Undergraduate Research Gets a Bold New Look
Undergraduate research has been a big part of the academic culture at UM-Dearborn for years. The only problem is, it’s often been a dispersed effort that hides behind closed lab doors.
So this past summer, the university launched a program designed to elevate the profile of student research. The new Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) not only boosted funding for student-faculty collaborations across all four colleges. It also gave the 27 students in the inaugural cohort a more guided experience — complete with lots of opportunities to meet up and share their work.
“When you're working in isolation, you might think your professor is just giving you an opportunity,” said SURE co-organizer Assistant Professor DeLean Tolbert. “But students might not realize that research keeps institutions going and can influence society.”
Tolbert’s own SURE research assistant, Frederick Pruitt, is a case in point. The sophomore spent the summer helping Tolbert identify pathways that lead underrepresented minority students to STEM opportunities in higher ed. In doing so, he logged plenty of learn-by-doing experiences in foundational social science research practices — work that’s shaking up his own higher-ed dreams.
“I don’t think I would even be thinking about graduate school if I wasn’t doing this work with Dr. Tolbert,” Pruitt said. "I’ve always been a person who wants to find out things for myself. And that’s what research is really all about.”