Thursday, April 21, 2011

Student Researchers Day showcases student, faculty and staff engagement

Student Research Day was a real highlight of the past few weeks for me, as I know it was for the entire College community. This wonderful event, which takes place at both campuses, featured presentations from over 100 students.

Douglas College Student Research Day 2011. Photo: Tamara Letkeman
As I wandered around, taking in the presentations, I sensed the students' energy, their curiosity, and their desire to apply their knowledge to make a difference in the world.

The range of projects was impressive. Subjects presented included: new mothers' childhood feeding practices, students’ sleep patterns, poverty, mental illness and community-based recreation, peer mentorship in nursing, microbiology topics, homelessness and addictions, barriers for clients with severe and persistent mental illness, early childhood development, prostitution, cocaine and health, and mental health clinical placements in general nursing.

I spoke with a Therapeutic Recreation student who has been studying part time while working in the field. Her research focused on workplace stress factors for staff who work with persons with developmental disabilities. I asked her: "How has this knowledge changed your practice?"

Her face lit up, and she said (I'm paraphrasing), "Wow, that's a great question. I would say that I'm more sensitive now to what my colleagues are feeling. And if we can get our colleagues to better understand each other's stresses, the beneficiary of that understanding will be the clients we serve."

Perfect! I love that answer. She delved into an issue, gained a deeper understanding, and was able to change her small part of the universe because of her research. That is deep learning, that is student engagement and that is why we support community research.

And of course this research doesn't happen in a vacuum. That student has to have a faculty member who understands the research, who is willing and able to mentor the research, and who is willing to let the student move outside of the books and into practice. Thank you to the 11 faculty members who sponsored student research projects this year, as well as to Acting Research and Scholarly Activity Coordinator David Wright and to Centre for Academic and Faculty Development Coordinator Laura Sandve.

And congratulations to the student organizers for an incredibly well run event! Student Research Day was coordinated by 35 Sport Science students from the 3rd-year Leadership course, part of the Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching program. Six students served on a coordinating committee while the rest fulfilled other volunteer roles.

In particular, the organizers' "passport to learning" engagement strategy stimulated lots of interaction between visitors and the student researchers. By earning passport stamps, many visitors came away with great prizes sponsored by Starbucks, Charlie's Chocolate Factory, as well as by the VP Academic and all of the Faculties of Douglas College. A deserving thank you to Sport Science instructor Brian Storey and Placement Coordinator Winnie McKitrick for supporting the student organizers so well.

And there were many others who supported this event and deserve recognition, including people from CEIT, Building Services and the Hotel and Restaurant Management Program.

At each campus, a $250 President's Prize was up for grabs for the research presentation voted "best in show". In the next couple of weeks, watch for an announcement of those winners.

I'm already looking forward to the 2012 edition of Student Research Day!



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