The UDiscover Scholars Summer Program, a research program utilized by USD students, is receiving more funding.
In a press release from the university, the program obtained a South Dakota Board of Regents Research and Discovery Innovation Grant to “increase student stipends to a level comparable to other research experiences for undergraduates. The program will also implement an allowance for a summer residency in on-campus housing and will provide support for project-related materials, supplies and travel.”
Kim Albracht, assistant director for academic engagement at the Center for Academic and Global Engagement, said having this stipend it will make the university “more competitive.”
“I think for students that are wanting to do research it’s such a great incentive in the fact that they are now not having to compete with taking a higher paying job somewhere for the summer,” Albracht said. “It’s a big factor for a lot of students (that) summertime is not just a time to increase skills…but also to earn some money.”
To become a UDiscover scholar, students need a faculty advisor to supervise their research and applying for the program is open to all disciplines. To apply, students must submit a proposal for their research project and then it’s reviewed by a faculty committee which awards students the UDiscover research.
Albracht said students can also apply stipend funds for what they need to accomplish.
“The stipend is great because students are allowed to use it as they see fit for their needs,” Albracht said. “So there’s not a lot of limitations there which is helpful for people because research is always different.”
After students complete their research over the summer, they are required to present their research at IdeaFest in the Spring. Albracht said by August, students are expected to have most of their research completed but some students continue their research in the fall.
Megan Swets, a senior communication studies major and a UDiscover scholar, said she conducted research this past summer on people who identify as transgender.
“I articulate and define feelings of acceptance from their social support group so I conducted 29 interviews with people who identify as Trans,” Swets said. “I transcribed those interviews and did something called grounded theory analysis on them which basically just looks at what communicative processes are happening and (looks at) which communication processes are really common and how to communicate acceptance to trans people.”
Swets said that she used her stipend for transportation and reimbursement for participants.
“I traveled to the Denver area and to the Minneapolis area to conduct interviews since there is a higher population of trans people in cities,” Swets said. “I did travel for two-weekend trips…I also got $25 gift cards for all of my participants so that it was like a reimbursement to give them something for their time and sharing their story with me.”
Swets said having the stipend is beneficial to students because it allows them to conduct their research fully.
“Everything costs money. It’s really helpful to, as a student, not have to pay for it yourself to just like be able to do a research project and know that you don’t have to worry trying to cut corners and like not do everything to the best of your ability and to the best of what you know research should be like,” Swets said.
Tasha Determan, a junior who is pursuing an art degree with an emphasis in sculpture and another UDiscover scholar, said her research focused on various weapons.
“My research dealt with casting iron balloon weapons, iron twist balloon weapons… I was focusing on making 10 works of art of various weapons that would show the cyclical side of war,” Determan said. “So weapons that would be from earlier times, such as a sword, all the way to an atomic bomb.”
Determan said that she used her stipend for transportation and purchasing various art supplies.
“I used my stipend to help pay for the cost of (research)…as an art student I already have to take into the cost of buying sand and then also the transportation to those iron pores,” Determan said.
Determan said the increased stipend will be beneficial for students so they can work on their research for longer.
“I would definitely say by increasing the stipend it allows (students) to have students work on their research longer which is amazing,” she said. “It would allow students to really dig in there and really make something wonderful and be able to hopefully share that work with the general population.”
An information session about the UDiscover program will be Nov. 28 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in MUC 225A regarding the application process and advice for the proposal. Applications close Feb. 8 and Discover Scholars are decided in early March.