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Episode Notes | Transcript | AskTheGuest

 Hi Fives (5 Highlights)   Click for 3-Minute Listen

Susan Mendoza is the Founding Director of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

When Prof. Mendoza was an undergraduate, she felt intimidated by the Faculty. So, when was doing her graduate work, she was intrigued by undergraduate students that would willingly do independent research with Faculty members.

Prof. Mendoza found that this learning outside of the classroom and creating new knowledge through research begins with curiosity.

On our podcast, Prof. Mendoza talks about UG Research at GVSU, the role CUR plays, Impact of Research on Students, success stories, and finally the skills for high schoolers to do research.

Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:

  1. Why UG Research is Important
  2. Disciplines
  3. CUR’s Role
  4. Success Stories - Oboe Reed
  5. Advice for High Schoolers

Episode Notes

Episode Title: Prof. Susan Mendoza of GVSU on UG Research: How to Ask a Good Question.

When Prof. Mendoza was an undergraduate, she felt intimidated by the Faculty. So, when was doing her graduate work, she was intrigued by undergraduate students that would willingly do independent research with Faculty.

Prof. Mendoza is the Founding Director of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Michigan.

On our podcast, Prof. Mendoza talks about UG Research at GVSU, the role CUR plays, Impact of Research on Students, success stories, and finally the skills for high schoolers to do research.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introducing Prof. Susan Mendoza, GVSU [1:01]
  • Hi Fives - Podcast Highlights [1:47]
  • Professional Background [4:38]
  • Why UG Research is Important [7:54]
  • Prof. Mendoza’s Role [11:14]
  • Disciplines Involved in Research [14:20]
  • Faculty Participation [16:27]
  • Introducing UG Research to Freshman [17:45]
  • Student Participation [20:41]
  • Research Impact on Students [23:47]
  • Post-Degree Plan after UG Research [26:12]
  • CUR’s Role [28:04]
  • Success Stories [30:05]
  • UG Research for the Undeclared [35:21]
  • Advice for High Schoolers [38:59]

Our Guest: Prof. Susan Mendoza is the Founding Director of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. Prof. Mendoza received the Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and Anthropology from Michigan State University with specializations in African Studies and International Development. She then earned her Master of Arts at Michigan State University and PhD at Western Michigan University. 

Memorable Quote: “ So generally what I'll tell students is coming to campus, [it] is kind of like a cold swimming pool. And to not jump in, because they may experience some shock, to, to wade in slowly and to pay attention and to listen.” Prof. Mendoza’s Advice to Freshman on how to engage in UG Research .

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.

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Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

<Start Snippet> Susan M  0:14  

They feel much more comfortable in talking with faculty sharing their ideas, doing a lot of the work independently and develop this confidence and they begin to see themselves as so they see themselves as a scientist, anthropologist and musician or an artist.

Venkat  1:01  [Introducing Prof. Susan Mendoza, GVSU]

That is Susan Mendoza, the Founding Director of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Hello, I am your host, Venkat Raman.

When Prof. Mendoza was an undergraduate, she felt intimidated by the Faculty.

So, when was doing her graduate work, she was intrigued by undergraduate students that would willingly do independent research with Faculty members.

Prof Mendoza found that this learning outside of the classroom and creating new knowledge through research begins with curiosity.

Venkat Raman  1:07

Today, Prof Mendoza heads the UG Research Office at GVSU.

Venkat Raman  1:13

Prof. Mendoza joins us on our podcast to talk about UG Research at GVSU, the role CUR plays, Impact of Research on Students, success stories, and finally the skills for high schoolers to do research.

Before we jump into the podcast, here are the Hi-Fives,  Five Highlights from the podcast:

Susan M  1:47  [Highlights - Hi Fives]

[Why UG Research is Important]

And so in terms of working with students in the importance of undergraduate research, it's important for anyone but especially students coming into college to think about how to ask a good question. And when I think about colleagues I like to work with when I think about people I want to hire. When I think about someone I want to report to. I loved working with people who know how to ask a good question. Then they figure out how to get towards that answer.

