The School of Foreign Service plans to offer undergraduate students a way to delve deeper into the curriculum through the Mortara Undergraduate Research Fellow program starting next semester.
With the help of the Dean’s Leadership Fund, fellows will be paid $9 per hour to research, collaborating with faculty for semester-long research projects. The pilot version will be open to a mix of 12 freshmen and sophomores. While there are other on-campus opportunities for faculty mentorship, the Mortara program seeks to distinguish itself by retaining its student researchers, according to Dean of the School of Foreign Service Carol Lancaster.
“It is a new opportunity for undergraduates, and this [is] a pilot year,” Lancaster said. “We’ll see how big it gets. It depends on the number of faculty that hope to get involved, but we expect to support three or four students this year.”
Faculty have expressed interest in guiding undergraduates of all levels through the research experience because they hope to breed scholars who understand the world of formal experimentation and analysis.
“The School of Foreign Service has the finest undergraduates studying global affairs in the world, but we don’t always provide our students with a full range of rich intellectual experiences outside the classroom,” said Kathleen McNamara, the director of the Mortara Center and a faculty mentor.
James Vreeland, an associate professor in the SFS, expressed similar sentiments.
“Personally, I am interested in co-authoring papers with students. I find that I can best mentor students through a truly collaborative project,” Vreeland said. “The students also learn what it takes to go through the arduous process of publishing in an academic journal. The standards are high and require devotion to work. On top of that, they get paid for their work.”
Vreeland will be a faculty mentor with the program after acting as one of the key associates in the initiative’s start-up.
Fellows will be required to spend anywhere from 10 to 15 hours per week helping professors with library and online research, editing written work and collecting and analyzing data.
According to McNamara, the participating professors will nominate students from SFS freshman pro-seminar courses during the fall semester.
The original idea was borne out of the visible success of the Carroll Round, the university’s undergraduate economics research conference, she said.
“The Carroll Round has shown that there is appetite and ability for outstanding independent research among undergraduates,” McNamara said. “The fellowship program has the potential to deepen student engagement by empowering them as generators, not just consumers, of knowledge.”
The Mortara fellows’ research is slated to culminate in an Annual Research Colloquium.