Newswise — The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) will present its 2018 Campus-Wide Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments (AURA) to Union College in Schenectady, NY, and University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. This annual award recognizes institutions with exemplary programs that provide high-quality research experiences for undergraduates. The 2018 recipients will be honored at the CUR Executive Board reception on January 25, 2019, at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges & Universities in Atlanta, GA.

Now in its fourth year, the AURA award draws on CUR’s Characteristics of Excellence in Undergraduate Research (COEUR), which presents criteria for exceptional undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity programs. For AURA recognition, campuses must demonstrate depth and breadth in their undergraduate research initiatives and evidence of continual innovation. As all types of higher education institutions can be nominated for the AURA awards, the two 2018 awardees reflect different Carnegie classifications.

“The commitment to inclusivity of students and disciplines, infusion of research into the curriculum, attention to vital support services, and ongoing assessment are some of the characteristics of the 2018 AURA recipients,” said CUR’s Executive Officer Elizabeth L. Ambos and President Iain Crawford (University of Delaware). “CUR salutes these academic institutions for their dedication to excellence in undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative inquiry on their campuses.”

Union College’s Union Scholars Program offers extensive opportunities for research interwoven throughout the undergraduate experience, linking to several COEUR principles. External funding of faculty research—particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields—and the development of state-of-the-art research facilities are impressive for a liberal arts college of Union’s size and allow for greater integration of students into the research enterprise. Library-based resources that support research and archive student scholarship through Union’s Digital Works, as well as the development of high-performance computing resources, expand opportunities for student-faculty inquiry. The substantial growth and range of Union’s commitment to undergraduate research and the institution’s strong undergraduate research dissemination tradition offer a model for other baccalaureate-level institutions to emulate.

“Hands-on, faculty-mentored undergraduate research is a staple of the Union experience,” said Chad Orzel, associate professor of physics and director of undergraduate research. “As a small liberal arts college, our students get an opportunity to be involved in every stage of a project, from the general concept, to the design of an experiment, to the final data-taking and analysis. We are honored to receive this award from the Council on Undergraduate Research.”

The undergraduate research programs of UW–Milwaukee (UWM) express a multifaceted commitment to growing undergraduate engagement in research through strategies such as administrative and financial support for the Office of Undergraduate Research and undergraduate research fellows; a curriculum revision initiative to develop research-based coursework at all levels; and co-curricular research opportunities, including the [email protected] summer bridge program for first-year students. UWM’s campus programs embody many of COEUR’s best practices, including support for early engagement in research and the use of assessment data to continually increase program effectiveness, particularly for underrepresented and traditionally underserved students. These types of student research community programs offer distinct possibilities for adaptation by other doctoral-granting institutions.

“UW–Milwaukee is pleased to be recognized as a leader in undergraduate research,” said Chancellor Mark Mone. “Our undergraduates have the opportunity to make a difference right now by working side-by-side with our faculty on some of the toughest problems facing our community and our world. These experiences help students develop the critical-thinking and analytical skills desired by major employers.”


Founded in 1978, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) is an organization of individual, institutional, and affiliate members from around the world that share a focus on providing high-quality and collaborative undergraduate research, scholarly, and creative activity opportunities for faculty and students. More than 700 institutions and more than 13,000 individuals belong to CUR. CUR believes that faculty members enhance their teaching and contribution to society by remaining active in research and by involving undergraduates in research, and that students engaged in undergraduate research succeed in their studies and professional advancement.

Founded in 1795 as the first planned campus in the country, Union College is an independent, four-year liberal arts college with engineering. The college, with 2,200 full-time undergraduates, is consistently ranked among the nation's top liberal arts institutions. Each spring, hundreds of students showcase their academic interests and talents during the Steinmetz Symposium. Classes are canceled for the all-day event, which includes a diverse lineup of oral presentations, poster sessions, and exhibits highlighting student research.

Recognized as a top-tier research university by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee offers more than 1,000 undergraduate research opportunities each year. Students can begin their research the summer before their first year, and more than half graduate with undergraduate research experience. In addition, undergraduate researchers from all disciplines participate in programs at the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center, which teaches them how to bring their ideas and research discoveries to market.