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Q&A with FLC facilitator Dr. Sherry Krayesky-Self

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This fall, the Office of Distance Learning launched five Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) to collaborate through the 2022-2023 academic year. 

Among these communities is CUREs: Course-Embedded Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs), facilitated by Dr. Sherry Krayesky-Self, director of the Student Center for Research, Creativity and Scholarship (SCRCS). Instructional Designer Dr. Alise Hagan recently interviewed Dr. Krayesky-Self about the CUREs FLC, it’s goals, and it’s potential impact. Photo of Dr. Sherry Krayesky-Self

What does CUREs mean for our University community? 

Dr. Krayesky-Self: “CUREs” stands for Course-Embedded Undergraduate Research Experiences. At UL Lafayette, that means we can include more students in an undergraduate student research experience (SRE), and that’s important because it’s more engaging for our students and our faculty. 

CUREs has a unique advantage over the traditional mentored undergraduate research experiences (MUREs). With MUREs, one faculty member mentors one student (or a very small group of students) on a specific technique, leading to a final outcome of work. It is very limited. But with CUREs, that same professor can engage and help a whole class full of students, whether the class has 30 or 300 students.  

How does a faculty member create a course-embedded research experience? 

Dr. Krayesky-Self: That’s the hard part, but we have some guidance approved by the Louisiana Council on Excellence in Undergraduate Research (LaCOEUR). 

We hope that every UL Lafayette student will eventually experience an advanced SRE pathway at the basic level will implement and increase the number of course embedded SRE offerings for students. For a CURE to be complete, these are the suggested criteria at UL Lafayette: 

  • The SRE is embedded in the course curriculum. 
  • All students in the class engage in the SRE in some fashion. 
  • The outcomes of the SRE are unknown beforehand. 
  • Students work collaboratively as much as possible. 
  • The SRE project introduces students to the professional research methodologies of the discipline. 
  • The outcomes of the SRE are shared or communicated to a stakeholder that is not the course instructor of record.

What was your motivation to have a faculty learning community dedicated to CUREs? 

Dr. Krayesky-Self: On a personal level, I wanted to explore and learn how someone would move course-embedded research experiences into an online environment. I came at it with a desire to learn something in a group. 

But my communal reason is to help my colleagues explore and learn what they don’t know. Having a FLC that is talking about CUREs – whether it’s online or not – will help dispel some myths about what a CURE is or isn’t. As more people look at what CUREs really is and how they could do it, the FLC can hopefully produce something that faculty can grab hold of. 

Describe the purpose of this faculty learning community. 

Dr. Krayesky-Self: The purpose of this FLC is to increase understanding of what CUREs is, and how to implement them for everyone. 

What goals has your faculty learning community set for this academic year? 

Dr. Krayesky-Self: The goals for this community are two-fold. First, we want to achieve our stated purpose. We want our faculty participants to end the year knowing more about CUREs than when they started. Second, we want to produce a resource for our colleagues to increase their understanding of CUREs and support how they might implement a course-embedded research experience in their courses.

What will success look like for this group?

Dr. Krayesky-Self: The primary marker of success will be that every member of the group feels they have met the purpose – that is, each member understands more than when they started, and they are more able to, interested in, and equipped to implement CUREs in their classes. 

Another marker of success will be if there is more interest next year. If our current participants can share their experience with their colleagues and a new group of faculty express interest in learning more about CUREs, then we know it will have been successful. It’s not possible for Advance to succeed without CUREs, so we need our faculty engaged in this community and sharing their experience throughout the year. 

What resources are available to support this community?

Dr. Krayesky-Self: This community will be well supported with existing literature, the members, and a supportive university community. 

First, the existing literature on CUREs is robust, but we must sift through it to find what works for our university faculty and students. There are books, published research, articles, opinions, NSF-funded groups, conferences; it’s not one size fits all, so we have the literature to review and find what works for us. There’s emerging literature on how CUREs is more inclusive than mentored research. With CUREs, all students can participate, not just the strong academic students; sometimes it changes those struggling students into stronger academic students. This is certainly one piece of the research we want to consider within an online research experience. 

Also, the members of our FLC are an outstanding resource. We have brought together very bright minds and opinionated individuals who will challenge, discuss, and bring forth new ideas. We have people in our group who don’t know anything about CUREs or the online environment, and we have people who have done a lot; they will all be a resource to each other. 

Finally, we recognize the university community’s willingness and support around course-embedded research. The faculty want to do this and recognize the value of CUREs, but they don’t know how. This community, though, is putting themselves out there to explore and hopefully bring us one step forward. 

Is there a question you wished I had asked? 

Dr. Krayesky-Self: Why am I interested in the online environment versus just pursuing CUREs in a regular classroom? 

And how would you answer that question?

Dr. Krayesky-Self: The truth is, I’m interested in both. But why online? I think the pandemic exposed many struggles that people who were already in the online world knew about for a long time, and they’re trying to figure out how to solve it because online learning isn’t going away. We cannot exclude a whole population of students who are learning online from this research experience. Making online education accessible, engaging, and the best possible experience is what we should be doing, and CUREs is one highly effective way to boost engagement for our online students and faculty.