Program Description of the National Science Foundation Summer Research Program
The University of North Texas Summer Research Program is a site for one of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). 2009 marks the 10th year of this opportunity where undergraduates work in close collaboration with faculty mentors and staff to both learn and apply social science research methods, particularly those from a scientifically anthropological point of view. The 10-week long NSF REU program gives students rigorous training in anthropological and social science methods, theories and ethics. Participants complete a closely mentored, independent research project.
The program is designed and administered in two phases. During the first phase, students take classes on cultural anthropological concepts and engage in community involvement exercises. During the second phase of the program, students design and conduct research that pertains to their personal and academic interests while working with a faculty mentor to produce a research report in a format applicable to their project. In addition, program participants review literature and prepare a proposal for submission to the university’s Institutional Review Board.
Methods, Theories, and Ethics
The first week of the program is spent teaching students basic anthropological concepts and theories. As this program emphasizes research experiences, the students begin to learn ethnographic research methodologies from the second week and continue their research training through the first phase of the program. Additionally, lectures on ethics are provided for the duration of this program.
Community involvement is one of the important aspects of NSF REU at the University of North Texas. Since anthropological data collection methodologies, as well as flexible understandings of cultural differences, require live experiences, students are exposed to different cultural settings. Through these experiences, they are also expected to critically analyze their worldview.
The program gives students and teachers the opportunity to conduct research that has the potential for new discoveries and observations beneficial to society. The students conduct independent research during the latter five weeks of the program. This process is closely monitored y the academic advisors, program directors, and coordinators; students’ use of mentors also improves intradepartmental communication and cooperation.
These individualized research experiences serve to educate and empower the students. Not only do the students learned how to conduct research, they are also empowering themselves by taking the initiative to actively participate in addressing social issues. Students present their projects to the university community in a poster session at the end of their summer program, assuring that scientific data will be shared and enhanced, while encouraging others to pursue social science.
Goals and Purpose of UNT NSF REU
A major goal of the program is to encourage more underrepresented students to pursue doctoral degrees in the social sciences. The opportunity for meaningful, in-depth participation in summer research activities can be advantageous to students’ intellectual development, motivation, and personal growth, and, thus, represents a worthwhile endeavor. Students are encouraged to continue their research development on their home campuses through programs such as the Robert E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program and collegiate Honors programs. Students are also encouraged to complete an undergraduate research thesis, as well as present and publish their research in academically professional venues including conferences and journals.