Connecting undergraduate research and career readiness
The Australian Council on Undergraduate Research (ACUR), of which the University is a member, works to promote and support undergraduate research. Their standout event is the Australian Conference of Undergraduate Research at which University of Adelaide students have successfully presented their research projects.
Recently, colleagues from the Faculties of ABLE and H&MS travelled to take part on the 2023 ACUR Undergraduate Research Exchange Colloquium which this year focused on the theme of the role of undergraduate research in creating career-ready graduates.
A/Prof Tania Crotti (School of Biomedicine), Dr John Willison (School of Education), Dr Nichola Thompson (School of Biomedicine), Professor Toby Hughes (Adelaide Dental School) and Dr Agnes Arthur (School of Biomedicine) have shared their combined reflection on the Colloquium.
The symposium bravely sought to generate discussions about the connections between two seemingly disparate high-impact practices in higher education, undergraduate research (UGR) and work integrated learning (WIL).
Drawn in by this theme, the team from UoA focused on student awareness of skills highlighted by Professor Dawn Bennett and reflected on how this is linked to curriculum and how students’ ability to convey these skills to future employers is developed within their contexts. Currently, resume design is embedded in capstone research education courses in the Health and Medical Sciences and the progressions of learning and explication of skills are mapped across the five years of Integrated Learning Activities in Dentistry. Within the School of Education this is addressed in the intersection between the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and research-based learning in the Bachelor of Teaching. However, we think the importance of students recognising these, personalising and tailoring to particular jobs could be improved upon in the curriculum.
Salient was a keynote delivered by Dr Jennifer Campbell on pathways into undergraduate research developed with and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Rather than a reliance on student GPAs, these co-created pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students provided equitable access to undergraduate research placements with financial support. Because these students brought with them a range of critical and real world skills, they engaged in research at high levels and were empowered in their undergraduate years and so experienced improved retention and were frequently inspired to progress to HDR study.
We found the panel of graduates reflecting on their UGR experiences and its importance in their career and research progression was inspiring and provocative.
We see this colloquium as a stimulus to have conversations within the university about how students may see the connections between UGR, WIL and a variety of other high-impact practices that may otherwise remain disconnected within each student’s experience.