Citation
Self-efficacy development among paid undergraduate research assistants

Material Information

Title:
Self-efficacy development among paid undergraduate research assistants
Creator:
Minasian, Rebecca Rene
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( Master of arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Sociology, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Sociology
Committee Chair:
Bosick, Stacey J.
Committee Members:
Hamilton, Lindsey
Burciaga, Edelina

Notes

Abstract:
As higher education institutions continue to experience high rates of enrollment, it is important to not only understand how students matriculate through universities, but how students spend their time towards degree attainment. Previous literature acknowledges lower income students are less likely to access the non-academic benefits of higher education, such as developing relationships with faculty or participating in extra-curricular activities, due to a lack of cultural capital. This exploratory evaluation of a pilot undergraduate research program describes the benefits of paid undergraduate research experiences as understood by student participants. The goal of the program was to increase undergraduate participation in research while providing pay so that students from lower income backgrounds could participate. While previous literature addresses the myriad of benefits received from participation in an undergraduate research experience, this thesis seeks to understand how being paid to participate in a research experience produces a quality experience above and beyond the expectations described in the literature. The findings in this thesis indicate that pay is fundamental to the student experience, regardless of financial need. While pay does encourage diversity through making undergraduate research experiences accessible to traditionally underserved student populations, pay creates significantly improved and inclusive experiences for all students, regardless of financial need. The quality of experience, as evidenced by the amount of time devoted to research, the meaningful relationships cultivated, and the development of self efficacy, was directly impacted by financial compensation. Future research should continue to explore the impact of being paid on the quality of the experience from a quantitative standpoint, and should be used to justify growing structured, paid undergraduate research programs across the country.

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University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
Copyright Rebecca Rene Minasian. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Full Text
EXPLORING SELF-EFFICACY DEVELOPMENT AMONG PAID UNDERGRADUATE
RESEARCH ASSISTANTS by
REBECCA RENE MINASIAN B.A., University of Colorado Denver, 2017
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Sociology Program
2019


This thesis for the Master of Arts Degree by Rebecca Rene Minasian has been approved for the Sociology Program by
Stacey J. Bosick, Chair Lindsey Hamilton Edelina Burciaga


Minasian, Rebecca Rene (M.A., Sociology Program)
Exploring Self-Efficacy Development Among Paid Undergraduate Research Assistants Thesis directed by Associate Professor Stacey J. Bosick
ABSTRACT
As higher education institutions continue to experience high rates of enrollment, it is important to not only understand how students matriculate through universities, but how students spend their time towards degree attainment. Previous literature acknowledges lower income students are less likely to access the non-academic benefits of higher education, such as developing relationships with faculty or participating in extra-curricular activities, due to a lack of cultural capital. This exploratory evaluation of a pilot undergraduate research program describes the benefits of paid undergraduate research experiences as understood by student participants. The goal of the program was to increase undergraduate participation in research while providing pay so that students from lower income backgrounds could participate. While previous literature addresses the myriad of benefits received from participation in an undergraduate research experience, this thesis seeks to understand how being paid to participate in a research experience produces a quality experience above and beyond the expectations described in the literature. The findings in this thesis indicate that pay is fundamental to the student experience, regardless of financial need. While pay does encourage diversity through making undergraduate research experiences accessible to traditionally underserved student populations, pay creates significantly improved and inclusive experiences for all students, regardless of financial need. The quality of experience, as evidenced by the amount of time devoted to research, the meaningful relationships cultivated, and the development of self-efficacy, was directly impacted by financial compensation. Future research should continue to
m


explore the impact of being paid on the quality of the experience from a quantitative standpoint, and should be used to justify growing structured, paid undergraduate research programs across the country.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Stacey J. Bosick
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This thesis is dedicated to my grandmother, who has remained a constant rock throughout my educational journey. I also dedicate this thesis to my loving family and my supportive friends, as well as my wonderful colleagues and my inspirational educators at CU Denver. I would not be
here today without your amazing support.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION..........................................1
II. LITERATURE REVIEW.....................................6
III. DATA AM) METHODOLOGY.................................11
IV. RECRUITMENT AND MOTIVATORS TO
PARTICIPATE IN THE PROGRAM.............................14
V. CREATING A QUALITY RESEARCH EXPERIENCE...............20
VI. CONCLUSION............................................30
REFERENCES..................................................34
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CHAPTERI
INTRODUCTION
Higher education institutions are viewed as the gatekeepers to the American Dream; students who dedicate time and money towards their degree believe they will secure a better, more financially prosperous future for themselves (Brand & Xie, 2010; Binder, Davis, & Bloom, 2016). Growing specialized job markets have necessitated a college degree for employment that maintains, at least, a middle-class socioeconomic status (Horowitz, 2018). As students are entering college at rates higher than ever (Tinto, 2012), it is important to understand not only the rates at which students matriculate through universities, but the latent functions produced by this mass enrollment. As discussed by Horowitz (2018), this dramatic increase has not only diminished the value of a four-year degree, but growing competition for high-skilled occupations has engendered greater risk for underemployment among college graduates. Now, more than ever, it is important for sociologists to understand who is at most risk for underemployment, and how the time spent obtaining a degree prepares students for employment after graduation.
