What is it like to make the transition from a small liberal arts college to a large research university and from undergraduate to graduate study? How do you frame a scholarly research question? What goes into preparing for a career as a professor?
These are a few of the questions that 44 students from ACM colleges will be exploring soon when they embark on summer research experiences at top research universities — Big Ten members and the University of Chicago — through the Graduate School Exploration Fellowship (GSEF).
The students recently found out their “matches” at university campuses scattered from Nebraska across several Midwestern states to Maryland and New Jersey. This summer placement is bracketed by GSEF-sponsored mentoring and career development workshops during the students’ junior and senior years.
“The GSEF matching process is designed to accommodate, as much as possible, the research interests of the students,” said Lilly Lavner, ACM Liaison for the Fellows Program to Diversify the Professoriate. Mentoring is a key part of the summer experience, and the students may be working with a mix of faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers.
“The structure of the experience and the program varies from university to university,” Lavner said. “Some of the students will be working individually with a faculty member. On other campuses, there may be several faculty from a variety of departments working together on an interdisciplinary research project and the student will work with a subset or all of them.”
The central focus of this summer experience, and of the GSEF program as a whole, is learning about graduate school and the world of academia, according to Lavner.
“For example,” she said, “how do you navigate a major university and graduate departments, build relationships, and make contacts that will support your career in academia? How is scholarly research done in the humanities? How do you gain the critical reasoning, writing, and communication skills you’ll need to succeed in the professoriate? This is an opportunity to find out.”
In August, the students will gather again at the program’s Annual Summit in Chicago, along with the newly-selected second cohort of GSEF fellows and the newly-appointed and second-year Mellon faculty fellows at ACM colleges.
“The GSEF fellows will give presentations about their summer research experiences and the faculty fellows will help facilitate that,” Lavner said. “There will also be panel discussions on graduate school admissions, as well as sessions that explore the benefits and challenges of academic careers, particularly for people from underrepresented backgrounds in academia, and opportunities to explore what might make someone a good fit for a career in college teaching and scholarly research.”
The GSEF program is part of the Undergraduate and Faculty Fellows Program for a Diverse Professoriate, a partnership between the ACM, the Big Ten Academic Alliance, and the University of Chicago that is supported by an $8.1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
To be eligible for the GSEF program, students must be interested in pursuing graduate study and research in the humanities, humanistic social sciences, or the arts and be from groups that are underrepresented in academia.