[Disciplines]

It can be something sitting at a bench. So in a research lab doing pipetting and that traditional white coat, that's what a lot of students will think about is doing things in a lab. But it's also I had a student who explored he's a music major, but he really wanted to explore protest music.

[CUR’s Role]

CUR's, also a fabulous place for our students who are involved in undergraduate research to connect with other students, especially at anchor anchor, which is their student kind of focused conference. And other opportunities, like posters on the hill where a student could go to go to DC and present their work to Congress and congressional aides.

 

[Success Stories - Oboe Reed]

But what she would describe as a lot of my time is spent carving my elbow reed. And that's something that oboist will do is they'll carve their reed, and there are different techniques in doing that. So there's a US technique, and there's a technique in Europe as well. And one of the things she started wondering was, how does the carving the technique of carving the reed, change, not just the sound of the music? But what does it look like through my physics lens? And how do I measure that.

[Advice for High Schoolers]

And one of the skills that I think is really important is thinking about how your high school experience has shaped who you are as a college first year student. And really asking questions of the people around you who have been on campus, whether that's an upper, you know, an upperclassman, so when he's a sophomore junior or your faculty member, the asking those questions are really, really critical.

Venkat Raman  4:06

These were the Hi5s, brought to you by “College Matters. Alma Matters.”

Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Venkat Raman  4:17

Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast with Professor Mendoza.

So without further ado, here is Professor Susan Mendoza!

-----------------

Venkat Raman  4:28  

Maybe the best place to start is tell us a little bit about yourself. How you got into all this and undergraduate research and then we'll go from there.

Susan M  4:38  [Professional Background]

Now sounds good. It was completely accidental. So accidental and serendipitous. I think a lot of times when when I started out. You know, originally when I was in college, I was a political science major in journalism. And it's interesting how the more experiences you have, the more your career And you're kind of your end goal pivots. So I've always been really interested in learning spaces for students. So I moved around the the US a lot growing up. I'm currently an institution on the west side of Michigan. And I did many of my research experiences at Michigan State University in Lansing. And so I am someone who was trained in what we call student affairs, student development. So some of my graduate work is really focused on students and how they think. And I'm fascinated by the spaces that we create for students and how they think. And so as an undergraduate student, I was interested in people's identities and how we think about ourselves intersects with what we do. And I went and did some graduate work really thinking about that. And for folks who aren't familiar with how colleges work, there's the faculty and they do all the academic stuff. And then they have the student affairs folks, and they plan all the fun things and all the things that kind of keep us lifted, insane, why we're doing, why we're doing classes and having those college experiences. And I really enjoyed working with students and supporting students and their life on campus. And then, a number of years ago, I started really becoming interested in these things that were happening outside the classroom. So there's the learning in the classroom. But there's also things like study abroad, where students go and study waste studies, or internships where they might work in businesses. And I was particularly interested in students who took time out of their schedule to study with faculty, faculty, were always very intimidating to me as an undergraduate student. Yeah. And so I was I was interested just as a researcher, why students would do that. And so I started talking to and working with students who want to independent research asking their own independent questions, and worked with my faculty colleagues in making new knowledge and discovering new things. And so it became part of my work. So the what I do currently is I support students who do those types of things, both financially, emotionally in terms of professional development. And I do the same thing with my faculty colleagues, provide them the support, they need to really create spaces, and their research for students to learn.

Venkat Raman  7:43  

You zeroed in on undergraduate undergraduate research, why is that so important to you? And why do you think it's so important to students?

