Leveling Up an Award-Winning Undergraduate Research Program A Case Study From Furman University

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Beth Pontari
Erik Ching
Suzanne Klonis
Diane Boyd


This case study delineates the process that a small, private liberal arts university employed to amplify its high-impact practices in an already award-winning undergraduate research (UR) program. The process was catalyzed by combined institutional factors: the start of a new accreditation cycle and the launch of our university’s strategic vision, The Furman Advantage (TFA). Established in 2016–2017, TFA ensures all students have access to a high-impact engaged learning experience—UR, study away, and/or an internship. This institutional imperative provided an opportunity to assess the degree to which Furman’s UR program was meeting high-impact criteria. We compared Furman’s summer UR program against the emerging research on high-impact practices and made changes to enhance learning and to close equity gaps in access. We reoriented our UR program to focus on the characteristics of high-impact practices, particularly the mentoring relationship between faculty and students and the importance of student self-reflection. We reviewed improvements to our summer fellowship program, namely, changes in the application and review process, professional development for faculty, pre-experience training for summer research fellows, and modifications to our survey and self-analysis instruments. Broader programmatic changes included articulating common learning outcomes for engaged learning experiences and creating an evidence-driven assessment mechanism to help us meet learning outcomes and institutional objectives. Implementation of these changes required sustained collaboration at the institutional level between the Offices of Undergraduate Research, the Center for Engaged Learning, the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, and the Faculty Development Center. In addition to measuring changes within UR over time, we have also been able to make comparisons across different engaged learning experiences, principally study away and internships, and then use this data to continue TFA improvements. Preliminary findings indicate that we have successfully enhanced our implementation of high-impact practices.


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How to Cite
Pontari, B., Ching, E., Klonis, S., & Boyd, D. (2021). Leveling Up an Award-Winning Undergraduate Research Program: A Case Study From Furman University. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.14434/josotl.v21i1.30660
Author Biographies

Beth Pontari, Furman University

Associate Provost for Engaged Learning, Professor of Psychology

Erik Ching, Furman University

Director of Undergraduate Research, Professor of History

Suzanne Klonis, Furman University

Director of Assessment, Office of Institutional Assessment and Research

Diane Boyd, Furman University

Associate Dean, Faculty Development, Executive Director, Faculty Development Center