Not only are students matriculating through college at record rates, but this mass enrollment is characterized by traditionally underserved student populations from diverse backgrounds, such as students from working-class backgrounds, students of color, first-generation students, and non-traditional students (Kuh, 2008; Tinto, 2012). However, these students are not often equipped with the same level of institutional knowledge as their affluent, White counterparts (Lareau, 2015; Thiele, 2016). Similarly, the exponentially rising cost of a higher education is also of paramount concern; students are facing student loan debt at higher rates than any previous generation, placing an enormous financial strain on students (Nazaire & Usher, 2015). This strain is often compounded by the aforementioned issues: students from
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certain backgrounds will have a harder time navigating institutions, and may not be gaining the experiences necessary to find gainful employment after graduation.
Higher education institutions have, to some degree, acknowledged the issues experienced by students from marginalized backgrounds. Roughly one decade ago, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) compiled a seminal report outlining a group of teaching and learning practices evidenced to improve student retention and graduation: high-impact practices (Kuh, 2008). High-impact practices include, but are not limited to, first-year seminars, internships, undergraduate research, and senior capstones. Perhaps the most momentous discovery outlined in this report is the empirical demonstration that participation in a high-impact practice produces positive effects, especially for students from historically underserved populations (Kuh, 2008). Effectually, the lower graduation and retention rates of traditionally underserved student populations could be combatted with the utilization of High-Impact Practices.
In the United States, 261 higher education institutions are categorically described as either a Research 1 institution or a Research 2 institution, meaning that these institutions experience “very high research activity” or “high research activity,” respectively (The Carnegie Classification of Institutions, 2018). If faculty at these institutions are required to maintain some research productivity, then integrating undergraduates into the research process should be an easy and natural fit. As outlined by Kuh (2008), undergraduate research, as a high-impact practice, should seek to “involve students with actively contested questions, empirical observation, cutting-edge technologies, and the sense of excitement that comes from working to answer important questions.” Participation in undergraduate research can be mutually beneficial for both the student and the faculty mentor; while faculty have a larger pool of intellect to
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contribute to the research project, students are able to apply skills and knowledge gained through coursework to a “real-world” situation, therefore refining those skills and knowledge through experience. Similarly, undergraduate research is a unique experience that fosters deeper, more meaningful relationships with faculty. Developing substantial relationships with faculty can have a big impact on student success, including the development of self-efficacy, grade point average, and the shaping of students’ future academic and career goals (Chemers, Zurbriggen, Syed,
Goza, & Bearman, 2011; Sell, Naginey, & Stanton, 2018; Stuber, 2009). However, for traditionally underrepresented students, navigating these relationships can be especially challenging, as faculty are likely to belong to a higher social class and hold majority-group identities (Aries & Seider, 2005). In addition, undergraduate research opportunities may be limited and faculty may not actively promote research positions. Students are often responsible for seeking opportunities in an informal capacity: approaching faculty members and asking for any research opportunities they may have available. This method systematically limits the access to undergraduate research opportunities, as students from traditionally-served populations are more likely to have the cultural capital to successfully seek opportunities (Lareau, 2015; Thiele, 2016). Compounding these issues is the fact that undergraduate research opportunities are traditionally unpaid and conducted on a volunteer basis. Participating in an unpaid research experience is a privilege not all students can afford, especially at urban research institutions that experience higher rates of enrollment for non-traditionally aged students and first-generation students who may need to work jobs to support families or help pay for college and related expenses (Nazaire & Usher, 2015).
As the only urban public research university in Colorado, the University of Colorado Denver has acknowledged the need to increase undergraduate participation in research. This was,
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in part, motivated by the diverse student population at CU Denver and the desire to better support students seeking research experiences. Thus, three pilot undergraduate research programs were launched in the Summer 2018 semester as entry-points for varying levels of student experience, from no prior research experience to experienced undergraduate scholars. All three programs were created under a parent program, EUReCA!: Education through Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (Table 1.1).