Susan M  7:54  [Why UG Research is Important]

It's one of those things. In our office, sometimes we talk about what's called the hidden curriculum. So the things that students should do, but they don't always know that they should do when they're in college, and undergraduate research is one of those things. When I think about why it's important to students, the first piece I think about is how, in the in the K 12 system, students aren't always encouraged to be curious, they're oftentimes taught that there's a singular answer to something that questioning that answer the process to get to that answer is not an efficient use of their time, right. So I have a graduating senior, and we talk about the difference between performing and learning. And those are two very different things. And so in terms of working with students in the importance of undergraduate research, it's important for anyone but especially students coming into college to think about how to ask a good question. And when I think about colleagues I like to work with when I think about people I want to hire, when I think about someone I want to report to, I loved working with people who know how to ask a good question, then they figure out how to get towards that answer. So in addition to asking something, you know, how do I figure it out? And how do I know that that answer isn't the accurate answer? Or is there another answer? And then sharing that learning with a larger group of people? That's really what undergraduate research is? It's, it's asking a question, figuring out how do you how do you noodle through how do you process the answer, sharing that with a larger community and what I noticed with students is, in some ways, they're joining a conversation that might have been happening for for decades, or for 100 years about a particular topic, and they're seeing how knowledge is created and for wormed and it's not static, but it's fluid. And so I'll oftentimes tell my students, you know, you could sit in a classroom and just consume and just inhale the knowledge and it comes in your head and it comes out the mouth. And that's how you can engage with your education. Or alternatively, you can think critically about it. And you can create that knowledge for yourself and for other people. And students really liked the option of not just passively accepting what's happening. They want to think about it, and they want to poke at it. And that, I think, is why undergraduate research is an important experience for students because it gives them a safe space, to poke at learning in their own knowledge and to ask really provocative questions.

Venkat Raman  10:51  

You know, something you said is very intriguing, because, you know, so much about learning or so much of learning, it's about getting the answer or the right answer. And you're really saying, What is a good question, right? What do you what do you do as the director of the UG scholar engagement? I guess it's the official title there.

Susan M  11:14  [Prof. Mendoza’s Role]

Yeah. It's all the things and other things and none that none of the things my role, so I oversee two offices. One is the one that supports undergraduate research and scholarship. So that research end of things. The other one is our Frederik Meijer office of fellowships. And that is an office that support students who want to do cool things off campus. And there are funding opportunities for that.

So what I do in my office is we try to make sure that we think about what the students need to clarify what they want to do long term, and to create opportunities for them to learn about what it means to be a biologist or a chemist, or someone who's an advertising or a nurse. So we want to create opportunities for them to engage with the questions, but also their chosen professions. And so we do that in a variety of different ways.

So I will advise students, I'll have students come in, and they send a note to a student this morning, who is really interested in aging, and wants to study something along the lines of aging, but the student also wants to be a doctor. So we talked about different ways and different questions that might be interesting to her and pursuing that knowledge.

So it's advising students and talking with students about what they can do, but then it's also creating the spaces and the structures to get them there. So making sure that we have grant opportunities for students managing those grants, so a student doesn't have to volunteer their time, maybe they get paid to ask these fun questions.

It's working with the faculty, the teacher, the teachers to make sure that they have what they need, do they need extra supplies? Do they need extra space to work with students? Are they looking for staying on a particular topic. So it's kind of a described as creating the space where all the fun stuff can happen.

So both the structures, the programs, connecting students, educating students, educating my faculty, colleagues, making sure they have the support that they need, and then celebrating all the cool stuff that they do.

And making sure the university has the opportunity to see all the cool research projects, that the active things that students are doing, but also the community at large, and the students can see them themselves. Because sometimes the students will be doing something and they don't realize how amazing it is. They're just doing their thing. They're just showing their passion and their curiosity. So we want to celebrate that as well.

So in our our office, I oversee I think 26 programs that support undergraduate research students in a variety of different areas.

Venkat Raman  14:14  

Now, is this pretty broad based in terms of disciplines, that type of research that goes on?

