Undergraduates Doing Awesome Things

I am a professor at a small Catholic university on the edge of Chicago. We have an extremely diverse population of students, a teaching-centered institution, a social justice mission, and I go to work feeling extremely lucky in many ways.

But especially today. Today we are holding our Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Investigations (URSCI) expo. I am the Director of URSCI and love the way our students’ best work takes center stage through this annual event. Here’s a video on the kinds of work students do and a taste of how I’ll be spending my day.

This is American higher ed at its best. Our country is full of small schools with, at best, regional reputations, creating space for students to achieve on wildly new levels. These accomplishments come out of close mentoring relationships, the willingness to say yes to student ideas, and modest internal funding. We graduate a very high rate of students who come from backgrounds that, at other schools, get left behind. Of course, we are tuition driven, so things always feel precarious.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of debates about big public universities vs community colleges vs elite privates vs the University of Everywhere (MOOC Heaven). My kind of institution – small, private, not elite, tuition driven, not as cheap as a low-end public but still pretty affordable, relationship-centered – doesn’t really have a place in these big national debates. Maybe it should, because I think the types of students we serve best get left behind by the big technophilic educational disruptors.

But enough grim thoughts for today. I’m off to be inspired. See you tomorrow.

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