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Podcast

Episode Notes | Transcript | AskTheGuest

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

Timothy O’Neil is the Asst. Director, Undergraduate Enrichment Programs at University of Colorado, Boulder.

Tim discovered undergraduate research as a student at Oklahoma State University. A peer introduced him to this idea of partnering with Faculty and doing research. Tim graduated with 3 different UG degrees -  in English, History and Political Science, each one with a thesis project.

Today, Tim champions and coordinates UG Research at the U of Colorado, Boulder.

Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:

  1. Research is Teachable
  2. Students Begin UGR
  3. CUR’s Role
  4. Research Impact
  5. Advice for High Schoolers

Episode Notes

Episode Title: Timothy O’Neil of U of Colorado, Boulder on UG Research: Relational Activity.

Tim discovered undergraduate research as a student at Oklahoma State University when a peer introduced him to this idea of partnering with Faculty and doing research. Tim graduated with 3 different UG degrees -  in English, History and Political Science, each one with a thesis project.

Today, Tim champions and coordinates UG Research at the U of Colorado, Boulder.

On our podcast, Tim O’Neil talks about UG Research at UC Boulder, the role CUR plays, Impact of Research on Students, and finally the Advice for high schoolers.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introducing Tim O’Neil, University of Colorado Boulder [0:46]
  • Hi Fives - Podcast Highlights [1:59]
  • Professional Background [4:49]
  • Personal UG Experience [8:42]
  • Research is Teachable [12:18]
  • Tim’s Role [15:39]
  • Introducing Students to UG Research [17:09]
  • Research Infrastructure [18:54]
  • Student Distribution [22:00]
  • CUR’s Role [24:21]
  • Success Stories - The Lightbulb Moment [27:23]
  • Research Impact on Students [31:31]
  • What’s Next? [33:20]
  • Advice for High Schoolers [35:16]

Our Guest: Timothy O’Neil is the Asst. Director, Undergraduate Enrichment Programs at University of Colorado, Boulder. Tim received the Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science, History and English from Oklahoma State University. He then earned his Master’s degree in English at Oklahoma State University.

Memorable Quote: “ And yes, everybody can do academic research. We do research all the time, intuitively as we engage with the world. And we bring up prior experience and apply critical thinking. And we're engaging in that activity all the time.” Timothy O’Neil.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.

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Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

<Start Snippet> Tim  O  0:14  

And so I developed the light bulb moment initiative to sort of recenter some of our conversation about undergraduate research. More around that moment of insight where a student is, is starting that story not knowing and feeling that deficit or lack of belonging that is so common.

Venkat  0:46  [Introducing Timothy O’Neil, UC Boulder]

That is Timothy O’Neil Asst. Director, Undergraduate Enrichment Programs at University of Colorado, Boulder.

Hello, I am your host, Venkat Raman.

Tim discovered undergraduate research as a student at Oklahoma State University.

A peer introduced him to this idea of partnering with Faculty and doing research.

Tim graduated with 3 different UG degrees -  in English, History and Political Science, each one with a thesis project.

Today, Tim champions and coordinates UG Research at the U of Colorado, Boulder.

Venkat Raman  1:31

Tim O’Neil joins us on our podcast to talk about UG Research at UC Boulder, the role CUR plays, Impact of Research on Students, and finally the Advice for high schoolers.

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

Tim O  1:59  [Highlights - Hi Fives]

[Research is Teachable]

Everybody can do academic research, we do research all the time, intuitively as we engage with the world. And we we bring up prior experience and apply critical thinking. And we're engaging in that activity all the time.

[Students Begin UGR]

I really encourage students to think about these experiences and opportunity to explore their interest. And in a way that sort of disrupt some of their traditional sort of thinking about research, which is typically that they need to pursue research once they've really figured out who they are, what they want to do and what they want to accomplish.

[CUR’s Role]

CUR is just the central to undergraduate research they the kind of scholarship that is cultivated in their publications spurred scholarship and practice of undergraduate research are incredibly helpful that they issue white papers that I use in advocacy on campus that I could probably go on and on about CUR.

 

[Research Impact]

that one of the major outcomes that is confidence and self efficacy, this, this feeling of belonging and competency within your community. And to me these are the major outcomes of an undergraduate research experience.

[Advice for High Schoolers]

And because my advice is pretty simple for students thinking about this and really just thinking about making the most of their undergraduate education is to build relationships. And the best advice I have with everyone peers, TAs those teaching assistants and, and faculty.