Susan M  14:20  [Disciplines Involved in Research]

Yeah, absolutely. So when you when you use the model of just asking a good question, it applies everywhere. So it can be something in the applied areas such as I mentioned, nursing, engineering, marketing, that's where you take research and you apply it to better society or better business. It can be something sitting at a bench, so in a research lab doing pipetting and that traditional white coat, that's what a lot of students will think about is doing things in a lab. But it's also I had a student who explored he's a music major but he He really wanted to explore protest music and what the what the protest music of the Black Lives Matter movement look like and how that evolved. And so that's research as well. Then he also composed and performed with that too. And then at our institution, we have a lot of students that are engaged in the creative arts. So there's a lot in visual arts and visual media. So this, another example is I had a group of students who wrote a graphic novel, explaining concepts in archaeology. And so they use different vignettes, and just different kind of mini stories. And they added on the extra layer, of making sure that it was accessible to folks who may be ASD individuals so and so that they can see the different colors were consistent, the different shapes were consistent. So it really spoke to and supported people who are neurodiverse. That's a very layered piece. But you had artists working with archaeologists, working with psychology students, it was incredibly cool. So research is everywhere. It's just that ability to ask the question, and your major or your discipline is just the ones you look through.

Venkat Raman  16:21  

Sounds great. How about faculty? How? How are you finding that participation?

Susan M  16:27  [Faculty Participation]

Our, at our institution, our faculty, this is why they're at a teaching institution. So for them working with undergraduate students is, it's part of their passion, because for many of them, it's how they got into the faculty role. So by having the opportunity themselves to engage in research, and to have a mentor, and say they, they do the exact same things. The other thing about students, and when they ask students ask good questions, it can turn their research in a positive way and in an unexpected way. And that new knowledge is rejuvenating to my faculty colleagues. So all the faculty that I work with, this is part of their passion, this is what they want to do. They want to share their interests with students, and they want to help students to kind of nurture their own. So that's something they're feel very strongly about. And I'm very grateful for because that's something especially as an administrator, even as a student, I never really realized that until I started asking the questions myself.

Venkat Raman  17:36  

So freshman steps on the campus, how do they learn about all these wonderful opportunities to do research?

Susan M  17:45  [Introducing UG Research to Freshman]

So generally, what I'll tell students is coming to campus is kind of like a cold swimming pool. And to not jump in, because they may experience some shock, to, to wait in slowly and to pay attention and to listen. So in their classes, to first thing is to attend to faculty open office hours. So those are kind of open hours, we can go talk to a faculty member. And to ask the faculty member, what did they study? What are they? What are they interested in? Every faculty member I've ever met is a super nerd. They're super geeky. They love talking about this stuff. So make sure you have time right? To ask them some of those questions. And especially if there's a class that's particularly interesting, either the content of what you're learning in the classroom or the faculty member themselves, go to their office hours and ask some questions. Faculty will connect students with opportunities on campus, there are many opportunities like my office, we will be at first your student orientation, we will be sending newsletters, we will we will be having, you know, tables in the student center. So we'll do all those different pieces. So you can easily just Google undergraduate research at your particular college and opportunities will come up. But I always encourage students to use undergraduate research is a way to ask their faculty how they got interested in how they got involved. And that suit serves two purposes, right? So it's not just learning about undergraduate research, but it's also connecting with a faculty member who might be able to connect you with another faculty member. Or alternatively, it's having that mentor and having someone guide you. So that's that hidden curriculum part is finding a mentor or a guide on campus to help you navigate this huge new experience that you might not be familiar with. So first day on campus, wade into the pool, get to class for participate in class, even for the first week or two, until you become a little bit more comfortable and you feel the rhythm and then start asking faculty those questions. They're really there to support students and to encourage you with whatever your Pratt your passion or professional goals might be.

Venkat Raman  20:21  

Two questions come out of that. One is what, What kind of student participation are you seeing in? And the second one is, When do they start? Undergraduate research, most of the students do they start in their freshman year, Or is it their upper classes? how are you seeing this?

