In recent years, there has been a rise in faculty scholarship that directly involves students. On the most recent faculty survey, 67% of faculty responded that they “worked with undergraduates on a research project.” Not only does this arrangement allow faculty to advance their research agendas, it provides Trinity students a distinctive advantage as they consider their post-graduate options. Much of this has occurred through a robust summer research program in the sciences, though a growing number of non-science majors have participated in the McNair Scholars program and the pilot phase of the Murchison Student Fellowships. In the coming years, we will continue to encourage faculty in the arts and humanities to involve their students in their scholarship and the active creation of new knowledge through activities enabled by a $600,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Our objective is to see a greater number of students from a greater number of academic programs participate in faculty research.
The Mellon Initiative at Trinity University funds students and faculty in the arts and humanities who are undertaking sustained research projects. Since 2013, the Mellon has supported fifty-seven students who collaborate with faculty on a wide variety of research projects. The grant is competitive and requires advanced planning with faculty. This kind of experiential learning has provided students the opportunity to engage directly in the highest level of cultural fieldwork, the digital humanities, the environmental humanities, archival research, the creation and historical work of graphic novels, and the impact of community work. Most universities offer these opportunities only to graduate students; Trinity University, in contrast, offers these funds and research experiences to undergraduate students in the arts and humanities.
The co-directors of the Mellon Initiative at Trinity, religion professor Ruben Dupertuis and German studies professor Heather Sullivan, note that before the funding provided by the Mellon Initiative, there were virtually no sustained research projects funded for arts or humanities students. Now, Trinity has an increasing number each summer. All of the students engaging in summer Mellon research projects present at the annual Trinity University summer symposium in July, and about one third of the Mellon students have published their work or given presentations at local and national conferences based on this collaborative research.
Additionally, the Mellon Initiative provides extensive structure for the research throughout the year, which has had as much of an impact as has the funding. This support for both students and faculty is key to the student experience, as Dupertuis explained, since “sustained research is a significant change from doing a research paper or project for class.” With the help from the Mellon Initiative, students are able to develop crucial skills that are useful not only in the context of academic research, but also in the pursuit of graduate degrees and various careers across the disciplines.
For more information on the research opportunities provided for students and faculty in the arts and humanities, visit the Mellon Initiative webpage.