Promoting Partnership, Creating Curiosity

Maria T. Iacullo-Bird, PhD, executive director for the Center for Undergraduate Research Experiences discusses the importance of undergraduate research—for both students and professors.

The Center for Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE), within the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, is headed by Executive Director Maria T. Iacullo-Bird, PhD, who also teaches in the Dyson History Department. Iacullo-Bird is an intellectual and cultural historian of American history with specializations that include the organization of knowledge, the history of higher education, and public history.

Why are research experiences important for students?

Undergraduate research is one of the high impact practices outlined by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU). Undergraduate research experiences routinely require sustained and intensive faculty mentoring that increase undergraduate achievement and retention. Through research opportunities, students acquire strong analytic and reasoning abilities and advance their oral and written communication skills. Additionally, they are part of or develop projects that can work to clarify career goals, enhance their graduate or professional school applications, and contribute to their future areas of professional specialization.

How does collaborative research benefit faculty?

Faculty benefits for collaborative research with students include: enriched teaching experiences through the development of mentoring relationships and enhanced student outcomes; a deepened and expanded institutional culture of inquiry and research that benefits professional growth and development; opportunities for further funding that include support for undergraduate research for existing and future projects; and student assistants to work on research projects.

Can you tell me a bit about some of the partnerships CURE has with external organizations?

Through the Pace institutional membership, CURE has an ongoing membership in the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR), a national organization of over 900 colleges and universities whose mission is to “support and promote high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship.” CURE oversees several grant programs that provide experiential service-learning opportunities for Pace students. These grant programs include the Community and Volunteer Mobilization (CVM) AmeriCorps, Jumpstart, the Liberty Partnerships Program, and Upward Bound. External partners associated with these grants include the Chinatown Beacon YMCA, the Chinese-American Planning Council, Middle School 131, Hamilton-Madison House, Our Lady of Sorrows School, the High School for Leadership and Public Service, the High School of Economics and Finance, and the High School for Human Services and Health Professions. Brooklyn high school partners include Brooklyn High School for the Arts, Clara Barton High School, George Westinghouse High School, Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, and Williamsburg Preparatory High School.

How many students/faculty members participate, on average?

At present, CURE’s grant programs and projects provide an average of sixty undergraduate students with work and service positions.  Several hundred disadvantaged youth who attend school in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn and range in age from preschool through high school are served by these existing grants. Faculty and staff can teach, mentor, and develop research projects within these existing grants and at any one time, two or three faculty are involved in CURE-housed grant programs.  However, CURE’s larger mandate within Dyson is to coordinate and foster undergraduate research by targeting funding sources for both faculty and students, offering support to faculty as they write and submit grant applications, advising the management of the post-grant award phase, and tracking all Dyson-funded applications. During the last academic year, approximately half a dozen Dyson faculty and staff consulted at CURE regarding funding sources and the grant application process. As a relatively new Center, CURE expects these numbers to gradually increase as it becomes better known throughout Dyson.

What are some of the teams working on now, or notable projects from the recent past?

As part of a Dyson public history course taught by myself, undergraduates conducted, recorded, and transcribed over 90 interviews of individuals from Pace and the larger New York City community who had witnessed the 9/11 tragedy. For the 2011 year, Thinkfinity, AmeriCorps, and Dyson College Undergraduate Summer Research funds are supporting a digital project phase as students assistants check and digitally convert audio tapes and printed transcriptions and upload the finalized versions into the Pace Digital Commons.

How do students/faculty get involved in research through CURE?

Students and faculty can get involved in research through large informational events or individual communications and meetings. For example, in September 2009 CURE participated in Dyson’s External Grants day, an event that was open to the entire University community to inform faculty about the grant-funding process. CURE continues to be involved with similar grant-awareness events for Dyson faculty targeting specific interdisciplinary collaborations. Additionally, students and faculty can participate in service-learning and teaching opportunities and develop research projects offered by the CURE-managed grant programs ranging from reading-readiness activities with preschool children to teaching writing and study skills to low-income, first-generation college bound high school students.

For more information about CURE and the research opportunities available for both faculty and students, click here.