Susan M  20:41  [Student Participation]

It really depends. On the definition, we use kind of what is undergraduate research, right? Our statistics show about 20% of students will do independent research with faculty outside the classroom. And that's quite a while because there's a lot that happens in the classroom as well. And sometimes I'll have students who say, Well, I'm not doing undergraduate research. Okay, well, didn't you do a marketing study for, you know, that particular city looking at tourism? Yeah. But that really wasn't research that was just, you know, asking questions and statistics. And I'm like, No, that's research. So it's very prevalent. It's very, very common. Oh, your second question when to begin? Yeah. Yeah, yeah, it's, it depends. It really does depend, I encourage students to start connecting with and asking faculty early in their academic career. So not late, not when you're going into your senior year, there's still opportunities there. There just aren't as many start asking questions in your first year. So I have one particular student. He was in he was a math major, who's graduating this year, mathematics major, and he came in to see me. And he was like Dr. Mendoza, did you know there's like math research? Yes, there's math three, he had no idea that you just study math, and he just loved mathematics. And so he started as a first year student, doing small projects with faculty. And he's done that over four years, and worked with every faculty member in our math department. So you can start that early and asking some of those questions. I have some students who start when they maybe find it a faculty member that they like, or they have an interesting question they want to know more about. But starting early is always better than starting later. But it's really never too late to start as well. So it depends on major. Some students might not feel like they have enough information until they're a sophomore, junior, but there's always an opportunity to observe. So for some of the students in the lab sciences, whether they're biology or chemistry or some molecular biology, there are opportunities for them to, to shadow, or to join a lab group with a faculty member and read journal articles and just be part of the conversation, they might not have the skills yet to do the active work, but they can begin wading into that conversation. And that can be incredibly meaningful and lead to other opportunities.

Venkat Raman  23:28  

What kind of change are you seeing in the students once they have been doing some research? What kind of skills do you see them picking up or characteristics that they may not have had what's, you know, just broad brush, obviously.

Susan M  23:47  [Research Impact on Students]

There's the tangible skills like writing, they write better, they speak about their research more clearly. They understand the complexity of an idea, they can articulate that complexity to an audience that might not know a lot about it. So a loved one or a parent. So you have those pieces they can do the technical pieces, the statistics, the experiments, those, those I think we come to expect, when someone engages in research, the part the students don't expect is the confidence component. So they feel much more comfortable in talking with faculty sharing their ideas, doing a lot of the work independently and develop this competence and they begin to see themselves as so they see themselves as a scientist, anthropologist, a musician or an artist. And there is an there's kind of at the beginning, we talked a little bit about that identity piece. They start seeing themselves as potentially being this thing, and they can imagine themselves in that space. And so that confidence, that agency where they realize that I can create this knowledge and And I can publish like I can do the thing. That's, that tends to be the most powerful for students. And to see that shift is really cool. One of the things that's interesting to me at our institution is we have lineages and our faculty ranks. So I can point to one faculty member who mentored another faculty member when they were an undergraduate who mentored another one, right? And you can see it sums up their family where, you know, a student might have got left or institution gone and gotten their PhD, but they want to come back, because they were really transformed by the experience, it does go back to that identity piece, the confidence in realizing how much they do know, and how much they don't know, and being able to balance those two.

Venkat Raman  25:47  

So what are you, what are you seeing after students graduate? The ones that have done a fair amount of undergraduate research? Where are they headed? I mean, are they? Are you finding that they go? Or they're more likely to go to grad school? Or are they much more likely to go to the industry or is it all over the place?

Susan M  26:12  [Post-Degree Plan after UG Research]

It's all over the place. The students that I work with, I see that as a result of participating in an undergraduate research, their career goals are more clear. And they make better decisions when they leave. And when they graduate. So they know that they do want to do grad school or they don't want to do credit school. I have a number of students that are go on and get PhDs, sometimes they'll do dual degrees. So an MD, PhD, they'll do professional school. So they might go to medical school, they might decide they want a master's in public health. Some students will go directly into industry after graduating and then go on to grad school. Some students might go to grad school, then go into industry, but many of them will pursue some added level of credentialing. So grad school or professional school, and it's very rare that I have a student who's engaged in undergraduate research who doesn't graduate. Sure. So they the vast majority of students will graduate from college, and they'll go on, but what I do notice is that the students who do get involved in our programs, attend graduate and professional school at a much higher rate, because of that competence piece, but also because their faculty mentors are telling them this is something that you can do. It feels more achievable and more reachable. Yeah.

Venkat Raman  27:39  

And if they're asking good questions, they want answers. Yeah.

Susan M  27:43  

Exactly.

