Institutionalizing Undergraduate Research on a Grand Scale: Helping Move Systems and Consortia towards Embracing Undergraduate Research

Project No.
PI Name
Mitchell Malachowski
University of San Diego


Abstract 1

Institutionalizing Undergraduate Research on a Grand Scale: Helping Move Systems and Consortia towards Embracing Undergraduate Research

Presentation Type
Mitchell Malachowski, University of San Diego Jeffrey Osborn, College of New Jersey Kerry Karukstis, Harvey Mudd College Elizabeth Ambos, Council on Undergraduate Research


As substantive evidence exists that undergraduate research is a primary high-impact practice that demonstrably increases student success across the disciplines, and especially for students from groups underrepresented in higher education, undergraduate research has become essential to most institutionsメ work. This project is intended to scale up the efforts that campuses have taken to institutionalize undergraduate research by focusing on state systems and consortia to assist with this transformation. In this way, we can leverage the power and resources of the central office to assist individual campuses in generating and meeting their goals and strategies to embed undergraduate research in all STEM departments. The project benefits the students who engage in faculty mentored projects, and since one of the goals is to design a research rich curriculum, all the students in the various STEM departments who take these courses.


The main goal of this work is to help institutionalize undergraduate research in all STEM departments within the 80 institutions with whom we are working. This project involves offering workshops to all the institutions where they come together to create their action plans. Campus visits to assist the teams as they work through their plans are also part of the experience.


The project revolves around having teams from each of the institutions in the system/consortium attend a weekend long workshop where they come together and generate a series of goals and associated strategies that will help them institutionalize undergraduate research across all their STEM departments. Teams also come back together one year after the original workshop to share successes and challenges with all the other teams in their system. We support them by offering


Our assessment data shows that institutions have been able to broaden their undergraduate research offerings in almost all of their STEM disciplines. They have been able to identify the factors in place that have supported their efforts along with those that serve as impediments to the change process. Additionally, many campuses have moved to a more research-rich curriculum as a ways to expose more students to research type questions. We intend to further these efforts by working with individual departments to generate a richer set of best practices that support these activities.

Broader Impacts

Lessons learned from work with these six systems/consortia provide insights into both the successes and challenges associated with scaling-up and scaffolding undergraduate research within the system/consortium construct, and clearly demonstrate that �theory of change� (ToC) models for systems/consortia exhibit distinct differences to ToC models for individual institutions. System/consortial change processes rely primarily on the system playing the role of convenor, communicator, and clearinghouse for constituent member institutions� activities. Specific to undergraduate research, system/consortia can help connect faculty interests and institutional infrastructure, measure impacts of undergraduate research on student success, garner and deploy internal and external resources, and advocate to academic and non-academic internal and external audiences.

Unexpected Challenges

Our major challenges revolved around the need for large entities such as state system of higher education central offices to gather accurate information as to what was going on at their member campuses. Related to this challenge was the need to then support campuses with very different interests and goals. The third challenge was in maintaining momentum in the project when there are large amounts of turnover in the personnel (system people, deans, provosts, department chairs).


Enhancing and Expanding Undergraduate Research: A Systems Approach, Mitchell Malachowski, Jeffrey M. Osborn, Kerry K. Karukstis, Elizabeth L. Ambos, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2015.

Project Document