Quality research experiences support undergraduates to successfully continue their education in STEM fields. However, many of these programs are intensive experiences that occur over the summer months, often requiring students to travel to distant or remote locations to participate. This common structure limits access for many students. ARC-Learn is a 2-year undergraduate research experience that provides a more flexible, lower-intensity model to eliminate common barriers to participation. Over the course of two years, ARC-Learn students work within an affirmative science community and are exposed to the full “arc” of research, from understanding scientific challenges to sharing the results of research with the public.
The program provides critical training to develop the next generation of Polar scientists and helps them develop critical science skills, such as data literacy and visualization. It also increases access to undergraduate research for students who are underrepresented in the Polar sciences, such as those transferring from two-year colleges, and those who are unable to be away from home and family obligations for extended periods of time. Success among these groups can broaden participation in science and lead to a more diverse future Polar science workforce. ARC-Learn employs inclusive and culturally responsive mentoring practices, a flexible and modular schedule, and the option for students to engage both in-person and online.
The research team is investigating the students’ and mentors’ experiences. The researchers seek to uncover how ARC-Learn program elements contribute to student success and the development of STEM identity and persistence. Additionally, the team is interrogating how external factors and institutional contexts affect development and success. The impact of this research is broadened by the direct support of 50 participating underrepresented and non-traditional students and mentors.
Key activities, challenges, adaptations, recommendations based on the first year of Cohort One, from the perspectives of students, mentors, the program team and advisory board are synthesized in the 2022 formative evaluation report. An empirically-based framework is being developed and will be shared broadly along with lessons learned to support the use of promising elements of this novel program designed to support a richly diverse workforce.
The ARC-Learn research and evaluation is led by PI Julie Risien with Kimberley Preston and Nancy Staus. The ARC-Learn student and mentor programs are led by Co-PIs Lauren Juranek and Miguel Goni and Program Coordinator Ryan Brown in the College of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS) with support from the CEOAS Student Programs, the OSU Office of Undergraduate Education, and inclusive mentoring expert Sophie Pierszalowski, Director of the Undergraduate Research Program at the University of Washington