Yesterday at our departmental staff meeting we had two terrific faculty members, Rebecca Alexander of Chemistry and Shannon Mihalko (’92) of Health and Exercise Science, come to talk to us about the work that they do with URECA.
URECA is an acronym for the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Center. The URECA Center was established to promote undergraduate research and creative activity across Wake Forest College. The Center facilitates collaboration between undergraduates and faculty, provides venues for publicizing research results, and maintains a record of undergraduate scholarly activity.
While not every student will go on to do specialized research projects (either on their own or with a faculty member in mentored scholarship,) Drs. Alexander and Mihalko talked about some of the “high impact practices” that every Wake Forest student can access during their time on campus. These high impact practices are things that will give students a true edge. Some of these practices include:
First Year Seminars – where students get to dig deep into a subject in a small group setting and come to form their own critical thinking, while learning to share them most effectively in writing and in class presentations. Every first year student is required to take a FYS class.
Service Learning – these are classes where students participate in organized activities outside the classroom that help add a new dimension to the learning that takes place.
Study Abroad – a completely different kind of learning takes place in an abroad setting. In addition the academic coursework, there is tremendous cultural awareness, understanding of difference, and developing independence in navigating foreign situations.
Writing intensive courses – students at Wake Forest learn to write well, and they do so from their first year on campus when most take the English 111 writing seminar. Good writing is a building block not just for their four years in college, but for nearly all future endeavors after Wake Forest.
Undergraduate research with faculty – some students choose to enter into a kind of mentoring relationship with a faculty member with whom they connect or who works in an area of their academic interest. There are lots of different ways to do this – from helping in a science lab, to working with researching on the liberal arts side (say with a history professor who is going through archival material). There are some student interviews here about past projects. One of the best outcomes of this kind of collaboration is that it helps faculty bring along promising students who might have an interest in their discipline – it can teach them what research and University work is life, and for some it may light a fire of passion, and for others it may be fun to do in college but not what they want to do forever – but at least they know and get that experience.
So, what is my point in telling you all this? If your student does not know all of these opportunities exist for them to engage in these high impact practices, encourage them to do so if it interests him or her. Some of the most memorable and profound learning moments in a student’s four years can come from these intimate academic experiences – and we want our students to take advantage!