Action Research in Communities Program will launch as a new service initiative
The Cougar Initiative to Engage and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards are partnering to launch the Action Research in Communities Program this fall, which will allow students to conduct research on Houston-based service projects.
This year-long research program requires students to spend at least six to seven hours per week researching the phenomena, successes and challenges in Greater Houston and preparing to apply that new knowledge to the communities they serve.
“The goal of action research is continuous improvement through observation, research, evaluation and planning,” said associate director of OURMA Brittni MacLeod. “It’s a cycle that moves things forward.”
To be eligible for the program, students must be sophomores, juniors,or seniors with GPA of at least 3.0. They must have previous or current service projects in mind that they want to conduct research on.
“I am looking for a passion for making things,” MacLeod said. “Systems, experiences, programs – better for people. I’m looking for students who show resilience, because research projects are challenging, sometimes slow, and can have detours.
“I am looking for students who are willing to learn and enjoy the learning process.”
Through brainstorming sessions with the OURMA director Ben Rayder and Bonner assistant director Trinity Rinear, MacLeod worked to give students a way to learn more about their work and the communities they serve.
Since this opportunity is open to students of all areas of study, the type of research data collected will vary. Research methods may include analyzing pre-existing data for patterns or interviewing local residents to determine how effective certain Houston-based interventions are.
All program participants will receive $1,500 over two semesters and are expected to produce a research paper, poster presentation at Undergraduate Research Day and an implementation plan to put their data into action to serve the community.
Students can request up to $750 of additional funding to implement their plans. Faculty mentors can expect to receive $500 for their time and efforts.
The application process involves identifying a faculty mentor, submitting an interest form, meeting one-on-one with OURMA staff to discuss the service project and research goals and writing a reflective essay about past service experiences.
Following these steps, each applicant is expected to develop a research proposal and submit it, as well as to request a letter of recommendation from his or her faculty mentor.
MacLeod is eager to launch the ARC program because of its unique integration of research and service. Although most institutions view these two co-curricular experiences as separate, studies show that bringing them together greatly benefits students, she said.
“Students who participate in ARC will be able to say that they dedicated themselves to serving the Houston community, not only through volunteerism but through extensive, faculty-mentored research that led to an actionable plan to move things forward,” MacLeod said.