The Undergraduate Research Program (URP) at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has been officially serving students, faculty, and staff members for 21 years. Before that time, the program was much more organic, meaning that the students and mentors did not officially receive support from a centralized campus program. Gradually, students and their mentors realized the value of forming an organized group and receiving institutional support for their work. Eventually, an official, campus-wide program was developed and a director was appointed to help students and their mentors gain resources to engage in research.
The beginnings of the current URP were small, with a professor taking up the directorship along with teaching responsibilities. Student participants were concentrated in the sciences, so the directors were often science professors as well. They ran the program out of their faculty offices and facilitated meetings between students and other faculty members. These humble beginnings grew into a bigger and more robust program as students in all disciplines began to see the value in undergraduate research. Today, there are students participating in undergraduate research and scholarly activities within all four of the UW-Whitewater undergraduate colleges. In the last ten years, projects have been conducted in the fields of education, communication sciences and disorders, biology, art, music, dance, literature, business, as well as many others. In addition to expanding the types of projects, students have also chosen to participate in team projects, enhancing their research and learning experience through collaboration. These students have gained not only valuable skills within their academic and research disciplines, but also have gained practical experience with team communication and building professional relationships.
Because participation in undergraduate research used to be concentrated in the sciences, a majority of the past program directors have been faculty members within the sciences, especially in the discipline of Biology. This changed recently with Seth Meisel, who was a professor in History. He is currently the Interim Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education.
The current Undergraduate Research Chair is Catherine Chan. She is a professor in Biological Sciences and Chemistry. She served as the Associate Director of URP from 2008 to 2011 under Seth Meisel as the program director. She was the Interim Director in 2011 when Seth Meisel took the Associate Dean position in the School of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education, and became the program director in 2012. She has been working to implement new programs, such as the Research Apprenticeship Program, and expand URP activities and offerings.
In 2011, a new program from URP was introduced. It is known as the Research Apprenticeship Program, or RAP. RAP provides freshmen and sophomore students as well as newly transferred students with an opportunity to be paired with mentors to work on scholarly research. These students serve as research assistants, gaining valuable research skills as well as being paid for their work. This program, since its implementation, has flourished. Students are supported in learning invaluable academic and real-world skills, and are able to build a strong collaborative relationship with professors. RAP has been vastly successful, with demand from students exceeding program capacity.
RAP serves a wide range of students from all ethnicities and backgrounds; many of the students who participate in the program are students from populations traditionally underserved in higher education. For instance, the percentage of under-represented minority students in RAP are more than twice that of the campus average, and the percentage of students from first-generation backgrounds and low-income households are also higher than the overall campus population. The diversity within this program is progressive and has gained rapport and recognition from the academic community. RAP helps to reduce the achievement gap between majority and minority students, allowing more students to participate in a high-impact educational practice that supports student development and success.
Recognition RAP has earned: