Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity

Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity (URCA): An Introduction

The pedagogy involved in undergraduate research is fundamentally different from traditional classroom lecture in that student learning is discovery-based, guided by mentoring rather than the transmission of information. It is, therefore, assumed that students engaging in URCA will have a greater opportunity to evaluate information critically, form their own judgments regarding what constitutes knowledge, and learn the value of collaborating with others than those who do not (Five High-Impact Practices, AAC&U monograph, 2010).

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) defines such activities as “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original, intellectual, or creative contribution to the discipline.”  Given CUR’s description as a useful framework, our definition of research and creative activity includes any scholarship undertaken by a student, mentored by a faculty member, in which original scholarly insights, new interpretations or applications of existing knowledge, or creation of new work is clearly in evidence. Ideally, such activity should lead to presentations, publications, and/or performances that are a result of or lead to peer or professional review.

At the core of Gettysburg’s URCA program, therefore, are the following beliefs:

  • All students should be active partners in their learning
  • Students’ abilities to contribute to such learning partnerships develop over time, enhanced by specific experiences in which they choose to engage
  • All students should be encouraged from their first through senior years to participate in a variety of opportunities designed to assist in building upon the knowledge and strengths they’ve previously acquired with the goal of helping them advance to the next stage of their intellectual development
  • Engaging students in learning often requires an intentional collaboration between a student and a mentor such that goals are clearly defined and agreed upon, adequate preparation to undertake the project is secured, results are shared with the campus community, and reflection upon what is learned is deemed essential to each experience.
Internal Opportunities

Mentor-Student Collaboration/Relationship