Table 1.1 EUReCA! Program Participants, Summer/Fall 2018
Female Students of Color First-Generation
Entering Research (n=18) .72 .67 .44
Work-Study (n=37) .68 .35 .40*
Fellowship (n=17) .76 .47 .38*
*Proportion of students with known first-generation status
An “Entering Research” internship course was constructed to engage freshmen and sophomores in research. The EUReCA! Program provided scholarships to all students who demonstrated financial need and paired students with faculty mentors so that students had the opportunity to tangibly understand the research process. The largest EUReCA! program is the Work-Study program. Federal Work-Study, a form of financial aid, “provides part-time jobs for undergraduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses” (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.). The EUReCA! Program provided partial funding as required by Federal Work-Study, allowing faculty to hire part-time undergraduate research assistants at no cost. Lastly, a Fellowship Program was developed: a competitive stipend award for advanced students conducting research under a faculty mentor.
All new programs will face challenges as they attempt to develop best procedures and practices; conducting an empirical evaluation to self-assess the initial success or failure of a program is crucial for sustainability. Previous evaluations have collected descriptive data of the student participants to illustrate program growth. However, this evaluation includes the rich
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narratives of student participants to address the perceived benefits of participating in a
University-supported paid undergraduate research experience.
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CHAPTER II
LITERATURE REVIEW
As higher education is experiencing mass enrollment from students of diverse backgrounds, it is important to understand the complex variance in the student experience: socioeconomic status is a strong predictor of a student’s ability to navigate the colligate atmosphere. Students from working-class backgrounds are more likely to be first-generation college students, meaning that they are the first person in their family to attend college (Aries & Seider, 2005). However, students from these backgrounds are often not equipped with the same knowledge as their affluent counterparts; navigating institutional rules, both formal and informal, can be challenging. In a follow-up study to her famous Unequal Childhoods ethnography, Annette Lareau investigated the cultural capital necessary to navigate post-secondary institutions. She discovered that when it came to understanding both formal and informal rules in higher education, or knowing the ‘rules of the game,’ middle-class students were much more prepared than their lower-class counterparts (Lareau, 2015). Middle-class youth are systematically set up for success, as they inherit intergenerational cultural capital from their parents; it is easier for them to navigate higher education systems. Lareau discovered that educational success did not solely stem from classroom knowledge; students needed to know how to successfully navigate institutions through informal knowledge of institutional rules and practices.
Not only do we need to understand how students matriculate through universities, but we must understand the experiences students gain outside the classroom as they prepare for employment after graduation. Stuber (2009) argues for the examination of the “extracurriculum;” she finds that experiences such as internships and undergraduate research are
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spaces in which students gain access to social and cultural resources, and that students of privileged backgrounds are most likely to find and access these experiences. This finding supports Lareau in that students from certain backgrounds understand what experiences to pursue in service of reproducing their class background.
Rapid increases in enrollment in higher education institutions have not only forced marginalized students to matriculate through institutions systematically designed to support the traditionally-served student populations, but has caused institutions to think critically on how they can adapt to the changing socioeconomic backgrounds of their students. Providing structured experiences as part of the extra-curriculum is an important way for students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds access to spaces traditionally reserved for students with the necessary cultural capital to navigate finding and securing extra-curricular experiences. According to Tinto (2012), positive student interactions with faculty, staff, and peers, both an academically and socially, are associated with college success. Undergraduate research is a great experience in which students can gain the necessary experience to pursue future academic and career goals, and it provides a structured space in which students can experience meaningful interactions with faculty, staff, and peers. Sell et al. (2018) found a positive association between research participation and grade-point average (GPA), even when controlling for high GPA predictors such as high school GPA, number of years in college, and first-generation status. Similarly, students who had participated in research experiences earlier in their undergraduate coursework had higher GPAs that those who began research as upperclassmen (Sell et al., 2018). This finding indicates that earlier participation in research may directly improve student success as measured by GPA. Donley and Paige (2018) investigated how hands-on research experiences promote the demystification of the research process, and that the collaborative team environment
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directly impacted how students connected their research to real life. Research is often conducted in within a team environment, where multiple individuals of varying levels of expertise will contribute to the overarching project. Students with access to these individuals will benefit from these interactions; students not only gain a real sense of how leadership and teamwork operate within the research environment, but the teamwork model helps students develop self-efficacy through being an active team member (Chemers et al., 2011) Self-efficacy is the internal belief one has in their ability to succeed in a specific situation or task (Bandura, 1997); it is the selfperceptions individuals develop through interactions and experiences with others and impacts how individuals approach goals, tasks, and challenges (Tinto, 2017). Participation in undergraduate research experiences can directly impact a student’s confidence that they can, and will, succeed in future academic and career aspirations, especially when those goals intersect with the skills gained from the research experience (Chemers et al., 2011). As self-efficacy is not innate, higher education institutions should support experiences, such as undergraduate research, that help develop self-efficacy in order to support student achievement during, and after, college.
