Each year, students on ACM off-campus study programs conduct significant independent research projects. They engage in subjects ranging across the curriculum – such as the practice of Ayurvedic medicine in India, the effectiveness of microfinance programs in Botswana, or analysis of water quality in Costa Rica.
With the guidance of program staff, visiting faculty from ACM colleges, and on-site experts, students pursue their intellectual endeavors in places as varied as the rare map collections at Chicago’s Newberry Library and the expansive grasslands of Tarangire National Park in Tanzania.
To honor students for the research they conduct during off-campus study, ACM has established the annual Award for Outstanding Research on an ACM Program.
“Our goal is not only to recognize excellence in undergraduate research – one of those high-impact practices that have the potential to transform undergraduate education – but also to highlight one of the features of ACM programs in which we take great pride,” said Carol Dickerman, ACM Director of Off-Campus Study, in announcing the new award.
The award will be given for a research project conducted in one of the following five ACM programs, which feature substantial independent research projects as part of the curriculum:
- Costa Rica: Field Research in the Environment, Social Sciences, & Humanities;
- Botswana: University Immersion in Southern Africa;
- India: Culture, Traditions, & Globalization;
- Newberry Seminar: Research in the Humanities; and
- Tanzania: Ecology & Human Origins.
Directors of the five programs will nominate program participants for consideration based on the originality of the student’s project, research design and methodology, and the final product. A committee including faculty and staff drawn from the ACM colleges will select the recipient of the award.
The first annual Award for Outstanding Research, recognizing a student who studied on an ACM program during the 2009-10 academic year, will be presented at the ACM Student Symposium on Off-Campus Study in Chicago on April 15-16, 2011. Each year, the Symposium brings together students, faculty, and staff from across the consortium to showcase the importance and impact of off-campus study at the ACM colleges. Student presentations and panel discussions at the event will be streamed live on the ACM website.
The ACM’s commitment to independent research opportunities goes back to the 1960s, when the consortium established programs in Costa Rica and at the Newberry Library in Chicago focused primarily on such projects.
Students on ACM programs are supported throughout the research process – project design and proposals, research methodology, and writing research papers – by program staff, visiting faculty from ACM colleges, and local experts at the program sites.
Over the years, independent research projects conducted by students on ACM programs have led to articles in scholarly journals, presentations at academic conferences, and research collaborations with faculty. Students frequently develop their off-campus research into their senior thesis or honors project, or continue their research interest in graduate school.