The Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI) uses an inquiry-based teaching model where students are exposed to real world science through a case study in an introductory course followed by a hands-on research experience resulting from questions about or related to the case. CCURI is providing resources for our 44 institutional partners including introductory workshops/conferences that are building regional and national collaborations, start-up supplies and a wide variety of faculty development opportunities.
"CCURI is in the business of changing academic culture"
- James Hewlett, CCURI PI
Throughout its history the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI) has allowed its community college partners to define its mission and determine the services it offers.
This philosophy carried over to the strategic planning meeting that CCURI convened April 30 to May 2, 2019, at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Conference Center. As CCURI Principal Investigator and Executive Director James Hewlett explained to the 18 meeting participants, the meeting sessions were designed to provoke participants’ thinking and capture their insights to inform CCURI’s effort to explain its work to potential funders and potential partner institutions.
Throughout the small group and large group discussions the meeting participants remarked on CCURI’s unparalleled knowledge of undergraduate research at community colleges and reached consensus on several points.
After mapping how CCURI could continue its operations at four funding levels, the participants wrote value propositions to help CCURI promote its work with potential funders and community college partners. Hewlett has selected this as CCURI’s value proposition:
Education Redefined, Reinvented, Reinvigorated
CCURI provides a new model for the classroom experience at community colleges through the incorporation of course-based undergraduate research as a teaching tool. CCURI educates faculty in new pedagogical methods, provides presentation opportunities to students, and provides a model for growth and success in developing a culture of innovation at community colleges.
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CCURI in the press:
Inspirational Research - Community College Daily
At the national poster session of the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI) last week, 47 former and current community college students talked knowledgeably and intently about their research methods and findings.
James Hewlett, CCURI’s executive director, considers the national and regional student poster sessions the “signature events” for the Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC)-based program that offers professional development and curricula to help community college faculty incorporate research experiences into their teaching.
Not just for the 4 years: Engaging Community College Students in Undergraduate Research Experiences
J ames Hewlett, Professor of Science and Technology and Director of Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing at Finger Lakes Community College, understands that one of the biggest problems facing access to undergraduate research in community colleges is the fundamental lack of an undergraduate research culture. In the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and its community college counterpart (the Community College Survey of Student Engagement or CCSSE), students at four-year institutions are asked about their engagement in research projects which students at two-year institutions are asked about their participation in remedial course work. This very small difference in a survey question reflects the significant barriers to community college faculty and students participating in undergraduate research efforts. These barriers exist at an institutional and systemic level including public misperceptions and stigmas related to working or attending a community college.
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After conducting field research on red-tailed hawks at Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC) in New York, Elizabeth Snyder continued that research at the Rochester Institute of Technology where she earned a doctorate and is now at Upstate Medical University studying microbiology and immunology.
Another former FLCC student, Alissa Carissimi, decided to pursue a career in science after studying stresses on coral reefs during a summer field research course in the Caribbean. She went on to earn a master’s degree in ecology at the University of Memphis and is now an adjunct professor at Union University.
Those are just two examples of how embedding research experiences into community college courses puts students on a track toward professional careers in science.
Any national effort to increase the number and diversity of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates must include our nation’s community colleges. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) reported that in the Fall of 2015 (most recent data), 12.2 million undergraduates were enrolled at a community college—a number that accounted for 41% of all U.S. undergraduates (AACC, 2018). Moreover, our community colleges educate 36% of first-generation students, 43% of African-American students, 53% of Hispanic students, and 56% of Native American students. These statistics highlight the central role community colleges must play in efforts to increase access, equity, and diversity within STEM education.
A culturally rich, historically black neighborhood in Pensacola, Florida, has been experiencing gentrification.
To keep the legacy of the Belmont-DeVilliers community alive, a local engineer is guiding a group of University of West Florida undergraduates creating a virtual version of the neighborhood—along with a small brick-and-mortar museum to showcase the project. It’s just one of many such opportunities at West Florida.
Joanna Werner-Fraczek and Diana Marsh, associate professors at a community college located in Moreno Valley, California, have developed a multidisciplinary, multiyear research-based learning project that studies the cliff swallows that migrate to the area each year. Students participating in the project use ArcGIS to record and analyze the data they obtain.
The Flying with the Swallows (FWS) project, offers college students an opportunity to conduct scientific research while taking science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses.
In a Michigan county defined by its abundant natural water resources, concerns about maintaining the quality of one of its primary streams – the Duck Creek Watershed spanning 22 square miles across northwest Muskegon County – involved two MCC students trekking its muddy banks with research equipment throughout the summer months.
April 13, 2016
Finger Lakes Community College is the beneficiary of a $240,500 grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to plan a 10-fold expansion of the college’s national initiative to teach science through research at two-year institutions.
March 10, 2016
In just seven years, Gaston College, in North Carolina, has seen enrollment in its associate of science (AS) program spike 197 percent, while the AS graduation rate has risen 94 percent.
Credit Gaston’s award-winning science-education initiative, called SPARC3 (STEM Persistence and Retention through Curriculum, Cohort, and Centralization), for those impressive stats.
October 03, 2015
The National Science Foundation has awarded Finger Lakes Community College a $1.5 million grant to continue its work in developing undergraduate research programs in its classrooms and laboratories and at other community colleges across the country.FLCC awarded $1.5M for research
July 13, 2015
In the fall of 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, 46 percent of all U.S. undergraduates were enrolled at two–year community, technical, or tribal colleges . This percentage climbs to 57 percent for Hispanic undergraduates and 61 percent for Native American undergraduates. Clearly, if SACNAS and SACNISTAs want to increase the diversity of STEM PhDs, we must engage with students and professionals at community colleges since a large segment of our pipeline runs through these institutions
October 15, 2014
No one had gotten a good look at Solebay since the explosion until Finger Lakes Community College professor Jim Hewlett partnered with Texas A&M professor and archaeologist Chris Cartellone to begin surveying the wreck in 2010.
Cartellone, Hewlett and 15 of his biology students trained in underwater surveying had the rare opportunity to explore the historical wreck — and yes, they dived down to see it.
October 23, 2014
Science and math classes can be tough, but fewer science students might switch majors if they got the chance to do research while in community college.
That rationale is behind a project at Moreno Valley College, where students head into the hills near campus to research wildlife and how or whether it is affected by toxins such as lead and mercury that build up over time from traffic and other sources.