While the benefits of participating in undergraduate research are plentiful, arguably the most beneficial aspect is the relationship developed between faculty mentors and undergraduate students. Faculty play a critical role in the overall success of undergraduate students, especially for students like first-generation students who may not have opportunities to develop natural relationships with faculty (Carpenter & Pena, 2017). Griese, MacMahon, and Kenyon (2017) explored the relationship between faculty/student relationships and found that positive mentor relationships strongly impacted student learning gains. This finding is especially important for underrepresented students in higher education, as they are the least likely to cultivate a meaningful relationship with faculty (Thiele, 2016). Tinto (2012) discovered that meaningful
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relationships developed on campus between students and their peers, faculty, and university staff were positively correlated with student satisfaction and retention. Similarly, the absence of meaningful ties was discovered as a predictor of disenrollment (Tinto, 2012). Engaging undergraduates in research not only provides benefits to the student, especially students from traditionally underserved populations, but it provides benefits to the institution as a way to improve retention and graduation rates.
Integrating undergraduates into the research process can be risky; the training process can be complex depending on both students’ understanding of the subject and their previous experience (Gillies & Marsh, 2013). Similarly, by the time undergraduates are prepared for the research environment, they may be close to graduating, causing high turnover in undergraduate research positions (Gillies & Marsh, 2013). However, the students most likely to pursue research opportunities are the students interested in finding research opportunities, meaning that those who are not interested in research do not typically pursue research opportunities (Gillies & Marsh, 2013; Nazaire & Usher, 2015). This key finding suggests that students who find research opportunities truly want to participate in the research and are seeking these opportunities voluntarily. However, as previously noted, it is important for institutions to understand which types of students are more likely to seek research experiences because they know to seek them; institutions must implement interventions aimed towards traditionally underserved populations that make undergraduate research more accessible in order to help educate these undergraduates as to the benefits of participating in an undergraduate research experience. As outlined by Thiele (2016), “compared with class privileged students, non-elite students did not appear to have the necessary cultural capital to engage in student-faculty relationships successfully and therefore were not predisposed to maximize the benefits of these interactions” (p. 350).
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Not only do economically disadvantaged students lack the institutional knowledge necessary to navigate undergraduate research experiences and cultivate meaningful faculty relationships, but students who need to work jobs are typically unable to participate in the extracurriculum (Nazaire & Usher, 2015). In a pilot work-study undergraduate research program, Nazaire and Usher (2015) found that their institution provided funding to students academically prepared for the level of engagement necessary, and increased the participation of women, first-generation, and minority-group students. This finding reflects that intersectional identities are present in higher education, and that these students disproportionately come from lower-class backgrounds. Similarly, noting that students who sought experiences displayed academic preparedness is crucial. As previously discussed, undergraduate research can place strain on faculty; faculty need quality, prepared students for success. Students may not be motivated by the paycheck, but rather the paycheck may help open opportunities for students who were previously unable to participate in undergraduate research experiences.
Due to the inequalities present in higher education, especially along class lines, it is important to explore the benefits of undergraduate research in the context of financial compensation. While previous literature addresses the benefits of undergraduate research and advocates for paid experiences, the literature does not address the benefits of paid research opportunities as experienced by students. This thesis seeks to produce data that directly show the benefits of paid undergraduate research experiences as experienced by students.
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CHAPTER III
DATA AND METHODOLOGY
Overview
The University of Colorado is a diverse campus; over half of enrolled undergraduates are female, 44% of all undergraduates are students of color, and 50% of the freshmen cohort in the Fall 2018 cohort were first-generation (The University of Colorado Denver, 2018). The purpose of this program evaluation is to better understand the unique experiences of students participating in a pilot undergraduate research program at the diverse CU Denver campus. I seek to understand the self-perceived benefits of participating in a university-funded undergraduate research program as interpreted by the student participants. I explore how participation in the program impacts student skill development, as well as their development of professionalism and self-efficacy. Similarly, I seek to understand both the professional and personal impact that a paid research experience can have on an undergraduate student. This exploratory evaluation takes a qualitative approach; semi-structured interviews were conducted as the primary data source in order to better understand the aforementioned student experiences.
