Building Research Capabilities of Academically Talented Undergraduate Students from Hispanic-Serving Institutions through Virtual Research Experiences
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a disruption in society across all sectors with widespread loss of internships, jobs, and undergraduate research experiences that negatively impact the talent pipeline in computing fields and the future of U.S. innovation. Such disruptions are likely to occur in the near future, and the U.S. must be well-prepared in offering effective virtual internships and undergraduate research experiences to expand learning and professional development opportunities, especially for minoritized undergraduate students. Thus, this project will address this exigency by refining a proven model for developing professional, research, team, and communication skills so that it will be effective in a virtual environment.
With support from the RAPID program, this project aims to provide academically talented students with research experiences that are critical for graduate studies. The project will ensure that students from diverse backgrounds and with diverse experiences will be engaged in impactful research projects. Equally important is that underserved students will receive funding that will, in part, support continuation of their education. The proposed project will provide faculty professional development in the Affinity Research Group (ARG) model, a Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI) signature and proven practice for immersing students in research. Faculty will also learn how to incorporate ARG elements into classroom pedagogical practice to improve teaching and learning. The effort will lead to a national community of faculty who are skilled at undergraduate research mentoring informed by the ARG model and who grow through their involvement with a cohort of researchers and participation in ARG interactive webinars. The proposed effort has the following objectives:
- Establish a process to select a faculty cohort of research mentors who have well-defined research project(s), including definition of intellectual merit.
- Provide a mandatory virtual ARG workshop orientation for the faculty cohort.
- Establish a process to select students based on financial need, academic record, and references.
- Build a national community of faculty and undergraduate researchers.
- Prepare students for virtual poster presentations by all participants.
The evaluation will examine whether student perceptions of computer science and their career goals change after participation in a virtual REU. The evaluation will identify the practices that worked and those that were less successful for the virtual REUs. In addition, the evaluation will document the benefit to faculty, if any, of joining a cohort community in support of research with undergraduate student from underrepresented groups. The evaluation questions addressed will be the following: What are the best practices in computing education for virtual REUs? and How do faculty benefit from joining a cohort community in support of undergraduate student research?
A broader impact is the development of a model for virtual undergraduate research experiences that can benefit students who do not have the ability to travel to remote REUs because of family obligations. Broadening participation of minoritized students in research can increase the motivation and interest of those students who pursue graduate studies in computing, and studies have shown that inclusion of diverse perspectives in problem solving can lead to novel and transformative solutions.