Venkat Raman  27:48  

We got connected through CUR. So I want to ask you, what do you think of CUR with respect to your undergraduate programs? How are they helping you? What kind of support you?

Susan M  28:04  [CUR’s Role]

Yeah, so counseling undergraduate research has been is the main way in which I connect with colleagues all over the country. So I mentioned earlier that at whatever institution, a student goes to someone's going to be involved in undergraduate research. And there are a lot of us that coordinate these programs. And it allows connecting with a larger organization helps us think about what we're doing here, what we can do better and how we can share the knowledge that we generate our own institution. incurr does a great job at that. CUR's, also a fabulous place for our students who are involved in undergraduate research to connect with other students, especially at emcor, NCUR which is their student kind of focused conference. And other opportunities, like posters on the hill where a student could go to go to DC and present their work to Congress and congressional aides. So that tends to be with her how we work with that organization is to provide the connections and the support. The other piece that was incredibly helpful just with navigating the pandemic, is trying to think through with colleagues how to support students when there's a crisis. So for all of us higher education changed. And so to think through it, how can we share ideas and maybe collectively support our students across colleges and universities? And that was fantastic. I'm very grateful for those opportunities.

Venkat Raman  29:38  

You know, you mentioned a few examples of different types of students and disciplines and research, talked about the music talked about the protest music kind of research. What a couple of success stories, you know, I hate using the word success, but you know, stories that are positive, maybe have some vignettes. That. That might just illustrate the point.

Susan M  30:05  [Success Stories]

Yeah, so I was thinking about this a little bit earlier today, one of my favorite stories to tell is a lot of times, research questions connect things that are seemingly disparate. So they don't seem like they would connect, but they do. We had a student a number of years ago, who was she was a performance major. So her her instrument was the oboe. And she was both a performance major, and she was a physics major. And one of the things she started asking questions about was how oboe reeds are carved. So I am not, I am not a musician, so I might get this wrong. So for folks listening, please be generous.

But what she would describe as a lot of my time is spent carving my oboe Reed, and that's something that oboists will do is they'll carve their raid, and there are different techniques and doing that. So there's a US technique, and there's a technique in Europe as well. And one of the things she started wondering was, how does the carving the technique of carving the read, changed, not just the sound of the music? But what does it look like through my physics lens? And how do I measure that. And so she pulled a couple of her faculty together, Bose, the person who she worked with in terms of performance, and so on, who specialized in acoustics, and they had never those faculty members had never met each other, let alone work together. And they started exploring this project. And it turns into something that was a couple years long that the student explored, she traveled over to France, she, you know, traveled throughout the US to explore, you know, what really is the impact. And what I liked and why that is a success story for me is she was able to take an interest in a question that didn't fit neatly in a major or neatly within the disciplines.

And she's currently pursuing her PhD in musicology. And so it was a way for her to integrate her interests. And anytime a student can find meaning, that to me is is the epitome of a success story. And probably some of the other ones I think about our students who have one student in particular, who's graduating this year, who struggled in the classroom. So they were there someone who really struggled with some of how higher education is designed. And she identifies as neurodiverse. And it just didn't work for her the the structuring of lessons and the timing and the deadlines. And so she's on paper, someone who struggled a little bit more academically. But once the student got into the lab did phenomenally, and so having the ability to engage in research brought meaning to the work that was being done in the classroom, but also helped her navigate what of her major look like. And this is someone who else who's going on to do a PhD in organic chemistry, and I don't think that would have happened in that traditional classroom environment. That didn't, not all the concepts clicked until she was doing the concepts, and always in conversation about it with her faculty mentor. So I think with success stories, it's oftentimes someone will ask like, what's the success piece? And that might be a publication or a presentation or, you know, a performance, but it's also these other pieces where folks make meaning with the research question or what they want to do long term. The other one I mentioned a little bit earlier, was the graphic novel, that talked about, you know, archaeological concepts. That was something that I just was floored by because of the intersection of the different backgrounds of the students and how they work together to develop this, this thing, right, this product, that we're looking at publishing, so they can be used in high schools. That's fantastic. But it's those side conversations that are kind of outside of the classroom where these ideas are kind of where the genesis of these ideas are. So that's another reason why for students, you know, listen and observe and ask questions, because you'd be surprised where they lead.

