highlights/student.html.
- Handelsman, J., Pfund, C., Milller Lauffer, S., & Pribbenow, C. (2005). Entering Mentoring: A Seminar to Train a New Generation of Scientists. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
- Hunter, A.-B., Laursen, S.L. & Seymour, E. (2006, February). The Benefits and Costs of Faculty Engagement in Undergraduate Research and their Sources. Presented by Elaine Seymour at the conference To Think and Act Like a Scientist: The Roles of Inquiry, Research, and Technology in the Precollege and College Years, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX.
- Russell, S. (2005). Evaluation of NSF Support for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. 2003 NSF-Program Participant Survey: Final Report (SRI International). Available at http://www.sri.com/policy/csted/reports/university/index.html#uro.
View related case studies: