While many college students will be spending their summers lying by the beach under a shady umbrella, Rachael Meachem, a native of Wadesboro, and current Gardner-Webb student, has chosen to spend her break working on an extensive project that could potentially shape the course of her academic career.
The Summer Undergraduate Research Scholars Program is specifically designed for students such as Meachem, who are looking to broaden their horizons during the summer months.
“The Undergraduate Research Program’s mission is to involve students and professors in scholarly projects that come to fruition outside the boundaries of the classroom,” Dr. June Hobbs, creator and director of the Summer Scholars program, stated.
Hobbs started the program in 2012 as part of her job as director of undergraduate research. Five years later, the endeavor has rapidly expanded from only one researcher the first summer it was introduced to 10 researchers in the current summer of 2017. Each will complete academic ventures of their own choosing. Over a five-week period, students must work for 40 hours a week on a project ranging anywhere from a scientific experiment to a creative writing project to an assignment combining research with service learning.
Meachem is a rising junior who will conduct a service-learning project focusing on the elementary educational challenges associated with poverty and racial barriers.
According to Hobbs, the enterprise also gives students the opportunity to work closely with a chosen faculty mentor or collaborator in order to produce a project that can be presented in a professional forum, such as presenting at Gardner-Webb’s Life of the Scholar Multidisciplinary Conference, publishing manuscripts in a scholarly journal, exhibiting their work in an art gallery, etc.
The experience is meant to be fully immersive, much like a full-time job, as participants live on campus and meet with their mentors on a weekly basis in order to perfect their individual projects and research their chosen topics. Meachem has chosen Dr. Tom LeGrand, director of the Gardner-Webb University Center for Christian Ethics and Social Responsibility, as her own mentor.
Not only does the undertaking provide students with an opportunity to research a topic related to their field of study, it also benefits students in their future professional endeavors.
“The program is a good springboard into highly competitive graduate programs,” Hobbs said. “It enhances their student experience and professional development as well as the reputation of GWU.”