Venkat Raman  4:08

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

Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Venkat Raman  4:19

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

So without further ado, here is the Asst. Director Timothy O’Neill!

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

Venkat Raman  4:30  

If you're ready, we can jump right in.

Tim O  4:34  

Yes, I'm happy to chat.

Venkat Raman  4:38  

Awesome. So maybe the best place to start is with your background. Tell us a little bit about yourself your professional background and then we can jump right into the topic.

Tim O  4:49  [Professional Background]

Certain certainly, when I talk to students I often begin by mentioning that I am a first generation college student from the Oklahoma City metro area. And I attended Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. I was introduced to undergraduate research by appear and encouraged to seek out opportunities like that, in partnership with faculty. And that really is the beginning of of my professional story is that very personal moment of figuring so much out in partnership with faculty and working with these, these marvelous mentors at Oklahoma State. And so I did a lot of undergraduate research as a student, and graduated with three different degrees. I did a lot of academic work, and I did thesis projects and all of these areas. And so I often mentioned students that, you know, my my enthusiasm for undergraduate research goes way back to my own experiences with it. And so despite all of that, and I mentioned all of that, in part to set up the next part of my story, despite all of that academic work, I had not applied to graduate school, I, it was not something that I had the confidence or felt I had the resources to pursue, and really had had no idea what to do about it. And but I had been encouraged by a mentor on campus there in Stillwater, who had encouraged me to apply for a fellowship. And I did, mostly to make him happy and and just just put it in. But through a lack of resources, and mostly self confidence, I actually didn't apply to graduate school at all, I just applied to this fellowship. And I had no expectation of getting it, but I did, and it turned, turned my world upside down there for a while and redirected my path to graduate school. I stayed at Oklahoma State for my graduate studies, and eventually graduated with a master's in English. Notice during that experience, as a graduate student that I really started to become involved with, with the operation on that campus, an office called scholar development, that had been really essential to my own development as an undergraduate researcher. And I had the privilege of this fellowship to give my time to some of these efforts. And it was really and working as a graduate assistant in that office. With those folks over there that I really gained a passion for working in higher education and creating these kinds of experiences for students from all over the place, and it's it's provided many exciting twists and turns along the way.

Venkat Raman  8:23  

Did three majors, three thesis. Maybe some, one of those who want to share, what it was about from an undergraduate research point of view, and why it made a difference to you?

Tim O  8:42  [Personal UG Experience]

Oh, I appreciate that question. It's, it's what I'm not asked very often even I do mention that, that big list. And, and I think it's important for a really key outcome of undergraduate research experiences is that I often like to tell students that they this is an invitation to do some self discovery, to explore a piece of yourself and your experience and your context. And that's really what I did that that wasn't necessarily some broad plan. But my thesis work as an undergraduate came out on my personal experience and so in political science, I did a statewide polling project, studying party affiliation throughout the state of Oklahoma. And it was it was a fascinating experience involved. Many of my peers back in the day before everyone had a cell phone in your pocket we would take over the political science department in the evening and and all of the the faculty members offices and have my peers making phone halls and I learned so much about my home state and talking to people from literally every county and doing a lot of that work. And it was a, it was fascinating for me and, and, and over in history and English I, I studied a lot of early American literature, studying a lot of pieces of just my own curiosity. And in national defense development, and studying subjects like Jonathan Edwards of work was just fascinating to me and his life presented many questions that I was able to pursue, by working with faculty in both the history and English department and develop a real interest in book history. And studying literacy and why people read what they read, and, and all those sorts of things. So yeah, it's my story with with reach searches is deeply personal. And it's something that I encourage students now to ask faculty on their campuses about because it typically is the work they do is driven by their own curiosities and interests. And I find many, many of these people doing this work, have similar stories and, and to provide that cool piece of connection for students.

Venkat Raman  11:56  

Obviously, that's sort of a very integral and personal part of you now, is this something that you believe is very teachable? Now, you know, do you think everybody can learn to do some research? Or is it? Is it something that folks have to have a certain inclination for?

