Research-Based Courses for Second-Semester Freshmen

By Anne Donnelly, University of Florida

Last year the University of Florida’s Center for Undergraduate Research had the opportunity to jump start Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) classes designed specifically for second semester freshmen.  The CURE@UF initiative used a small internal grant to provide course development and course materials. The grant also allowed us to hire a Graduate Innovator to assist students with the research project. We modeled this position after the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Graduate Research Consultant.

Getting Ready

Faculty were recruited via email; in the first year 14 faculty responded.  In year two, 8 faculty continued, and an additional 7 faculty (along with 21 in engineering) joined.  CUR@UF was also able to hire a Post Doc to assist faculty with course development. She offered a series of workshops in the fall to help faculty through the process.  Last year, we placed 172 students in CURE classes. This year we placed 258. The majority of the classes were STEM and included physics, chemistry, biological sciences, genetics, entomology and horticulture.  Each year the College of Education offered one class: Big Data, and Behavioral Economics. This year we added a class in Business Research. In addtion, we began working with the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.

Creating Disciplinary Diversity

We wanted to offer a mix of disciplines. Notably, the UF College of the Arts has a robust Center for Arts In Medicine.  Its mission is to advance research, education, and practice in arts in medicine. This mission fosters interdisciplinary collaborations across campus that support arts in health.  We offered two exciting CURE classes through the Center last year, one of which we offered again this year.

The first course, titled Museums, Veterans and Wellbeing: Measuring the Impact, is an arts in health course, taught by Heather Spooner, an art therapist who works with rural veterans via telehealth creative arts.  Spooner’s course introduces students to survey-based research. In its first iteration an interdisciplinary team of six students worked with a Graduate Innovator to analyze a survey given to veterans at the Lowe Art Museum in Miami. Working with the Director of Education at the Lowe Art Museum, the class used thematic analysis to code responses to the survey and conducted a literature review to create a new survey for an upcoming veteran event. These students presented their work at the UF Undergraduate Research Symposium. One student continued to work on the project and is currently working on a publication.

Real-World Issues

The second College of the Arts course, titled Cultural programming and Addiction in America, analyzes the effect spaces have on the opioid epidemic. Taught by Craig Smith, an artist who works with relational art and photography, this course introduced students to research via a seminar/lab hybrid learning environment, measuring the impact of visual and environmental stimuli on both treatment and stigma for patients as well as providers.

Nine students from various backgrounds worked together with a Graduate Innovator to research population centers and civic authorities concerned with the opioid epidemic in the United States. An exceptional part of the class was that Dr. Craig arranged for Mr. Colin Beatty, CEO of Column Health, and Mr. James McIntyre, COO of Column Health to visit the students. These visits gave the CURE students an appreciation for the real-world application of the research they were conducting. This year, Dr. Smith is continuing to teach this course to 14 new freshmen.  Furthermore, the students in this class presented at the Symposium.

Cultural Programming and Addiction in America
Dr. Craig Smith, Associate Professor
School of Art + Art History
College of the Arts

Measuring Impact

All of the CURE classes used the Research on Learning and Education (ROLE)  Survey developed by Dr. David Lopatto.  The students in last year’s Arts in Medicine classes reported above average gains the following skills:  propose hypothesis and plan research, acquire and analyze information, and read and understand primary literature. Additionally, they indicated an above average gain in readiness for more demanding research.

Moving forward, CUR is planning on actively recruiting additional arts and humanities faculty to join CURE@UF.