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Game Changer

Undergraduate research celebrates two decades of excellence, national honor

Twenty years ago, Bridgewater State College President Emerita Adrian Tinsley challenged five faculty members to create undergraduate research opportunities for students. They accepted the challenge, and today BSU offers one of the top undergraduate research programs in the country.

President Frederick W. Clark Jr., Provost Karim Ismaili, Assistant Provost Jenny Shanahan, Adrian Tinsley Program Coordinator Thayaparan Paramanathan, and other members of the BSU community, were on hand in Washington, D.C., recently to collect an award from the Council on Undergraduate Research, which recognized BSU’s Adrian Tinsley Program (ATP) as a top-tiered undergraduate research program.

“I’m very thankful and blessed to have been able to be a small part of this. Many faculty have helped the program grow and expand…they all deserve to be recognized for their contributions,” said Professor Kevin Curry. He is part of the initial team tasked with creating an undergraduate program at BSU. Professors Edward Brush, Peter Saccocia, Ann Brunjes, and former history Professor Andrew Harris are the others.

As the program grew, in 2006, under President Dana Mohler-Faria, there was a significant budget increase and the establishment of the Office of Undergraduate Research. Dr. Lee Torda was appointed founding director of the program.

“Undergraduate research was really moved forward by Lee. She was a tireless advocate for undergraduate research and instrumental in getting legs under the program…she grew it to the incredibly viable program that it is today,” said Dr. Pamela Russell, associate provost for academic and faculty affairs. 

According to Saccocia, from the beginning, many faculty members were already mentoring student-researchers prior to the establishment of ATP. They were excited when Tinsley provided them with the resources to develop the critical contours of the new program and the ways in which it would function.

As they brainstormed, these founding faculty members made sure to include the entire campus.

“From the beginning we cast a wide net, inviting all faculty from all disciplines to participate in the creation and development of our program,” Brunjes said. “We have created a program that provides opportunities for students and faculty in all disciplines.”

That, Shanahan said, is why the ATP program has been so successful.

“Because undergraduate research at BSU was designed and led from its beginnings by faculty in the humanities as well as the sciences, it has developed over the years as a truly disciplinarily diverse program,” she said. “We have a program that reflects and contributes to the vibrancy of scholarly work across the university and broader world.”

ATP provides resources for many different models of undergraduate research including course-based experiences that take place during the semester and the more intensive summer research experiences.

Undergraduate researchers gain highly valued experience and skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and communication, making them outstanding candidates for competitive post-graduation opportunities.

Now that BSU is a model for other schools to follow, the work in undergraduate research programming isn’t over. Bridgewater will continue to seek out new ways to provide even more opportunities.

“I’m glad to see the program continue on the trajectory we set out on 20 years ago,” Brunjes said. “The BSU undergraduate research program is a gem. I am thankful for having the opportunity to contribute to it over the last two decades and look forward to more involvement in the decades to come.”

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