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PURM: Perspectives on Undergraduate Research and Mentoring
This article focuses on undergraduate research and mentoring through the lens of an “Ethnography of the University” course that engages students in writing and researching for local change. At our institution (Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), “Ethnography of the University” is a writing-intensive English course in which students conduct semester-long, original, mixed-method research projects about some aspect of their undergraduate experience. Students move from asking questions of interest and importance to the campus community through stages of data collection and analysis and toward final reporting through multiple means: (1) article-length papers, (2) in-class presentations, and (3) research posters. Students present their final projects—with concrete proposals for change—at a campus-wide research poster fair, which students “run” each semester by bringing food, arranging the room, and publicizing the event. When students seek publication and act on their proposed changes, their projects also stretch beyond a single semester: though they begin in the course, projects often develop into extracurricular pursuits, independent studies, or advocacy work. Our article describes how this happens—with examples of student projects at the center of the piece—and advocates for the course framework of “Ethnography of the University”—with an argument for ethnographic writing research as part of undergraduate curricula across the disciplines.
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