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March 4, 2003

ULM Students Get Involved Through Mentorship

Students at the University of Louisiana at Monroe have a new way to get involved with research. This spring, a new opportunity has been made available to freshman and sophomores who wish to participate in professional partnerships. This semester's pilot project, Emerging Scholars Program, will provide a model for future projects.

ULM Provost, Steve Richters, and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at ULM, Dr. Carlos Fandal, and faculty volunteers developed this program.

The purpose of the Emerging Scholars Program is to provide professional experience for undergraduate students while engaging them in college life as early as possible. Students who sign up will participate in a project mentored by a faculty member.

"It's a good way to get our students and faculty involved outside the classroom. We want to get across to our students that learning takes place not only inside the classroom, but outside as well," said Richters.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity to bind faculty and students together in scholarly activity. That relationship between the faculty and students is what makes a university and I think it will go a long way in helping ours," said Fandal.

President of ULM, James Cofer, said, "We have been talking about engaging our students here for the last 10 months. This is a great example of how to do that very thing. We want our students to know the minute they enroll in classes that we care about not only their academic achievement, but their personal and professional development as well. By pairing an experienced faculty member with a student new to the college experience, we feel this will have a major impact in keeping that student in school as well as providing an enriching atmosphere for them. We hope to see 100 students enrolled in this program per semester."

Participating students receive a stipend of $400.

Jonathan Gibson, a freshman at ULM is doing his project on student credit card debt. The name of his project is "College Student Credit Usage: A Tool or a Curse". Jonathon says the purpose of his study is to explore credit usage of ULM students and compare it to national averages. He says having a faculty member as a mentor is a great thing.

Gibson's faculty mentor is Dr. Mike Parker from the College of Business. Parker says, "This is a great opportunity. I usually don't see students until they are older, so it's a great way for me to meet them early. Plus, things people say about freshman being lazy and disorganized is false. Jonathan has been able to meet all of his deadlines and I know he is capable of pulling this off."

Dr. Paul Croft, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, is mentoring three students this semester. Croft says, "It gives a competitive advantage to students for research experience. Also the professional development that comes along with this will be a great help to the students. They have the opportunity to come up with a project and they also have the opportunity to present their project at the research symposium that is held on campus every year."

"The Characteristics of Cooler Weather Tornadoes in the Lower Mississippi River Valley," is the name of freshman Amy Marie Haddox's project, she says she is fascinated by severe weather.

She also says it's a great "out of the class room experience" where you are applying what you learn and that it's more in-depth than just sitting in the classroom.

Even though the students receive a stipend to do this project, they say its not about the money, its about the desire to go above and beyond the normal classroom experience. Aaron Botnik, a first year student, is doing his project on extreme severe weather. He does a lot of his research through the Internet and then manages his data through spreadsheets.

John Carr, ULM Associate Professor of Biology, said, "To get faculty and students interacting outside of the classroom and to entice students to be here until graduation is all part of this project. It's about the one on one interaction."

Dr. Ruth Smith, Head of the Foreign Language department at ULM, said her area is always looking for ways to enhance foreign language learning in high schools. She sees the Emerging Scholars Program as a way to help.

"This will allow our students to research and develop new methods of teaching. One goal we have is to encourage more people to be teachers," said Smith.

Tracy Campbell, a second year student who is doing her Emerging Scholars Program project on cooperative Spanish learning says she already has a group formed that meets outside of class once a week. These Spanish 101 students are helping Campbell with her project by allowing her to test her cooperative learning strategies. She says so far, it's been great.

Each of ULM's four colleges has a contact person for this program. If a student is interested in getting involved they should contact the following professors: The College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. John Carr, The College of Health Sciences, Dr. Paul Sylvester; The College of Business, Dr. Tammy Parker; and Dr. Rick Stevens in the College of Education and Human development.

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