The fellowships will provide funding for undergraduate students, faculty mentors and community partners to collaboratively work on projects that strengthen community well-being.
By Jenny Pedraza
In partnership with the Office of the Provost, the Center for Community Engagement and Impact (CEI) will fund five undergraduate community-engaged research (CEnR) fellowships for Summer 2021 through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). The fellowships will contribute to students’ disciplines and strengthen the well-being of the community through collaborative CEnR.
Each fellowship award includes $1,500 in funding for the student; $500 for the faculty mentor; and new this year – $500 for the community partner. In addition to funding, research teams – including community partners – are able to participate in a CEI orientation training that focuses on CEnR best practices.
Amanda Hall, Ph.D., director of community-engaged research and special projects in the CEI, said the addition of funding for community partners speaks to VCU’s focus on engaging community partners as co-researchers and co-educators in scholarly activities.
“As an urban, R1 anchor institution, it is our responsibility to maintain a deep respect and value for the communities with which we teach, learn and conduct research, recognized through authentic reciprocity and true collaboration,” Hall said. “By providing our community partners with compensation and identifying them as valued co-researchers and co-educators, we serve as an exemplary model for what community-university partnerships can and should be.”
In addition to allowing student researchers to engage in mutually-beneficial partnerships in the community, the fellowships provide students the opportunity to address real-world, community-identified needs while gaining knowledge, skills and experience in their disciplines. Participation in high-impact practices (HIPs), such as CEnR, have been shown to increase retention, graduation rates and engagement among undergraduate students, specifically for first generation, pell-eligible and underrepresented minority students.
Since 2014, 21 CEnR fellowships have been awarded. Previous CEnR fellows have worked on a diverse range of projects – from collaborative studies with local high schools, projects to address the health needs of Latinx communities and research on intimate partner violence with women’s shelters.
“I think the community component is what attracts so many applicants for this particular fellowship program,” said Herbert Hill, director of undergraduate research and creative inquiry in the Office of Academic Affairs. “Our students are civic-minded; they want to make a positive impact on their community and create change for the better. Their research results in action that makes lasting change.”
Full-time VCU undergraduates in any discipline with at least one full academic year left to complete before graduation are eligible to apply for the fellowships. This year, the selection committee will specifically focus on projects that address the priority areas of racial justice, health equity, education equity, environmental justice and/or economic equity issues.
The deadline to apply is March 10. For more details, visit https://provost.vcu.edu/initiatives/urop/community.
Attend a virtual interest meeting:
Undergraduate students: Tuesday, Feb. 16 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Faculty and community partners: Wednesday, Feb. 17 from noon to 1 p.m. Zoom link
The VCU Center for Community Engagement and Impact provides expertise for high-quality community engagement while leveraging university resources to address critical community-identified needs. The center is VCU’s central hub to convene and coordinate authentic community-university partnerships that strengthen research, student learning and faculty success.