Embrace the spirit of research

Before I came to Norwich, one of my previous positions was as vice president of research at Drexel University in Philadelphia. There I oversaw faculty and student research at the doctoral, masters and undergraduate levels. Time and again I got to see not only the accomplishment of research well done, but more importantly, I observed students and professors engaging in the process that is research.

In the true spirit of Partridge’s experiential learning, research involves trying out new ideas, inevitably hitting road blocks, possibly discovering pathways not previously imagined, and eventually completing an arc of a project and coming out the other side transformed into an intellectually richer and more curious person – a scholar. Research is rarely a straight line, but it always begins with a question.
Most students get into research as part of graduate or doctorate work. I did not get into research until my doctoral studies when I explored financial systems and costs at America’s research universities. That experience filled out my academics so that when I was conferred with a PhD in public policy, I not only had the diploma, I also had the experience and knowledge that ours is an imperfect world full of mysteries waiting to be explored. Through research, each of us has something to contribute, and some of us can contribute in very significant ways, advancing what humans know about our complicated world.
This school year began with a Faculty Scholarship Celebration, with a poster session featuring the work of our Undergraduate Research Fellows. These are students who were paid to conduct independent research under the mentorship of a faculty member over the summer. These students did not arrive at Norwich fully formed as scholars; they began as any of you have: by attending classes, becoming exposed to new ideas and getting challenged to innovate by their professors and peers in class. At some point, these scholars encountered a question for which there was no ready answer.
At Norwich, undergraduate students from all majors have opportunities to engage in research. If you have a question, then you are ready for the NU Undergraduate Research Symposium, which is held on Dec. 10-11. This year’s theme is Students to Scholars, which reflects the focus of the two day event comprising workshops and student panels. The student panels will feature undergraduates like you who want to try out an idea, to meet interested colleagues, and to see what the next steps may be in pursuing a project of their own design.
If you have a pressing question you wish to explore, you can apply to share it at the symposium! Fill out an application form explaining your idea and submit it to the Undergraduate Research Committee by Friday, Nov. 6. You can find the form at http://academics.norwich.edu/academic-research/students/ or by emailing undergraduateresearch@norwich.edu.
Over the past several weeks you may have seen or talked to the Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, who host a table outside the dining hall. These scholars are available to talk with faculty and students about their summer research experience inside and outside of the classroom and to mentor prospective and incoming Summer Research Fellows.
In addition to the Undergraduate Research Program Director, Professor Amy Woodbury Tease, you can talk to any of these ambassadors: Jesse Abruzzi, Hannah Bell, Christopher Eddy, Abigail Haswell, Devon Lindner, Lucas Looman, Anali Luviano, Stacia Melick, Alex Menard, Lance Ostby, Ali Shahidy, Robbie Sikora, Rebecca Sweem, or Maria Trejo.
You came to Norwich to be challenged and to learn by doing. There is no greater academic opportunity than this, and I cannot urge you enough to start asking questions about how you may contribute to knowledge.

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