Applied Undergraduate Research

HCC students at working on excavations at Bibracte, France (above) and Cirencester (below).

Anthropology is an applied social science. This is one of the first things mentioned by introductory texts to the discipline, and one of the first statements students hear from their anthropology instructors. I explain this to my students by saying that Anthropology is a "get out there and do it" discipline: the sub fields require fieldwork (ethnography, linguistics), excavation (archaeology), and hands-on understanding of human and ancestral remains (physical anthropology and forensic  anthropology). Thus, the study of anthropology by undergraduates, at least in part, should be 'hands-on'.

 

This poses a problem however; the costs, ethics and available opportunities associated with applied anthropology often restrict such opportunities to students - especially community college students who are not always exposed to faculty actively involved in research. It also highlights a valuable opportunity. With increasing concern over community college completion (Goldrick-Rab, 2010:437-438), applied undergraduate research has demonstrable success in undergraduate retention and academic success, and it also supports the stated desires of future employers (Stratford, 2013).

 

This website outlines a number of applied opportunities offered to students of Anthropology at Howard Community College, including internships, fieldwork experiences and training developed as part of a classroom-based 'Inquiry-Based Learning' assessment. The majority of these opportunities are easily replicable; formed using partnerships and collaborations with organizations and companies within the region and without significant financial investment needed for them to run. The site showcases the value and impact these opportunities in applied undergraduate research have had upon students studying anthropology at Howard Community College, providing a venue for the dissemination of undergraduate research. The evaluation of the learning outcomes and overall impact of these applied research opportunities is ongoing, but initial data is also provided on this site. However the successes of this strategy, of increasing applied research opportunities among specific undergraduate programs, is well documented (e.g. Carter, Mandell & Maton, 2009; Stephens & Thumma, 2005: 526-527).

 

 

This is a topic close to my heart as exposure to applied research was key to my own success as a first-generation undergraduate in the UK. Additionally, my first post-doctoral position was to work with Reading University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning – Applied Undergraduate Research Skills grant (CETL-AURS).This is why I chose building opportunities in applied research as the focus for my promotion project after joining Howard Community College as a full time faculty member in 2010.  This website has been produced as part of this promotion project.

 

 

Bibliography:

 

Carter, F., Mandell, M. & Maton, K. 2009 The Influence of On-Campus, Academic Year Undergraduate Research on STEM Ph.D. Outcomes: Evidence from the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program.  Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis , Vol. 31, No. 4: 441-462

Goldrick-Rab, S. 2010 Challenges and Opportunities for Improving Community College Student Success. Review of Educational Research , Vol. 80, No. 3: 437-469.

Stephens, R. & Thumma, J. 2005 Faculty-Undergraduate Collaboration in Digital History at a Public Research University.The History Teacher , Vol. 38, No. 4:525-542.

Stratford, M. 2013 Broad Education vs. Industry-Specific Skills. Inside Higher Education.

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