Design and Methods
This evaluation is concerned with understanding how the EUReCA! Program impacts the students’ experiences. Semi-structured interviewing was chosen as the appropriate methodological approach because it allows participants to have the freedom to discuss what they deem as most relevant to their experience in tandem to prepared questions designed to incite discussions of their experiences in the program itself.
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Participants
All students who were involved in any of the three pilot EUReCA! programs during the Summer 2018 semester and/or the Fall 2018 semester were invited to participate in the present evaluation. Students who had entered the EUReCA! Work-Study program partway into the Fall 2018 semester were excluded from participating, as they had not accrued enough hours at the time of the interviews to properly discuss the impacts addressed in this evaluation. In total, thirty students from the EUReCA! Work-Study program and all ten students from the EUReCA! Fellowship program were invited to participate. Students were recruited via email, where they were advised on the purpose of the evaluation and notified of the potential risks if they chose to participate. Students who chose to participate were invited to sign up for an interview slot via signup.com. The Sign-Up form was private; students could not view the names or any other personal information belonging to the other participants.
All seventeen students enrolled in the EUReCA! Entering Research Internship course during the Fall 2018 semester were invited to participate in the evaluation. Students enrolled in this Entering Research course were recruited in-person during their class period on November 30th, 2018. Similar to the email recruitment for the work-study and fellowship students, students in the Entering Research course were notified of the purpose of the evaluation and advised of the potential risks if they chose to participate. Students were assured that participation would be confidential and would not impact their standing in the program, nor would it impact their grade in the course. Students who chose to participate were able to sign up for an interview time-slot in person with the Principal Investigator, and a follow-up email was sent to confirm their interview time.
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Interviews
Fifteen interviews in total were conducted with students across all three of the pilot programs, roughly 25% of the total eligible participants (Table 3.1). All the interviews took place ________________________________Table 31 Description of Participants_________________________________
Female Students of Color
Student Participants (n=15) .67 .47
during the last two weeks of the Fall 2018 semester. Interviews were conducted inside my office at the Experiential Learning Center on campus and lasted from thirty to sixty minutes. Interviews were audio recorded; all interview recordings were transcribed and the original recordings were deleted to protect students’ data.
Limitations
First and foremost, as this is an evaluation of a program. The structure of the EUReCA! Program is unique and is considered a pilot program. Given the uniqueness of the program and that participation is limited to students enrolled at CU Denver, the findings in this thesis do not constitute as generalizable research. The findings in this paper are relative to the program and its host institution. While this research cannot be assumed true for the experiences of all undergraduates participating in research experiences, it can inform future research as well as future implementations of undergraduate research programs at other universities.
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CHAPTER IV
RECRUITMENT AND MOTIVATORS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PROGRAM Overview of Findings
The decision to pursue research at the undergraduate level is complex; some students may have a clear understanding that participating in a research experience is necessary for future career goals, while others may use undergraduate research as an avenue to explore academic and/or career paths related to their field of study. This understanding, known as cultural capital, indicates how and why students seek research experiences. Understanding how and why students seek undergraduate research opportunities impacts how programs can provide access to opportunities. Since the EUReCA! Program facilitated structured paid research opportunities for undergraduates, it is important to understand how students accessed these paid opportunities and the role being paid played in the decision to pursue research.
Recruitment The Role of Faculty
Previous literature indicates that faculty do not typically actively seek undergraduate
research assistants; rather, students tend to seek research opportunities via their own individual
determination. Students participating in the EUReCA! Program indicated that faculty played a
significant role in recruiting undergraduates to the program. Jimmy, a non-traditional Veteran,
chronicled his experience in finding his first undergraduate research opportunity:
Actually, mine came through getting the job offer. I met [faculty mentor] at a math open house when I was first talking about this program and switching into a math major. She said that she was looking for work-study students, and she had applied for funding through EUReCA!. She directed me to apply though [the program].
By recruiting Jimmy directly, the faculty mentor made research a viable option, as Jimmy was
not planning on seeking a research opportunity prior learning about this position. The faculty
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member still required Jimmy to apply for the position, ensuring that the position was not just awarded to him and allowing all other students who had applied to the position to be considered. Faculty recruitment can be important, especially for students who either do not know how to seek research opportunities or do not know that research is an option at the undergraduate level. In fact, almost every single student in the Entering Research course was recruited directly to the course via outreach from the faculty instructor. Recruitment and outreach allow research to become more accessible to all students, rather than relying on individual student determination to seek research experiences.