Tim O  12:18  [Research is Teachable]

I would say, it's a fascinating question, and it has a really simple answer, and is everybody can do academic research. We do research all the time, intuitively as we engage with the world. And we we bring up prior experience and apply critical thinking. And we're engaging in that activity all the time. And one of the things I do on campus at CU Boulder is run a workshop series called The Curiosity lab. And in those discussions, one of the things that we talk about, is is all of the incredibly specific, wonderful benefit that your identity brings to every single question. In the whole academic discourse. We talk quite a bit about leveraging your own ways of knowing those pieces of your experience and background and heritage, that give you a unique way of approaching information and knowledge. And, and then using your, what I like to call your your intersectional lens, that very specific composition of identity that is you and unique to you. And that provides you a unique perspective on absolutely everything. And so, as I talk to students, the the expectation or is that the the necessity for doing research, the essential sort of profile is academic excellence or even perfection. And it is very much not that because of all of the the skill and unique perspective that you carry with you as an individual. And also understanding that the academic enterprise, all research and creative work is is a conversation and it's a relational activity. And so, the skills for entry into you know, contributing roles in this work are are relational their communication skills, they're things that students have that have nothing to do with their GPA or their test scores. And that really sets them up for success. And the end gives them the opportunity to learn on many of those technical skills that they may feel as a deficit entering some of those spaces.

Venkat Raman  15:29  

So very good. So what is your role at University of Colorado Boulder with respect to undergraduate research?

Tim O  15:39  [Tim’s Role]

So my title technically is the Assistant Director of Undergraduate enrichment programs. And our office is the home of two scholars support programs norlane And betcha scholars. These are big group of students who are on merit based scholarships and engaged with us in activities throughout their time at CU. And most of my time is really spent managing the other half of our operations, which is the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, or year up on our campus, as well as another funding source on a program called the professional and academic conference, endowment or pace. And so through those programs, I work with colleagues throughout the university, and student programming roles in other program roles and provide resources support all kinds of things throughout the CU Boulder campus.

Venkat Raman  16:54  

So at what stage do students you know, start doing undergraduate research? Is it something that you see happening, right, in the freshman year? Or is it in the later years? How do you see this today?

Tim O  17:09  [Introducing Students to UG Research]

I really see the majority of the undergraduate research activity taking place in the latter half of a student's career. That's what typically happens as students enter kind of the latter phases of, of their degree programs where they're taking on maybe design projects, capstones, thesis, work. And it really starts to solidify their thinking about some of these things. I do really encourage students to consider these topics much earlier. And we do provide resources and support for students throughout their time at CU Boulder through a wide range of programs, workshops, and funding sources. But I really encourage students to think about these experiences and opportunity to explore their interest. And in a way that sort of disrupt some of their traditional sort of thinking about research, which is typically that they need to pursue research once they've really figured out who they are, what they want to do and what they want to accomplish. But, buddy, I really I do encourage them to think about these experiences as something that will help them figure some of those questions out and move them forward along the way.

Venkat Raman  18:41  

What is the what are the UROP program actually do? I mean, how is it set up? Or how is it structured?

Tim O  18:54  [Research Infrastructure]

Certainly, we are primarily a funding source on our campus. So we provide pretty significant amount of funding to undergraduates. Each year, something about 350 $400,000 A year is paid out through our grants programs. And those are paid in a variety of ways some directly to students working in assistantship type roles and apprenticeship kind of setup. Working with faculty in any field of study. We also have funding for students who are taking more ownership of their work and and articulating proposals and submitting projects that that they've put some design into. And we also have some fat, more faculty driven funding models where faculty are applying for funding in something like an REU where they they secure funds and then recruit students on the team So those are our funding mechanisms. And one of the primary ways that our office support students through Europe, PACE is very similar resource, but specific to conferences and exhibitions. So it's a funding resource for students who are presenting and exhibiting work at professional and academic conferences. But yeah, our office because it is the university's only university wide undergraduate research program. We play a central role in informing students about opportunities, providing workshops, mentoring resources, and just generally a hub of information about undergraduate research and creative work on CU. Boulder campus.

Venkat Raman  20:56  

Absolutely. So, so when, when you talk about funding the students see, so they submit a proposal and you guys review that and, you know, make decisions, is that kind of how it works?

Tim O  21:12  

Yes, it's a pretty straightforward process and which students tell us some information about their proposed work. And we have a team of faculty and staff on our on our campus who review all of our proposals and and then make we make our funding decisions and pay our students and those funds are typically pretty flexible. We pay stipends that allow students to pay all kinds of expenses, whether they're related to the project or not.

Venkat Raman  21:51  

If you can give me a feel for how what percentage maybe of students end up getting such awards or grants.

