Students at Western New Mexico University have access to enriching academic opportunities, some of them paid and in faraway places. One valuable resource they have is the opportunity to find the perfect research program. Research has a crucial role in education since it provides students with life-building experience for their futures. Joe Doyle is the current Undergraduate Research and Grant Coordinator for WNMU. Doyle was awarded a grant to research Fungi, and decided to create a program for students to find research experiences.
Q: What is your favorite part of helping students find research programs?
A: Their success. When a student finds success, mainly a student who maybe is not very confident in themselves or does not necessarily believe yet, when they come back from these experiences, you sometimes see a student was a changed person. I do not know if it is totally this, maybe it is a combination, I think they walk taller, and they present themselves socially stronger. I know it is more than just the intellect, it is self-esteem, and confidence, and when I see a student bloom successfully, they start taking pride in themselves and start acknowledging I can do this, I am successful, I am good enough. That lifts me, so student success, I take a great deal of pride in them.
Q: Why is research important for students?
A: The research looks great on your application. It looks great, and it helps you develop yourself and find your niche. What I find to be one of the most important things about these research experiences is networking; you are going to go out and meet a Ph.D. or professional who can change your life. If you go and work super well with this Ph.D., their network can become the student’s network; all the sudden doors can open for the student, whether it is a job or grad school or a Ph.D. program. Other benefits for doing this research are, if you need to work in the summer, these jobs will pay you $4000-$6000 over the summer for ten weeks; it is hard to make that at regular workplaces. If you go, you are not only getting paid better; you are staying on your academic path. You possibly find your niche, and you get networking opportunities that open doors for you. 90% of the students come back and go “Oh my God that was amazing right not only was it amazing, but I have an opportunity, and I know what I want to do,” another 10% maybe comes back and goes “I had no idea no way I can do this.” Isn’t it wonderful that you got paid as an undergraduate to find out that essential information instead of going to grad school and being $100,000 in debt before you figured it out? It really either allows the student to focus and hone their path or to shift their path appropriately, so they’re correct, so their professional development is on the right track.
Q: Who should apply?
A: Everybody should apply. It’s just that it looks different, natural Sciences research project is going to look different than an expressive arts research project. One is going to be researching some kind and coming up with outcomes, and the other one might be a project or a piece of art or installation. They’re different things, and so we have to recognize that, and that’s part of the reason why SRPD is doing their summer scholars project and their research assistant project. We realized that for the STEM students, opportunities are out there like crazy. But what about the humanities student, the business student, the history, the behavioral sciences, the expressive arts, those of the students why we have opened up this summer research opportunity for them in case they can’t find it elsewhere. Any student who’s looking to go to grad school, any student who’s looking to get hired out of with their own bachelor’s degree, these are the students who should be doing this.
Q: What are the options for Research available for students at WNMU?
A: I attempt to connect students with research experience during the school year and throughout the summer. We work with different groups such as New Mexico INBRE, EPSCoR, and New Mexico Alliance for Minority Participation, that allow students on-campus opportunities, we can pay students stipends to work with mentors. Those three, as well as thousands of other universities, have projects that are available to students over the summer. BUILD Scholars program at UTEP and New Mexico INBRE program at NMSU are two programs that pipeline partners with WNMU. Anybody who can put together a proper application will get accepted into these programs. These programs are also really great because they do not require you to have any experience at all.
Q: What is SRPD? How is it different? How does it work?
A: Student Researching Professional Development funds are a pool of money that’s collected through student fees. Every time any student applies for a course, a small portion of the money comes down and goes into this fund. This fund allows students on the 15th of every month a student can submit a proposal, with two mentor proposals supporting it, after the 15th I gather with a group of ASWNMU senators and some support faculty. The student members have had the opportunity to review the proposals before they come to the meeting, so we’re all prepared to talk about it. In the end, the students are the ones who make the decisions, so it’s a tremendous student-driven initiative because students pay the money, students use the money, and students distribute the money. Students can propose to research for 6 to 10 weeks, they have a mentor, but the students guide to the project, and that’s what’s different than all of these summer projects where I sent away a student. They might get to choose which project they’re working on; still, they don’t dictate the project, so this is where it’s different. Here is where the student gets to say, “I want to research the ecology of this area. I want to build this sculpture and have it installed at the golf park. I want to have an experience that I drove, that I proposed, I made the budget, I made the timeline, I have a mentor there to support me, but I’m the driving force.” That’s the difference for SRPD. We are looking for students to step up.
For more information on applications and deadlines, contact Joe Doyle at email@example.com or (575) 654-0202.