Venkat Raman  34:46  

One of the conversations I've had with a number of your peers is, you know, a lot of students come into college not knowing what they want to do. Right. This is a pretty high percentage now. Do you think or what's the best way for them, you know, to get into research of the sky and to explore if something is for them or not. Right? And so you guys find a lot of that you encourage that. I'm assuming you weren't. But speak to that, where we have thoughts on that.

Susan M  35:21  [UG Research for the Undeclared]

Yeah, so I probably use my experience as a little bit of an example. And then I have another student, I think I want to reference. So when I started my undergraduate career, I, I thought I wanted to be a journalist, and I had my first, you know, my first class in journalism, I love to write, but I didn't necessarily like talking to people. So you know, it's that clarification of unpaper, this thing makes sense. But in reality, it doesn't. Same type of thing. I went on study abroad did a research experience. I love doing the research. But it wasn't what I wanted to do long term. So it gave me joy in the moment, but doing it long term wasn't something that really spoke to me. And so every time I'd have one of those pivots, I would look for another experience where I can do the thing. So I can see if it's what I like. So I think getting out and having those experiences is critical. I had a student who was one in one of our summer programs a few years ago, and we live, our institution is very close to Lake Michigan, it's about 30 minutes away. And this particular student was focused on Aquatic Biology. And so she was in the lakes, she was studying fish with another faculty member. And we were talking at the end of the summer. And she had a fantastic experience. She did all the right things. She had a great research experience, she went to poster competition. But as we were talking, she's like, I do not want to do this long term. And so we were talking like, what do you want to do, I like talking to kids about fish, I like doing this other piece of it. And she didn't even know that was a job until she had this research experience. And she was interacting, some of the folks who are educators, but doing education on Aquatic Biology. And so I think getting the opportunity to try to explore a particular task or a particular profession or a particular vocation is really critical for students, and then deciding I like it, I like aspects of it, or I don't like it at all, having the courage to say that out loud. So not just to them, you know, not just to their faculty, but they need to hear themselves in that as well saying, I don't think I want to do this piece. That's an okay thing. That is an okay thing. And I don't think we give permission to ourselves and the others, to have those difficult conversations. And to realize the dream that you might have had since you were five might not be what you thought it was. And that's an okay thing.

Venkat Raman  38:14  

Well, that's fantastic. I mean, I think just those avenues for exploration, I think, are fantastic. And, and as you said that it's okay to go try it out. And if you don't like it, move on.

Okay, so Susan, we are going to start winding down. So what I'd like for you to share us some advice for high schoolers, how you think they ought to think about research and how more importantly, what kind of skills should they be working on? What kinds of things should they be working on? So that they can, you know, get on campus and start enjoying the research?

Susan M  38:59  [Advice for High Schoolers]

