A response to (Re)searching for the Humanities

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Joe Hogan’s October 6 column, “Studies show 79 percent of literature ennobles humanity,” provides an excellent opportunity for the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS) to further address the disparities in the representation of humanities, social sciences and arts in undergraduate research opportunities.

Hogan is correct in acknowledging the discrepancies in the number of undergraduate research opportunities in the sciences compared to those of the humanities, arts, and social sciences. This imbalance is not specific to Grand Valley. The absence of undergraduate research opportunities in humanities, arts and social sciences is a societal issue that exists across many institutions of higher education.

While GVSU’s discrepancies are evident, solely looking at the Undergraduate Research Fair and Student Summers Scholars is not an accurate indicator of the research being conducted by undergraduate students at GVSU. For example, psychology has a vibrant culture of undergraduate research and scholarship nurtured and supported by the faculty. However, this is not represented solely by these two indicators.

To foster more student research in the social sciences, humanities and arts, as Hogan suggests, a stronger culture of student-centered research and faculty-mentor support needs to be established in these disciplines. We also need to better measure and recognize the research that is taking place in these areas.

For disciplines such as chemistry, biology, or mathematics, a culture is often built in their respective department that not only provides opportunities and paths for undergraduate students to engage in research, but in many ways necessitates this process.

It is not to say, however, that all students are not capable of doing research—because they are—but students outside the STEM fields do not always receive the same message that research is an integral part of getting into graduate school or having successful careers

Undergraduate research is applicable, attainable and achievable for all Grand Valley students regardless of their major.

In order to reshape this traditional understanding of research, GVSU is actively taking steps to ensure all disciplines—especially the humanities, social sciences and arts—receive representation and equitable treatment throughout all of the programs Grand Valley offers.

For example, faculty from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with the support of the Dean of CLAS and the director of OURS, are attending the Creative Inquiry in the Arts and Humanities Institute. This Council on Undergraduate Research event focuses on the inclusion and expansion of undergraduate research in the humanities. The goal of sending this group is to better understand and strategize how to recognize and provide institutional support to students conducting research in the humanities.

Additionally, GVSU continues to be a leader is this larger conversation of research in the humanities, social sciences and arts. On the day the Lanthorn published Hogan’s article, OURS hosted a meeting with undergraduate research directors from nine Michigan universities and colleges. A primary topic of conversation included the level and inclusion of undergraduate research in the humanities, social sciences and arts.

In collaboration with OURS, Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center is supporting a Faculty Learning Community (FLC) focused on strategies for conducting qualitative research with undergraduate students. The FLC is exploring effective methods and approaches in preparing and working with undergraduate students in qualitative methods from disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.

These are but a few examples of how GVSU is committed to bridging the disparity Hogan outlines in his article. OURS will continue to partner with these efforts in hopes of increasing accessibility of GVSU undergraduate research opportunities in the humanities, social sciences and arts.

-The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship