Cross-disciplinary collaboration to strengthen research experiences for undergraduates

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner
Monday, 3 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Rebecca Haacker-Santos, UCAR, Boulder, CO; and L. Goehring, R. L. Batchelor, and L. Allen

REU and internship site directors often operate in geographic and institutional isolation from each other, unable to share best practices or resources. Discipline based internships often can't support students with interdisciplinary research interests. When collaboration is possible, benefits for both the students and leaders of these programs can be observed. In 2013, the SOARS Program, hosted at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), supported the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in creating a new internship aimed at engaging undergraduate science and engineering students in NEON's work. Both programs share the objective of reaching underrepresented groups in STEM. A year-long collaboration allowed NEON to learn best practices in recruitment and support of students, mentor training, and program development, and customized its internship according to its different environment - a science/engineering observatory under construction vs. an established research organization such as NCAR. Techniques to build the collaboration included: involving the new internship manager in all aspects of program planning to share best practices and to gain fresh perspectives and ideas; providing templates of proven materials for the new internship manager to model from and adapt to their program; and conducting both shared and separate activities so that there were opportunities for partnership while maintaining separate program identities. The programs decided to share several elements: students were housed together, so the smaller program could tap into a large cohort of supportive peers; students participated in a shared leadership training to strengthen cross program mentoring, and students met weekly for a shared scientific communications workshop. Having several science disciplines represented enhanced the workshop as students learned about the writing styles and cultures of each others disciplines, helped them to appreciate alternate viewpoints and fostered interdisciplinary thinking. Finally, at the end of the summer, students presented their findings in a joint poster session. We found that collaboration between internship programs can lead to significant improvement in recruiting of students from diverse backgrounds, builds stronger cohorts, and improves program content and evaluation strategies. In this presentation we will share findings of our programs' evaluations, make recommendations for building collaborative partnerships for research experiences for undergraduates and explore future steps in this collaboration.