Tim O  22:00  [Student Distribution]

Sure, it's, it's probably not surprising to hear that undergraduate research is concentrated in STEM. And so the majority of our proposals from undergraduates are coming in and say the life bio sciences, engineering fields, and many other fields within that stem umbrella. But CU Boulder is a comprehensive institution. And we do have a fairly significant number of undergraduates doing research and creative work and a wide range of fields, from the social and behavioral sciences, business. We've got students doing theater and art and music, language and all kinds of different things. At a smaller ratio, but really, in some ways, not all that disproportionate to the proportion of those majors within the institution. It's a little hard to put a put a number on, on the overall percentage, like how many students overall participate in undergraduate research before they graduate, in part because we do have a large number of programs on our campus that that provide these opportunities in a variety of different ways. So it's, it's a vibrant community, I find that there, there are significant enough opportunities that the students who are seeking them out find a place and they have an opportunity to take advantage of some of that act academic and creative life that that is really afforded by attending an institution like CU Boulder so

Venkat Raman  24:07  

How does CUR help you? And help the undergraduate research at U Colorado Boulder? How does it support you guys?

Tim O  24:21  [CUR’s Role]

Welker has been essential to me as a professional community throughout my experience, managing programs. So in the last 15 years or so, I've learned so much from from my colleagues at conferences, workshops and all kinds of different events. And, and, and so, for me, they've been essential. The work of undergraduate research programming on a particular campus is often feels isolated because you're often the only person doing that kind of role. Your campus and so Koror as a community is is wonderful in that all of these people understand what you're talking about. And they've got advice and resources and all kinds of wonderful support it in those ways, and sure, and so for me, it's, it's been essential in that way that they also, you know, provide opportunities for you as a program manager to to really engage students and faculty, and a wide range of professional development activities and enrichment activities, through incur the Conference on Undergraduate Research or all kinds of different opportunities for students. And so it to me it Currer is is just the central to undergraduate research, they the kind of scholarship that is cultivated in their publications, spurred the scholarship and practice of undergraduate research are incredibly helpful that they issue white papers that I use a an advocacy on campus that I could probably go on and on about Kerr and I have the I have the privilege of serving on the Programs Division where I get to work really closely with with other counselors and all kinds of different projects. And so yeah, just cannot say enough about that professional community, and how supportive everyone has been.

Venkat Raman  26:54  

So Tim, maybe if you could share a couple of interesting or relevant stories more like I call them success stories that you might have experienced over the last decade or so with students, students doing undergraduate research, how it maybe impacted them, or, you know, something that you think was really noteworthy.

Tim O  27:23  [Success Stories - The Lightbulb Moment]

I had been thinking about this question and wondering like, how am I going to pull a couple of stories out of the last decade and a half? Right. And, and so I, you know, one of the things that I've been thinking about is, is a, an outreach effort that that I started here at CU Boulder, we call it the the light bulb moment initiative. And it's, it's a, it's about storytelling. And one of the things about it is that sort of comes from my experience of all of these success stories over the last decade and a half. And noticing patterns in those stories. And so I developed the light bulb moment initiative to sort of recenter some of our conversation about undergraduate research, more around that moment of insight where a student is, is starting that story, not knowing and feeling that deficit or lack of belonging that is so common to our experiences, undergraduates, as students as people, and then experiencing in the performance of work under the mentorship of faculty, a moment of insight, you know, I call it it's just their little light bulb moment where they have figured out some piece of who they are, by engaging with, with their discipline with the people in their communities. And, and it's, it's, it's so interesting to me, what hat what sort of comes from that, that recentering away from, say, the project outcomes? Yeah, because as we think about outreach, and we present these amazing success stories, we tell stories about students who have been first generation students, and then they win prestigious fellowships. They go on to graduate school and do PhDs and many amazing things. But I really like to highlight that in most of these narratives, really, regardless of a student's background. There has their sincere surprise at their own success. It's, it feels sort of external to them as you talk to them about it and And, and so I like to draw some attention to some of that as we talk about students success is that those those feelings of deficit that you're feeling are, are more universal than you realize. And those students who you seem to, yeah, who seem to have it all together and have it all figured out. Probably be surprised when you talk to them about it, that, that they have all those same feelings to, and they can credit, you know, much of their success by by engaging with their community and talking to people and sharing those stories. So, so that's really my way of kind of deflecting your, your question a little bit. But yeah, it's just so many stories, so many stories.

