|HOME SCHEDULE AUTHOR INDEX SUBJECT INDEX|
Undergraduate research: Results from an experiential education program in tropical Australian biodiversity.
Shepherd, Ursula*,1, Leffler, A. Joshua*,1, 1 University Honors Prgram, Albuquerque, NM
ABSTRACT- In 1998 National Science Foundation, International Programs, provided funds for summer educational research courses in biodiversity of tropical Australia to the University of New Mexico Honors Program. This program differs from traditional NSF REU programs in that it recruits exclusively from UNM. Three courses have now taken place and 36 students (33% minority) have attended. Students learn field techniques for quantifying biodiversity, write reports and design and conduct short research projects. Students present their research at a meeting-like symposium. This study asks two questions: 1) Does this program produce scientifically literate citizens and, 2) Does this program prepare students for graduate research. Two assessment tools were utilized. Students were tracked and their achievements monitored as an objective measure of success. Additionally, students were surveyed two to three years following the program. To date one third of participants have been minority students, 100% of the 1998 and 67% of the 1999 class have graduated; all others remain on track for graduation. Three have won undergraduate Goldwater scholarships and one received a NASA pursue grant. Of the 20 graduates one received a NSF pre-doctoral fellowship and two have received honorable mentions. Students report the program had a major impact on career choice and future scholastic endeavors. Although it is difficult to quantify the impact of such a program on students the use of two independent assessment tools suggests our impact was substantial.
KEY WORDS: undergraduate research, experiential education, assessment, biodiversity