Two female students in the workshop, discussing and working.

Undergraduate Research Task Force

The Undergraduate Research Task Force comprised of faculty, staff, and students aims to make world-class research a defining characteristic of the undergraduate experience at the University of Arizona.

Current Practices Inventory Intake Form

Aspirational Statement

Every undergraduate student, by virtue of attending the University of Arizona, should be exposed to high-impact research experiences, understood to include creative activities, that are integral to the structure of every undergraduate program, including the general education core. These experiences should be so deeply embedded into our curricula that they could not be missed by any University of Arizona student. Students graduating from these programs would naturally learn to think like researchers and approach their post-graduate experiences with an inquisitiveness and creativity that will make them highly valued and sought after by both employers and graduate programs.

Task Force Overview

The work of the task force is guided by an improvement science framework. The only requirement necessary to initiate this work is an agreement among the participants that the status quo is not good enough; it is possible to improve the undergraduate research experience at the University of Arizona. With this agreement, the challenge becomes one of designing a process for guiding the work of the task force, from a holistic evaluation of the current state that includes all constituencies, to the creation of a purposeful plan of action that will be executed to demonstrably improve undergraduate research experiences.

Call to Action

The task force is jointly led by the Office of the Provost and the Office for Research, Innovation, and Impact. It will create a plan whereby high-impact undergraduate research experiences occur as a matter of intentional curricular and programmatic design within every major, not through happenstance. Growing these educational opportunities is crucial to our strategic commitment to drive student success in a rapidly changing world. This expansion necessitates a collaborative, overarching structure that includes faculty and sits at the intersection of academic affairs and research, where these respective areas are co-equal partners supporting undergraduate education and research missions.

Dimensions of Undergraduate Research

Given the enormity of the academic and research enterprises, as well as the large number of existing efforts related to undergraduate research at the University of Arizona, the work of the task force is partitioned into six different dimensions that can be separately studied and evaluated, prior to bringing these pieces together to create a cohesive plan of action. These dimensions, described in more detail below, are broad standards for excellence in the critical components of undergraduate research. They are an aspirational model that provide general guidelines for an intentional design of an institutional undergraduate research framework. This process is intended to engage the entire campus in honest, candid, and meaningful discussions about undergraduate research within the guideposts of each dimension.

Dimension Subcommittees

The six dimensions for undergraduate research that will be explored to guide the work of the task force are described below. Undergraduate research is broadly interpreted to include the research endeavors of all faculty in all colleges at the University of Arizona.

Aspiration: The University of Arizona should create equitable access to undergraduate research experiences and ensure all students, staff, and faculty participating in undergraduate research experiences do so in an inclusive environment, where diverse ideas, worldviews, and approaches can enrich research endeavors that positively impact society.

Evaluation Criteria:

  • The institution intentionally structures undergraduate research experiences in which students interact in open and civil communities with people from backgrounds and cultures different from their own.
  • Students are exposed to ideas and values different from those they currently hold and are encouraged to think creatively beyond the bounds of their current precepts.
  • Students are encouraged to reflect upon the meaning and importance of their undergraduate research experiences as a component within the entirety of their diverse educational experiences, i.e. they can articulate why it matters.

Aspiration: The University of Arizona should deliver intentional curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular undergraduate research experiences that engage students to develop knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors consistent with the desired outcomes of higher education and the university’s philosophy and mission.

Evaluation Criteria:

  • Whether in or out of the classroom, undergraduate research experiences promote increased competence in critical thinking, creative expression, professional skill development, and the lifelong pursuit of knowledge.
  • Undergraduate research experiences further the research mission of the institution, through meaningful contributions to the research enterprise.
  • Undergraduate research experiences are subject to assessment and adjustment as a part of continuous quality improvement.

Aspiration: The University of Arizona should make undergraduate research a high priority for the faculty.

Evaluation Criteria:

  • Develop a culture of faculty responsibility for undergraduate research that is realized through high-quality research experiences across the entire institution that are integrally tied to faculty expertise.
  • Substantial interaction between faculty and undergraduate students pertaining to undergraduate research both inside and outside the classroom.
  • A culture of responsibility nurtured by the provost, deans, department chairs, the research office, and supported by the institution’s reward systems.

Aspiration: The University of Arizona should create organizational structures and policies that provide a comprehensive, integrated, and coordinated approach to undergraduate research.

Evaluation Criteria:

  • Effective alignment of all undergraduate research efforts (no silos).
  • Effective partnerships among academic affairs, RII, and other administrative units. Faculty and staff work effectively as partners across the university enterprise to provide undergraduate research experiences.
  • Ongoing faculty and staff development activities and appropriate budgetary arrangements are supported.

Aspiration: The University of Arizona approaches undergraduate research in ways that are intentional and based on an overarching philosophy/rationale for undergraduate research that informs relevant institutional policies and practices.

Evaluation Criteria:

  • An explicit, clear, and easily understood undergraduate research philosophy, consistent with the institutional mission, that is widely disseminated, and reflects a consensus of campus constituencies.
  • The undergraduate research philosophy forms the basis for undergraduate research organizational policies, practices, structures, leadership, department/unit philosophies, and resource allocation.
  • Students are exposed to the cohort philosophy of undergraduate research as early as UNIV 101 and are encouraged to participate during their undergraduate careers according to the spirit of this philosophy.

Aspiration: The University of Arizona should provide undergraduate research opportunities to all undergraduate students according to their varied needs.

Evaluation Criteria:

  • The process of anticipating, diagnosing, and addressing student needs pertaining to undergraduate research is ongoing and subject to assessment and adjustment.
  • Appropriate experiences are provided to all students (regardless of major) with respect for the students’ abilities, backgrounds, interests, and prior experiences, and students broadly participate in them without increasing their time to degree.
  • A campus environment that is inclusive and safe for all students with regards to undergraduate research experiences.

Resources for task force and campus community. Access to some pages and folders are restricted.

Current Practices Inventory Intake Form - This form is active. We ask that faculty and staff providing undergraduate research experiences complete it. This will help us collect data on our current practices and guide our effort by serving as a constant resource to the main task force and its subcommittees. 

Preliminary results from the original Spring 2022 distribution of the Current Practices Inventory (CPI) are available in the Undergraduate Research Task Force Box Folder.

Kian G. Alavy, M.A.

Manager, Undergraduate Education

2022-2023 Timeline & Phases

Phase 1: Discovery

Tue, Aug 30: Kickoff Meeting

Sep/Oct: Discovery Work by Dimension Subcommittees

Phase 2: Development

Mon, Oct 31: Pair/Share Event

Nov/Dec: Aspirational Goals

Thu, Dec 15: Subcommittee Reports Due to Steering Committee

Phase 3: Implementation

Mon, Apr 3: Implementation Action Planning Event

Wed, May 3: Panel at Quarterly Leadership Meeting

Thu, Jun 29: Undergraduate Research Task Force Report

Thu, Oct 26: Strategic Plan in Action Event