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Highlighting the department fueling undergraduate research | The Triangle

Highlighting the department fueling undergraduate research

Photo by Olivia Maddox | The Triangle

The Undergraduate Research & Enrichment Programs serve as a foundation of academic support and student development within the Pennoni Honors College at Drexel University. With a commitment to guiding students in three crucial areas— undergraduate research, fellowships advising and enrichment programming— UREP plays a crucial role in shaping the educational journey of students at Drexel. 

During an interview with the Triangle, Director Jaya Mohan emphasized her perspective on UREP’s commitment to “support students in intellectual and self-discovery, and engage in transformative experiences,” with an eye towards “building reflective capacity alongside resumes.”

One of the notable opportunities offered by UREP is the Students Tackling Advanced Research Scholars program, which reflects how freshmen at Drexel are not merely encouraged to think about undergraduate research — they are actively presented with opportunities to participate in programs from the outset. This competitive program provides students with an opportunity to complete 350 hours of hands-on research activities, a stipend and free on-campus housing during the summer for their freshman year. 

As Mohan pointed out, it’s “unusual for [an] institution to have [students] think about undergraduate research from the time they set foot on campus.” 

This proactive approach allows freshmen to envision themselves as scholars and researchers, instilling a sense of understanding and possibility from the very beginning of their academic careers.

UREP also offers various funding avenues, including the Undergraduate Research Mini-Grants of up to $2000 annually in the winter and spring quarters, fostering collaboration between faculty and undergraduates. These grants not only provide financial assistance but also help students improve their skills in creating successful application materials for future funding opportunities. Additionally, the program’s dedication to student success is evident through essential financial support via travel grants of up to $500-$750, enabling students to present their work at conferences both locally and internationally. 

Program Manager Roxane Lovell emphasized, “These grants enable students to share their work and engage with the wider academic community.”

Beyond financial support, the program offers one-on-one consultations tailored to meet the diverse needs of undergraduates. Lovell highlights that by taking the time to learn about students’ interests, schedules and limitations, UREP ensures that consultations are designed to match each individual’s requirements. 

Lovell further echoed this by talking about her personal strategy while consulting students: “See what their real interest is, figure out what is going to work with their schedule, send them off with some good strategies to reach out to professors… love [the] full circle of seeing students present their work at conferences.” 

This approach highlights the holistic nature of UREP consultations, tying academic achievement to personal development and fulfillment.

Another aspect of UREP’s vision to support students is fellowships advising. In addition to its well-rounded approach to student development, UREP extends its support to students and alumni in pursuing externally funded, nationally competitive awards. Students can access current and past fellowship opportunities through a meticulously curated database, readily accessible on the UREP website.

Associate Director Leah Gates shed light on the prevailing perception of fellowship opportunities: “A lot of people build up in their mind about the fellowship opportunities being unimaginably competitive.”

Gates gives an example of the Fulbright Scholarship, which maintains a remarkable average selection rate of 1 in 7, particularly in light of the exceptionally talented pool of applicants, when addressing the competitive environment. 

The Goldwater Scholar program stands as another example of successful fellowship applications. The program requires universities to nominate up to 6 applicants every year. Last year, UREP received 16 applications, 5 of which were nominated, and 4 of those students were awarded the Goldwater Scholarship.

Furthermore, Emily Kashka-Ginsburg, associate director, acknowledged the unpredictable nature of fellowship outcomes: “There is so much about results of fellowship that is out of our control.” 

“UREP doesn’t make their success by how many students get the award, but by how students felt throughout the application process, and what they learned about themselves,” Kashka-Ginsburg stressed, highlighting UREP’s impact on students, rather than the number of awards.

Lastly, through its collaboration with faculty, student, and departments across Drexel on a wide range of enrichment programs, UREP promotes the growth of student leaders and facilitates significant connections within the academic community. The Aspire Scholars Program shows UREP’s commitment to developing future leaders by providing students with guidance and skill-building activities, as well as up to $750 in funding to help them thrive in an academic and professional environment.

Nerd Night and the Week of Undergraduate Excellence are two of UREP’s signature enrichment initiatives that promote and celebrate academic achievement to encourage the next generation of researchers. These events provide an opportunity for students to interact with mentors and peers while showcasing their research interests on a wider platform. 

According to Kashka-Ginsburg, the program “assists in student development from when they first show up at Drexel to beyond Drexel.”

​​Gates further highlighted UREP’s commitment to inclusivity by collaborating with the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. These collaborations ensure that all students, irrespective of background, have equal access to academic and research opportunities. Additionally, the program also collaborates with faculty members to host guest lectures and information sessions, expanding students’ horizons and enriching their academic experiences. A recent noteworthy event was the quarterly “Candid Conversation” event held on Feb. 20 2024, in collaboration with the Center for Black Culture, addressing the topic of overcoming perfectionism among Black and Brown women.

UREP is a unique department that actively promotes undergraduate research while moving Drexel’s overall educational and professional experience forward. UREP promotes a culture of inquiry, growth and accomplishment through its creative projects, devoted leadership and dedication to inclusion.