The Advantage is a regular series examining the benefits of undergraduate research and creative scholarship. Each edition will explore one of the advantages that participating in undergraduate research can have for undergraduate students.
Vol. I – Career Pathways
Often under appreciated in discussions of undergraduate research and creative scholarship is the opportunity that it provides for career exploration. The most obvious connection here is for students conducting basic research that are interested in staying in academia or getting into similar research in government, industry, or other areas of the private sector. However, much research occurs where the connection to a career is more complex and its disclosure is more subtle. For example, in architecture a student may conduct research on how the structures and layouts of buildings influence human behavior. In doing so he/she is obviously exploring the field of architecture, but this area of research also has ties to fields like behavioral economics, psychology, and business. So, as part of doing this research a student may also have the opportunity to explore careers in other fields.
The example above can easily be applied to research and creative scholarship being conducted within many, if not all of the UO’s schools and colleges. They key thing for students to do in order to recognize this potential is to keep an open mind, view their research from a broad perspective, and follow lines of inquiry that peek their interest even if it deviates from the primary focus of the research project. They key thing for faculty mentors to do is to create the climate where this kind of attitude and culture of inquiry is embraced. Assist the student with understanding how the research fits into the broader picture and how it connects to other disciplines. Encourage their curiosity and use your large network of scholars within the institution and beyond to assist them with their process of discovery, when appropriate.
The inclusion of career exploration as one of its benefits is a great example of the comprehensive learning experience that undergraduate research and creative scholarship provides.