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Mission Statement

More than any other form of assessment, research involves every aspect of student learning: communication, numeracy, critical thinking, scientific inquiry, and information literacy. Engaging in research also builds awareness in terms of arts, humanities, and diversity. It requires the application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of information—the four highest levels of Bloom’s taxonomy of thought. We hold, though, that research is most meaningful when faculty don’t just assign it to their students but conduct it in collaboration with them. The Undergraduate Research Program serves as a forum for such activity.

About Undergraduate Research at MCC

Research has long been thought to be the domain of universities and four-year colleges. Indeed, there is much in the way of infrastructure and distribution of labor that lends credence to this impression. The faculty who offer upper division and graduate-level courses, for instance, tend to teach fewer courses than their community college counterparts; presumably, this is to allow for a greater proportion of their time to be devoted to research. Often, too, faculty at universities are provided with research assistants to help them in their studies. Meanwhile, instructors at community colleges tend to teach multiple sections of introductory and survey courses. Sometimes the metaphor of the assembly line is invoked to describe their situation.

We at Mesa Community College hold, though, that this dichotomy between community and research colleges is a false one. Two-year institutions of higher education have long and often been at the forefront of adapting curricula to emerging technologies and innovations in education. Online education and Total Quality Management, for instance, were first widely implemented in the community college system. As to research, at Mesa Community College, a substantial proportion of the faculty consists of experienced researchers, as evidenced by the high number of Ph.D.s in its ranks. The rest have all completed their masters degrees, which usually entails having written a substantial body of original work in the form of a thesis. This is more than can be said for the average graduate teaching assistant charged with teaching freshmen and sophomores at tier one and two “research” institutions.

Teachers at Mesa Community College are life-long learners who constantly update their courses; doing so requires effective and regular research. This constant renewal enhances instruction, keeps the curricula fresh and relevant, and serves the interests of the larger community. Two-thirds of Mesa Community College students, meanwhile, plan to transfer to four-year schools to complete their baccalaureate degrees. Their career paths commit them to research in their respective disciplines. The Undergraduate Research Program simply seeks to coordinate the involvement of students in ongoing, mentored research activities at the community college, the access point to higher education for almost half of undergraduate students nationwide.

Activities in Support of the Mission