January 27, 2017

SPA Colloquia: Involving Students in your Projects

Some of the best research projects are the result of student and faculty collaborations. Immersive and entrepreneurial learning projects are designed to equip students with the tools necessary to work with businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies to address community challenges, but they also help faculty members conduct research.

Several faculty members discussed the advantages of involving students in research projects at the Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) Colloquia session Wednesday. 

Suzanne Plesha, Director of Faculty Support and Assessment for Entrepreneurial Learning, works with partners on campus to create excitement surrounding high-impact practices and activities, including immersive learning, undergraduate research and service learning. 

"We support immersive learning activity on campus and offer faculty support programs," Plesha said. "We also have the Entrepreneurial Learning Academy in the summer where faculty are selected to participate in a syllabus revision." 

Left to Right:Suzanne Plesha, Director of Faculty Support and Assessment for Entrepreneurial Learning, Kelli Huth, Director of Immersive Learning for Entrepreneurial Learning, Sue McDowell, Professor of Biology, and Adam Kuban, Assistant Professor of Journalism, discuss the advantages of involving students in research projects at the SPA Colloquia session Wednesday. 

Kelli Huth, Director of Immersive Learning for Entrepreneurial Learning, often works with faculty members who have ideas about how they want to integrate immersive learning into their courses, but may not necessarily have community contacts or they need help developing project ideas.

"We do one-on-one support with faculty members who have questions or ideas and then throughout the semester we help to support those projects that are in place," she said. "We also help to navigate things like travel, purchasing, and other logistics that come with budget management, although not every immersive learning project is tied to a budget. 

According to Huth, a majority of Ball State students don't actively participate in activities off-campus. 

"Not enough students are getting off campus to explore our community," she said. "We are taking a creative approach to learning with the help of our community partners."

Left to Right:Suzanne Plesha, Director of Faculty Support and Assessment for Entrepreneurial Learning, and Kelli Huth, Director of Immersive Learning for Entrepreneurial Learning, discuss how Ball State helps faculty members plan for immersive and entrepreneurial learning projects. 

Adam Kuban, assistant professor of journalism at Ball State, has completed eight immersive learning projects with his students since being hired in 2011. 

"One thing that I have noticed when I talk to other faculty members about integrating projects into their research and scholarly identity is that there is a lot of discussion and a lot of contemplation of the teaching aspect of it," Kuban said. "Where does all of this time, effort, and energy go in the end?" 

Sue McDowell, professor of biology, said she believes her research lab has helped students find jobs more easily after graduation.

"There is a difference between the students I have in the classroom versus the ones who are in the lab," she said. "The ones in the lab contribute tremendously to the new areas we are working on with infectious disease, but working together towards one goal has been one of the fundamental strengths that has enabled us to become successful in my lab." 

McDowell said she would not have made it through promotion and tenure at Ball State if she didn't have her research lab students.
"They have benefited my career greatly and I try to make sure the work we are doing is benefiting them as well," she said. "About 18 of them have been co-authors on peer-reviewed publications from the lab." 

The next SPA Colloquia session, Managing Large Research Projects, will be held on February 10 at 3 p.m. in Bracken Library Room 104. Please join Scott Trappe, Director of Ball State’s Human Performance Laboratory, as he discusses effective ways to approach the management of larger research projects.

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