Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augie needs a research renaissance: Navigating student opportunities at Augustana

In higher education, the relationship between teaching and research plays a pivotal role in shaping well-rounded individuals. Augustana College, as a liberal arts institution, aims to provide students with the means to be well-rounded individuals with knowledge spanning across science, the humanities, business and the arts. 

While the college has long been committed to fostering a community of well-rounded individuals, Augustana lacks in its promotion of student research jobs and opportunities and availability across majors, hindering student progress and potential.

Augustana offers a variety of learning opportunities for its students, with its diversity in majors and student-faculty ratio encouraging exploration and collaboration across fields. However, outside of a few pages on the Augustana College website, a visit to the Careers, Opportunities, Research, Exploration (CORE) office or the occasional posting in the student bulletin, there is no promotion of the opportunities available to students in terms of research opportunities or research jobs and positions. 

Communicating information about these resources is critical in successfully providing a rich student experience, as students will not know how to utilize or use them at all otherwise.

However, one could argue that the requirement for students to take the required First-Year and Senior Inquiry courses and present a final paper fills in the gaps left by a lack of research opportunity promotion. In class, students are taught the basics of research skills, given the opportunity to choose a topic relevant to their major to research, and able to present their findings, often in the context of Symposium Day or the Celebration of Learning. 

Yes, these courses do provide research opportunities. However, it is limited as they fall within the specific parameters of assignment guidelines. 

Also, the FYI-101 and 102 courses will soon be combined. This is beneficial in some aspects, such as freeing up the schedule of First-Year students to allow for them to take alternate courses, but it lessens the amount of time students will spend learning how to research and apply research-related skills. 

Senior Inquiry courses also fail to provide students adequate time to develop key research skills, such as data analysis, as they are limited to one or two preparatory courses and the singular senior inquiry course. The preparatory courses provide an overview of the major, such as an “Introduction” course, and balance research skills with a more major-tailored curriculum. 

Of course, there is also the issue of varying research types by discipline; the culmination of student efforts, reflected at the end of a senior inquiry course, can be seen in a variety of forms. A musical piece or a paper are just two examples of the differing research requirements for student end-of-term projects. As a result, equal research opportunities are not available to all disciplines. 

Yes, Augustana does provide interdisciplinary research opportunities, such as the Upper Mississippi Center (UMC), which provides students with the opportunity to “integrate[…] knowledge and perspectives from the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences to create new knowledge and perspectives (solutions),” according to Augustana’s website.

However, again this raises the issue of promotion and advertisement across campus. Students unaware of a particular program or the means to begin their research are unlikely to do so, hindering their overall campus experience in terms of academic and experiential growth. 

Augustana College has made strides in providing opportunities for student research, but challenges persist. Students are unaware of the diverse opportunities available to them or face barriers in accessing research opportunities due to their major’s requirements or perceived limitations.

Augustana must bridge these gaps and ensure that every student, regardless of their major, feels empowered to engage in research and is aware of the means to do so.

Augustana’s commitment to student research is evident, but the journey toward fostering an inclusive research culture is ongoing. By actively promoting research opportunities and ensuring accessibility for all majors, Augustana can further help students become well-rounded individuals as they prepare to navigate the world beyond the classroom.

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