Venkat Raman  31:04  

So what kind of change, Do you think you see, Have you observed in the students, right, as they go through the process, though? I mean, maybe it's a different way of asking, without getting into stories? How do you, if you were to generalize, what are some of the top things that these kids or students end up acquiring?

Tim O  31:31  [Research Impact on Students]

I love this question, because I really think it it's surprising for undergraduates, but it's, it feels almost intuitive, and almost too obvious to even think about, for us, as faculty and staff is to is that one of the major outcomes, that is confidence, and self efficacy, this, this feeling of belonging, and competency within your community. And, to me, these are the major outcomes of an undergraduate research experience. We can also highlight, you know, the all of the transferable skills that you acquire, in working with people, that that, that have that work, regardless of discipline, those abilities to communicate, to work as a team, manage your time, all of these things come out of those experiences and empower students, and also support, you know, the confidence and self efficacy. And all of that, of course, is is intertwined with with gaining technical abilities in your field of study and, and being having the opportunity to apply them as you're learning them, gives you that that unique perspective on that learning experience.

Venkat Raman  33:03  

So what's next at? at you, Colorado, for research for undergraduate research? What, what are some of the things that you think can be accomplished beyond where you guys are?

Tim O  33:20  [What’s Next?]

I think, see, Boulder has a vibrant community of is a place with in which a lot of research and creative work takes place. But participation, as we talked about earlier, is a little uneven. So we don't necessarily have the same level of participation and in the social and behavioral sciences as we do in STEM. And some of that has to do with what students understand about all of that, as they enter the institution as they matriculate when, what do they know about undergraduate research and creative work? And I think one of the most exciting things for me coming for CU Boulder is the development of a common curriculum that really emphasizes some key pieces of this narrative around experiential learning and undergraduate research, discovery, reflection, engagement. It is as well as critical thinking and information literacy. So it's a it's an exciting thing for me to see the campus thinking about some of these things and cultivating some of these habits of mind that really lend themselves to conversations about engagement with the academic and creative life of the institution.

Venkat Raman  34:54  

So, Tim, we're going to start to wind down here but before we sign off I wanted you to share some advice for high schoolers or college bound students. What kind of skills? Should they be developing or working on? Looking at for research?

Tim O  35:16  [Advice for High Schoolers]

Yeah, I love this question too. And because my advice is pretty simple for students thinking about this, and really just thinking about making the most of their undergraduate education is to build relationships. It's the best advice I have, with everyone. Fears. TAs, those teaching assistants and, and faculty, as intimidating as these folks often are. I encourage students over and over again, to get to know their faculty, whether it's an office hours, or after class, or just scheduling a meeting. It's a, it's one of the most sure pathways to engagement with the academic and creative life of the university is to build relationships with people doing that work. And it also, it's also the skills that you need to succeed in that work. It because one of the things I talked about with undergraduate researchers, it's a relational activity. It's about working with other people. And so my best advice to students thinking about success in these areas is really to do invest in relationships, and get to know people stress themselves a little bit. I you know, kind of embrace the not knowing for a while, one of the things I like to tell students is that if everybody is sort of in the Netflix dilemma, as they enroll as undergrads, it there are overwhelming number of options ahead of them. Most are unknown. And the only sure way to know what's out there is to start exploring. And the way I encourage students to explore is to develop those relationships in their communities.

Venkat Raman  37:24  

Absolutely. So Tim, was great sound advice. Awesome conversation. Thank you so much for and I know we had a little starting trouble, but I think we had a great conversation. So thank you again, and I'm sure I want to talk to you more in the future. But for right now, take care be safe. Thank you so much.

Tim O  37:48  

Yes, thank you. Take care.

Venkat Raman  37:51  

Take care.

Venkat Raman  37:52  

Bye.

Tim O  37:53  

Bye.

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

Venkat  37:59 

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Timothy O’Neil about Undergraduate Research at University of Colorado Boulder.

Specifically, Tim covered:

  • Tim’s experience with UG Research;
  • Impact of UG Research;
  • CUR’s Role;
  • Funding UG Research via UROP - Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program;
  • Finally, advice to high schoolers on the skills needed to do research

I hope you pursue research during your undergraduate years and explore UC Boulder 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, University of Colorado Boulder, UROP, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, Light Bulb Initiative.


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