Not all students were openly recruited to the program; some students were previously working in labs and recruited by their current faculty mentors. However, faculty still served as a primary resource in helping students receive pay for their research experiences. Amala, an Indian-American who had received a Fellowship, had previously worked for pay in a lab outside the EUReCA! Program. However, Amala described this work as “grunt” work, where the majority of her time was spent cleaning and completing repetitive tasks, rather than primarily researching: a job, not a research assistantship. Amala describes how she found out about the fellowship:
My PI (Principal Investigator) got the email from [the Director of Eindergraduate Research and Creative Activities] and she said this sounds like something interesting. If you want to do this, I will definitely help you out and sponsor you. I thought this sounds really interesting and it would look good on my resume. It would really give me a chance to develop [research] of my own.
This faculty mentor brought the opportunity to Amala’s and supported her Fellowship application, knowing that if she were to be accepted, Amala would no longer work as an employee, but would rather be focusing on her own research project. Faculty frequently
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demonstrated the willingness to provide paid experiences for students and actively supported students in gaining more meaningful paid research experiences.
Motivators
The Know-How: Cultural Capital and Finding Research
While the majority of students discovered the EUReCA! Program through faculty,
students described various reasons for seeking research experiences. Some of the students in the
EUReCA! Program described various levels of institutional know-how: the cultural capital
necessary to navigate finding and securing undergraduate research experiences. As previously
mentioned, Mike was working in his lab unpaid prior to the EUReCA! Program. He describes
how he first found his opportunity after taking a course with his faculty mentor:
I just really liked the class. I thought it was cool.. .1 was engaged and I just really like the content. And so, I kind of developed a relationship with her and towards the end of the semester just asked her if she had any positions open for a researcher, and she said yeah. And I joined the lab... I was just a tiny bit scared and just a tiny bit intimidated. It was pretty easy for me [to ask], I kind of had some rapport with her.. .from a pragmatic point of view, for a med school application, it looks good.
In this quotation, Mike describes not only how he felt comfortable approaching his professor to
ask for a research position, but he knew that securing a research position was necessary if he
hoped to continue his education through medical school. Even though his faculty mentor helped
him receive an hourly wage through the EUReCA! Program the following semester, Mike still
demonstrated that entrance to research was still a result of his individual determination to find a
research experience and the level of comfortability he felt with faculty interactions.
Students, like Mike, frequently stated that they sought research experiences to “check a
box” for graduate school applications and to explore research as a career option. Knowing to
seek research experiences is not characteristic of all students-just those with higher amounts of
cultural capital who understand what purpose research experience serves in the context of higher
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education. Edward, a Native American freshman enrolled in the Entering Research course, talks about his motivation for taking the course:
I figured why not start the first year, and see if I like it.. .1 had no idea that I would want to continue [with research]... I was like ‘Ell just get this research done for this semester and it’ll be done. And it’ll look good on [medical school] applications and stuff.
Even when describing his motivation for choosing his faculty mentor, Edward mentioned that
working in an O-Chem lab just sounded more prestigious. Knowing how to find and secure
research experiences is a form of cultural capital in higher education, and some students
demonstrated more ease in seeking experiences than others.
Not all students had the know-with-all to seek research experiences. Some students
indicated that they were unaware that research was a possibility at the undergraduate level, and
often times, an opportunity simply presented itself without the student actively seeking it. Allen,
a non-traditional student, first learned about the EETReCA! Fellowship through his honors
program, which requires a research experience:
I didn’t know that there were summer research opportunities at other schools so I didn’t apply for any.. .up until I joined the honor’s program, I didn’t even know that we were allowed to do research or that, that was an opportunity or an option.
Even though Allen needed a research experience for his program, he still was unsure how to
approach finding a research experience and the support from a faculty member helped him
secure an experience.
Many students indicated that they thought research experiences were reserved for faculty
and graduate students and completely unavailable to undergraduates. Olivia, a sophomore in the
Entering Research course, described her motivation to enroll:
I got an email from [the instructor] and I ignored it at first because I had already got my classes set, but then I realized oh I have 13 credits. I was like I just need one more credit. And I was like I might as well take this class, it’s only one credit. I didn’t even know what it was honestly. I read it was an internship program and I was like, I have no idea
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what it was.
