Research program struggles to find funds for applicants

The undergraduate program grants are awarded to students to support research.

Despite a $100,000 annual budget increase, Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program coordinator Vicky Munro said she is scrambling to find the money needed to fund a record number of applications approved for fall semester.

The largest numbers of applicants still waiting to hear about funding decisions are from the Institute of Technology and the University’s Duluth campus.

The program grants are awarded to students to support research performed in close consultation with University professors. The ideas for the research can start with either the student or the professor.

Munro said 325 applications were received for program grants this semester, surpassing the previous semester record by approximately 50. This has strained the program’s finances, and forced Munro to seek additional sources of revenue, she said.

At this time, it appears there will be funding for at least some of the students, Munro said. The program is currently working with an annual budget of $670,000.

This year’s pool of applications has already exceeded the total from last year, and Munro has yet to receive any summer applications. Forty applicants are usually funded during that round, Munro said.

Helping students focus on research

By paying students an hourly wage of $11.50, stipends of as much as $1,400 and providing up to $300 for expenses, the program grants reduce the hours students need to work in off-campus employment, while allowing them to conduct serious work in an academic setting.

Research projects funded by the program grants can be designed by the student or

the faculty sponsor, Munro said. But the program is designed to support student-initiated research.

Historian Bob McCaa has acted as a program adviser for 11 students, more than any other history professor, according to program records. He has published several articles citing the work students have done with support from the program grants.

In an article he co-authored with grant recipient Heather Mills, McCaa presented the results of census research funded by the program and conducted by

Mills, describing the effects of education on native language use by Chiapanecos in Mexico.

Another McCaa article, published in 1996, credited grant recipient Charlotte Kresner’s research.

If the State Legislature approves the current budget the University requested, program funding shortfalls should be less of a problem in the future.

Eventually, the program could be expanded to fund 1,000 grants each year, Munro said.

Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education, described the program as “one of the star opportunities we have to offer undergraduates.

“The goal here isn’t to win a Nobel Prize,” Swan said.

He described the program experience, including publication or presentation of findings at academic conferences, as an experience that will help students

interested in continuing on to graduate school or in pursuing research as a career.

Swan said the program will help students make more informed decisions about their careers and become more informed about the research process.

– Freelance Editor Steven Snyder welcomes comments at [email protected]