Kindling Research Interest in Undergraduate Business Students: Beyond Superficial Pragmatism

Kindling Research Interest in Undergraduate Business Students: Beyond Superficial Pragmatism

David Starr-Glass (SUNY Empire State College – Prague, Czech Republic)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5667-1.ch012
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Undergraduate Research Experiences (UREs) provide a means of encouraging, engaging, and supporting students in the co-production of relevant and legitimate knowledge. Research-centered experiences can be designed as capstones at the conclusion of the undergraduate degree, integrated into single courses or sequence of interrelated courses, or form an element of internships, community-based projects, service-learning experiences, and practicums. UREs have a high impact on student engagement and learning, and can serve as vehicles for establishing the student's distinctive personal signature on his or her learning. However, despite their value, UREs are underutilized in business education. This chapter explores some of the reasons for this, suggests ways through which undergraduates might be introduced to research, and argues that an involvement in relevant scholarly endeavor plays a significant part in the future success of business graduates.
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In U.S. higher education—and particularly at research-focused universities—a tension has always existed between the extent to which institutions should emphasize the research or the teaching efforts of their faculty. Linked to the falling quality of undergraduate experiences and learning outcomes, the Boyer Commission’s (1998) challenged research universities to re-invent themselves by including all students in research-driven undergraduate teaching, arguing that “the basic idea of learning as inquiry is the same as the idea of research; even though advanced research occurs at advanced levels, undergraduates beginning in the freshman year can learn through research” (p. 17). The report recommended that universities should form “a synergistic system in which faculty and students are learners and researchers, whose interactions make for a healthy and flourishing intellectual atmosphere” (p. 11).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Signature Work: A project, or set of related projects, in which students define questions that they regard as personally significant and answer these questions through their research. Although generally supported by faculty and mentors, undergraduate research projects allow the student to place his/her unique signature on the project. Signature work may be undertaken as capstone, internships, practicums, community-based, or service-based experiences. It inevitably includes a substantial writing output, reflective learning, and multimedia outputs that are often best presented as student portfolios.

Undergraduate Research Experience (URE): These learning-centered experiences allow students to engage in systematic explorations or investigations of a selected topic in order to make original or creative contributions to existing disciplinary knowledge and scholarly thought. The student’s exploration is usually done in collaboration with, or under the active supervision of, a faculty member who as a co-creator of the experience contributes the necessary guidance, encouragement, and support.

Graduate Employability: The ability of someone who has successfully completed tertiary education to enter, remain, and advance in the labor force. Employability can be understood from two perspectives: the potential employee and the prospective employer. From the potential employee’s perspective, employability is a function of the quality and relevancy of the knowledge, skills, and competencies possessed and brought to the relevant labor market. From the employer’s perspective, employability is a function of perceived attributes, job-fit, and continuing demand for the work-related knowledge, skills, and competencies presented by the graduate candidate.

Lifelong Learning: The active commitment to, and involvement in, a process of continuous learning in either formal or informal settings, in order to provide the individual with the relevant knowledge, skills, and competencies that are required to facilitate the desired level of engagement in the individual’s personal, social, cultural, and work worlds.

High-Impact Educational Practices: These practices involve creating active learning contexts, which can take a number of different forms depending on individual students and institutional resources. They usually require learners to invest a considerable amount of time and energy over an extended time, but have unusually positive impacts on student engagement, persistence, and educational outcomes. Examples include first-year seminars and experiences, guided internships, service and community-based learning, supported undergraduate research, and writing-intensive courses or projects.

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