While some students indicated knowing how important research can be for an undergraduate career, Olivia admitted that she did not know why she enrolled in the course and had no expectations for the research experience she would receive. She did not know that research was an important learning opportunity; rather, she just needed to fill space in her academic schedule. Understanding the students’ motivations for finding and securing research experiences can be extremely valuable to providing equal opportunities. Institutions must acknowledge that not all students will know how to find research opportunities and they must ensure that opportunities are easy to find.
Being Paid: Motivations for Research
Being paid served as a motivator for several students participating in the program. While some students indicated that, without pay, participation would have been impossible, others indicated that the skills and knowledge gained from the experience were important regardless of pay. However, being paid significantly improved the quality of the experience for all students, as discussed in the next chapter. Nina considered her ability to take the Entering Research course without the scholarship:
You know what, I don’t think so. Money-wise, it’s tight for me. Maybe if I could pay for, or if I financially able to pay for it, I would have definitely tried it out. That financial part of it is the deal breaker. It’s very, very helpful.
Even though Nina knew that taking this course would be extremely beneficial to her education, she discusses how grateful she was to receive the scholarship, as the cost may have prevented her from enrolling in the course. For Amy, being paid was supposed to supplement her income, but it actually allowed her to quit her job as a server so that she could devote more time to her research:
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I ended up quitting the cafe halfway through the semester because I was like, I want to be focusing on my research.. .there’s a part of me that’s like okay. I need to put food on my table, so I need to go do this for six hours or seven hours.
While being paid was certainly a motivator for Amy, it also allowed her to rely on the EUReCA!
Program as her main income source, so that she could gain relevant experience to her field.
However, not all students indicated that being paid was essential; Lauren, a scholarship recipient,
described her motivation for taking the Entering Research course:
I actually got [the scholarship] way after, but it didn’t really essentially matter to me. It was the experience that mattered more within my undergraduate college career, than the $500 total for it... I talked to my parents about it and they also concurred with me.
They’re like, ‘you should do it.’
Several of the participants indicated that being paid was not the main motivator for participation in the program; the experience was more important than the money. However, pay still played a crucial role in improving the quality of experience that these students received. This is a key finding; student participants indicated that they were primarily seeking research opportunities to gain the experience, but being paid allowed for a more quality experience. This is consistent with literature in that students who want research experiences are the most likely to seek opportunities.
Truly expanding the program and providing opportunities to students of all backgrounds should include interventions geared towards helping students understand, at a basic level, that research is possible at the undergraduate level. However, understanding what motivates students to seek paid research experiences is only one part of the equation; as discussed in previous literature, we must also understand how being paid impacts the quality and perceived benefits of the research opportunity.
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CHAPTER V
CREATING A QUALITY RESEARCH EXPERIENCE Overview of Findings
Being able to accept a voluntary unpaid research position is a privilege, and can be nearly impossible for undergraduates experiencing financial strain. The core of this thesis explores the role financial compensation plays in the research environment, and how university-funded research opportunities greatly improve the experiences of undergraduates through interviews with students participating in a pilot undergraduate research program. These semi-structured interviews produced several themes that encapsulated the role financial compensation played in these students’ experiences. Being paid impacted the quality of the experience; it allowed for a more serious time commitment, helped students develop more meaningful relationships with mentors and peers, and promoted the development of self-esteem and self-efficacy.
Time is Money
Undergraduate students have busy lives, often needing to balance class attendance, related coursework, jobs, and personal commitments. Paid experiences in the EUReCA!
Program impacted how students managed their time, the students’ understanding of the research process, as well as the amount of time they were able to dedicate to research.
Time Spent on Site
Several students indicated how being paid impacted the amount of time they were able to dedicate to research throughout the semester. While unpaid, volunteer-based undergraduate research assistants may not prioritize research over other academic and personal commitments, students who received financial compensation for their research experience noted that being paid allowed them to dedicate more time to their research. When asked what it was like to receive the
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paid EUReCA! Fellowship, Amy, a non-traditional student, described how research became a priority:
I think the incentive to pull tons of hours at a time would probably not have been as much [if I wasn’t paid], I would have been more casual about it.. .1 think it would have fallen to the wayside.. .1 feel like [being paid] definitely made it top of the priority list quite a bit [because it was] a really good incentive to get it done.
Sam, an immigrant employed as a work-study research assistant, previously worked as a
volunteer in his lab. Sam described how his time commitment changed:
It was just more responsibility and I felt like I should make more of an effort... as a volunteer, I feel like [I just did] whatever. I might come in to some meetings. It’s not like it’s super significant. But, once I got the [paid] research position, I was in [the lab] almost every day.