is a challenging question, because my answer now probably would be very different than it would have been a couple of years ago. So I think for high schoolers, who are coming onto campus, their high school experience has been so different. And one of the skills that I think is really important is thinking about how your high school experience has shaped who you are as a college first year student. And really asking questions of the people around you who have been on campus, whether that's an upper you know, an upperclassman, someone who's a sophomore, junior or your faculty member. The asking those questions are really, really critical. So you're getting good information and not making assumptions about what college life should be. So I give that advice to all first year students, including my own kiddo who's going to be going on to college. In terms of getting involved in how to get involved, it's really starting to have those conversations with your faculty about what your interests are. So it's sharing that you, you want to go into video game design, or you might want to be a dentist or you might want to be a teacher, it's sharing those kind of hopes with your faculty in getting some advice and insight into what that might look like. That's that's probably going to be key. And I'm going to I'm going to add, the one thing about podcasts as you can't see my hands moving in the nonverbals. So I have something I'm going to add to that we're going to put it over here at a parking lot for a moment. But to have this conversations of faculty, I always advise students to have a notebook. So whether that's a stop it small notebook that you keep in your backpack, if you are someone who uses an iPad, and you have maybe a small file, you can save to the side and start writing down things that are interesting. And things that that feed you that you pay attention to if you're going to nerd out about a particular topic, something that you see in the news. Or maybe you see on Instagram or you see on tick tock, make a note of what that thing is and start paying attention to where your curiosity is. And collect that information. Because that's going to be helpful, as you start to think about what you want to do what you want to study what questions you have about the world around you. That'll help you start collecting those things and paying attention to what you're curious about. Sure. So if if your your listeners are going, I don't know what I'm curious about, start paying attention and see what's out there. Because that's the part when I work with first year students, they get stuck a little bit, they're not sure. And it's easier for us to have a conversation if you're starting to think about that a little bit. The caveat I want to add is I think the skills that students need to work on, there are three of them. One is paying attention to their own curiosity, right, that's that notebook piece. I really want to encourage your students to pay attention to what they consume. So in terms of social media, how they learn about things, we think about feeding our bodies and making sure that, you know, you're eating healthier, not too many carbs, or, you know, drinking water everyday. They're those physically healthy things. But they're also these mentally healthy pieces, where I encourage students to think about how you're curating what you're feeding your brain. And what you're reading what's interesting and be intentional about that. The last piece to work on is how to engage in conversation with those around you. Everyone does it differently. So it doesn't have to be walking physically to a faculty members office and having that conversation. It could be email. And it may be email, maybe through Blackboard is kind of the the portal that we use for our classrooms. Maybe it's more comfortable in that way. But recognize where you feel comfortable, use that to your advantage, but also work on the places where you're not as comfortable and be very open with folks about your preferred way of communicating and trying to meet them partway. That's one of those pieces where I see with incoming students is that they don't feel comfortable, maybe having a physical conversation with someone, so they don't engage in the conversation at all. And so thinking about ways in which they can talk with their faculty, they can contact an office like mine.

Susan M  44:02  

To get more information, that's a great place to begin. So again, it's thinking about what makes you curious when you want to ask questions about recording those pieces, and then figuring out how to share that is incredibly important. And this is, this is what why we're here. We're here because we care about students, we want to help them be their best selves and to realize all the possibilities that are out there. But you can only discover those through letting us know what you're interested in and through asking questions. So I think those are the biggest pieces and those might feel very squishy to some students. They don't seem as specific but those are the hurdles that are tricky. And there's a lot of programs across university campuses where there are our mentors that are upper class students. There might be fat For the mentors, take it, take those opportunities, so you can get a little bit of guidance. This stuff isn't easy. And we're here to help you as much as we can.

Venkat Raman  45:12  

Now, those great words of advice, I mean, I think I really like the whole idea of, you know, noting down. You know, what you consume, mentally, I think that is really, really apt. It's also sort of you figure out how you're learning things or how you're getting curious. And, and conversation communication. Yeah. So Susan, this has been fantastic. I mean, I really appreciate you taking the time. We touched on some very interesting areas. And I'm sure, I'd like to come back and talk some more about some of these, but for right now, they care be safe. Thank you so much.

Susan M  45:52  

You as well, I appreciate the opportunity. Sure. Okay. Okay.

--------------------

Venkat  45:58 

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Prof Susan Mendoza of Grand Valley State University about Undergraduate Research.

Specifically, Prof. Mendoza covered:

  • Role of UG Research in clarifying what the student wants to do long-term;
  • UG Research infrastructure and resources available to their students and faculty;
  • Student Success Stories;
  • Finally, advice to high schoolers on the skills needed to do research

I hope you pursue research during your undergraduate years and explore GVSU for your undergraduate studies.

For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [podcast@almamatters.io].

Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters] to check us out.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

Summary Keywords

Podcast for High Schoolers, College Majors, US Colleges, College Podcast, Undergraduate Research Podcast, UG Research Podcast, High School Students, College-bound UG Research, undergraduate research, Grand Valley State University, Michigan, GVSU, Ask a Good Question.


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