The ACU Office of Undergraduate Research supports the participation of undergraduate students in scholarly research and creative projects through grant funding, hosting the ACU Undergraduate Research Festival, and other collaborative initiatives.
What scholarship do we support?
The OUR strives to support the development of undergraduate students in all academic disciplines mentored and pursued by faculty at Abilene Christian University. In order to encourage rigorous academic development in undergraduate students, we define scholarship as encompassing all activities that achieve the following four criteria.
- Scholarship is Creative: we support students learning to produce new, unique contributions to their disciplines.
- Scholarship is Critical: we train students to apply critical thinking to the development of their creative product.
- Scholarship is Presented: the creative product must be presented in order to benefit the discipline and society.
- Scholarship is Evaluated: students must subject their creative product to formal evaluation by peers and/or experts in their discipline in order for students to develop self-awareness and discipline in their scholarly pursuits.
Why is extracurricular scholarship important?
ACU is a university where scholarly activity and innovation are valued and encouraged. Allowing our students to participate in undergraduate research and other forms of scholarship engages their intellectual curiosity, challenges them to think critically, satisfies their thirst for discovery, and gives them an outlet for their creativity.
The pursuit of original scholarship clarifies students’ career goals and leads to deeper appreciation for the discipline under investigation. Classroom knowledge is reinforced and more completely assimilated when students are given the opportunity to apply that knowledge, and the process of original research gives students greater awareness of the challenges and uncertainty associated with the acquisition of knowledge.
Research is also a significant confidence booster. The more students are mentally stretched (wrestling with surprising results or unanswered questions or pertinence to previous studies), the greater their sense of accomplishment upon completion of the project. Research must also be presented, and many students learn to overcome the anxiety of public speaking in a research conference or forum. This is especially true when a caring faculty member guides and encourages the students.
Establishing a relationship with a faculty mentor is another big advantage of undergraduate participation in research. It has been shown to increase retention and graduation rates. Students benefit from the wisdom, knowledge and experience of a mentor, while faculty members benefit from the questions students ask, the discoveries they make and the energy they bring to the project.
Of course, scholarly activity also helps make undergraduates’ résumés more attractive to graduate schools and prospective employers, and gives faculty mentors the ability to write more detailed letters of recommendation. When researchers participate in professional conferences, they even have opportunities to interact directly with professionals that could serve as future mentors and collaborators.