Undergraduate humanities students at the University of California, Merced, will gain valuable research opportunities and support for their transitions into graduate studies and scholarly careers, thanks to a new program that will serve 60 students over the next three years.
The program, funded by a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will be a humanities-based expansion of UC Merced’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC). UROC-Humanities, or UROC-H, will provide structure and support for undergraduates to engage in research, incorporating UROC’s proven methods for success for students from historically underrepresented groups and first-generation college students, who comprise the majority of UC Merced students.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation works with institutions of higher education and culture to strengthen, promote and defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to the well-being of diverse and democratic individuals and societies.
“The generous grant will provide crucial support for research here at UC Merced, supporting our diverse students and helping them develop the skills they need to join the next generation of world-class scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences,” said Jill Robbins, dean of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.
UROC, established in 2013, provides undergraduate students and their faculty mentors with a year-round community of scholarship, including research development activities, workshops focused on success in graduate school, symposia with noted researchers, and travel expenses to attend and present at scholarly conferences.
UROC-H will build on that foundation and incorporate UC Merced’s considerable strength in the humanities — the campus is home to the Center for the Humanities and plans to invest in additional faculty growth in signature areas like inequality, power and social justice.
Each UROC-H fellow will participate in the program for one year, including enrollment in the Summer Research Institute. Some students will design their own research projects with one-on-one mentorship from faculty members, while others will work primarily in faculty-led clusters focused on team-based research.
“This grant will allow for even deeper collaboration and training, and it will bring our graduate students into the process as mentors who model the kind of academic distinction that the program sets as a goal for undergraduates,” Robbins said. “We look forward to future collaborations with Mellon, building on this first initiative.”
UC Merced’s Center for the Humanities will provide faculty and student teams with opportunities for public humanities projects, engaging with local community institutions like the Angels Camp Museum and the Merced County Courthouse Museum.
The center will also work with UROC to prepare three thematic research boot camps during the first week of the summer institute. At the end of the nine-week summer program, students will present their research at UC Merced’s annual Summer Research Symposium; the following fall, UROC-H will sponsor students to present their research at local and national conferences.
And in coordination with the Graduate Division, UROC-H will provide weekly workshops throughout the summer — organized and led by graduate student mentors — on topics such as research ethics, preparing pre-doctoral fellowship proposals and applying to graduate schools.
“We are excited by this opportunity to provide undergraduates in the humanities and the humanistic social sciences with the research experience and academic tools necessary for success in graduate school,” said Vice Provost and Graduate Dean Marjorie Zatz. “Many of them will also have completed fellowship proposals that will give them a big step up as they enter graduate programs.”
All told, the experience students receive in UROC-H should prove invaluable as they progress in their academic and professional careers.
“The Mellon grant provides an opportunity to build on the foundation UROC has established in the past three years, including an outstanding record of support for students’ progress to graduate school,” said Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Elizabeth Whitt. “Through participation in UROC-H, UC Merced students will begin their graduate education with the research skills and, more important, the research experiences necessary to succeed. We are very excited to get started.”
UC Merced opened Sept. 5, 2005, as the newest campus in the University of California system and the first American research university of the 21st century. Situated near Yosemite National Park, the campus significantly expands access to the UC system for students throughout the state, with a special mission to increase college-going rates among students in the San Joaquin Valley. It also serves as a major base of advanced research, a model of sustainable design and construction, and a stimulus to economic growth and diversification throughout the region.