By Lindsay Davis and Raymond Pun
Undergraduate research is recognized as a high-impact practice (HIP). In this interview with FYE Correspondent Raymond Pun, Lindsay Davis, Instruction and Outreach Librarian at UC Merced Library, shares her perspective on the experience of setting up the undergraduate research awards at her institution.
Ray: Thanks for speaking with us! I am excited to hear about this project. Can you briefly share how and why your library decided to create the Carter Joseph Abrescy and Larry Kranich Library Award for Student Research Excellence?
Lindsay: The idea for the Carter Joseph Abrescy and Larry Kranich Library Award for Student Research Excellence originated from our University Librarian Haipeng Li. He previously led Hong Kong Baptist University's Library, where he helped establish a similar award. Working with our campus' External Relations office, the Library was able to receive an endowment from a generous donor to create a scholarship to recognize undergraduate students' understanding of—and growth in—the research process.
To plan and initiate the award, we formed a working group of five librarians and library staff members to conduct research, define the criteria, create the application materials and rubric, and work with the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, which housed the application on its undergraduate scholarship website. This process took a little over a year.
Ray: We also organized prizes for best undergraduate research and writing papers with our Writing Across Curriculum (WAC) program and the reception was overwhelming positive. What was the reception like at your institution?
Lindsay: We are pleased to have honored our first Abrescy-Kranich Library Award recipients at our reception on April 20. The selection committee awarded two scholarships: $500 to Melissa Becerra, a third year psychology student, and $500 to Nathan Parmeter, a fourth-year political science student. We celebrated Melissa and Nathan with an intimate reception in front of our beautiful Yosemite Murals Display on the third floor of the library. Our donor and her family attended the event. As both student winners are in fields under the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts (SSHA), the Dean of SSHA, Dr. Jill Robbins, gave welcoming remarks, as did our University Librarian.
The papers the students had submitted as part of the award application came from courses they had taken in Fall 2017, and both of the instructors, Professors Nahrin Downey and De Ette Silbaugh, also came to honor their students. It was great to see the donor, administrators, instructors, librarians, staff from the library and the Bright Success Center, friends, and family sharing in conversation and munching on light refreshments after recognizing our recipients. Talking with the students about their future plans was also rewarding; they have high aspirations and are achieving their goals!
Ray: That’s a really nice way to highlight and celebrate undergraduate research! In our experiences, we had an Undergraduate Writing Conference and used that opportunity to announce our winners. We also had prizes for best undergraduate poster presentations too. Both winning submissions were also deposited into our digital repository. We strongly feel that this was a great collaborative opportunity for the library to engage with and support undergraduate research. Why do you think it's important for academic libraries to support undergraduate research?
Lindsay: Thinking through research problems, finding information, and using it to propose solutions is a process that takes an incredible amount of work. We are not always highlighting what it takes to get to the final product—whether an argumentative essay, grant proposal, or business solution—and celebrating student growth in critical thinking skills helps establish good research practices and attitudes. While UC Merced is a research university, it's important for academic libraries at all types of institutions to recognize undergraduate research because academic librarians and library staff are helping set the foundation for future researchers, whether in the Academe, industry, or as everyday residents.
Lindsay Davis is the Instruction and Outreach librarian at the University of California Merced, located in the Central Valley. She holds an MLIS from San José State University and a BA in history from California State University Stanislaus. Her professional interests include teaching research skills, developing critical information literacy competency, and collaborating with academic support services and programs though outreach. Catch her at Library Instruction West or ALA Annual this summer or anytime at lindsayanndavis.wordpress.com.