While both students indicated that management of an unpaid position was possible, being paid for their research experience had a significant impact on the quality of the experience simply by the amount of time being paid allowed for them to spend on site. Similarly, it impacted how they prioritized their time; these students indicated that being paid allowed for them to prioritize research as a commitment and it held them accountable for their work. While previous literature does address the benefits of participating in undergraduate research, little is understood about the benefits received from spending more time on site. As described by these student participants, being paid impacted the amount of time they could spend conducting research, which allowed for a more meaningful experience. It is an unfair expectation to ask students to donate several hours of research time per week without pay, as this can cause strain for the students. Similarly, without pay to hold students accountable, it is easy for students to hold research as a lower temporal priority, as described by Sam.
In addition to being able to devote more time to research, students were able to gain a better sense of just how long the research process can take. Many students indicated that one
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semester was simply not enough time to become fully involved in the research process, as research can take years to develop methods, culminate findings, and publish results. Nina, a first-generation Black woman in the Entering Research course, described being unable to conduct research in the lab:
In our research, we didn’t get a chance to approve our research on time for us to go to the lab and really, really do research.. .1 think the [Institutional Review] board that had to approve our research.. .it’s going to be a problem until I think next semester or something like that.
Nina described all of the benefits she had still received from this research experience throughout the semester, despite being able to start working on the new project. She developed a more comprehensive understanding of how slow-moving research could be and it impacted her decision to continue pursuing research. Per the stipulations of the scholarship, Nina was required to devote at least three hours per week to research. While being on site was mandatory, Nina quickly discovered that a four month-long semester was simply not enough time to dive into the research process. Not only did the amount of time spent per week impact the quality of the experience, but as described by Nina, the total duration of the undergraduate research experience can impact the quality of the experience as well.
Developing Meaningful Relationships
Previous literature indicates that meaningful relationships developed in the structured research environment, especially with faculty, can have a lasting impact on the trajectory of individual student’s success, both academically and professionally. Students participating in the EUReCA! Program indicated that being paid impacted the quality of relationships they formed with faculty, peers, and other individuals in the research structure, such as graduate students and Professional Research Assistants (PRAs).
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Faculty Relationships
Developing meaningful relationships with faculty can be intimidating for undergraduates,
especially for students who may be encountering faculty from different socioeconomic or racial
backgrounds. Students who participated in the EUReCA! Program reflected on relationships
with their mentors; being paid allowed these students to dedicate the time necessary for the
cultivation of a more meaningful relationship. Mike, a non-traditional student, had also
previously worked in his lab as an unpaid volunteer. When describing how being paid impacted
his mentor relationship, he reflected on the positive changes:
I actually developed, almost, to be honest, a more personal relationship than a research relationship. I’ve gone in there. I’ve kind of struggled a little bit..I’d go in and talk and be like, ‘You know? I’m having trouble budgeting my time. I’m having trouble scheduling.’ And we’ve had discussions about how I can be a better researcher.
For Mike, becoming more involved in the lab allowed for him to develop a deeper relationship
with his Principal Investigator. Students indicated that faculty participating in the EUReCA!
Program truly encompassed what it means to be a mentor, not just a faculty member conducting
research. Faculty went above and beyond to support their undergraduate student research
assistants, from helping them choose graduate programs to giving life advice. The EUReCA!
Program provided faculty and students a structured space in which both parties could cultivate a
meaningful mentor/mentee relationship. Discovering that students had previously worked as
unpaid volunteers allowed for unexpected analyses, such as the amount of time spent on site.
Similarly, students described how being able to spend more time on site, in comparison to their
unpaid experiences, allowed for deeper, more meaningful relationships to be developed with
their faculty mentors. As discussed in the literature, developing relationships with faculty can be
crucial for student success and these relationships can impact student retention and graduation
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rates. Being paid allowed students to devote enough time on site to produce more meaningful relationships with their faculty mentors.
However, not all students were equipped to participate in research at the level expected
by the mentors; students from the Entering Research course, who were the least experienced and
spent the least amount of time with their mentors, reported the least developed mentor
relationships. Lauren described her experience with her mentor:
He was prepared, but I don’t think he was prepared to get freshmen/sophomores in there. I think he was more prepared to get someone who is in to O-Chem and he could just guide them into synthesizing and doing a bunch of stuff. I don’t feel like he fully trusted us to do anything in the lab, because we didn’t know anything about O-Chem, which is totally reasonable. But I still think, like I said, that analyzing papers and the O-Chem knowledge was very beneficial to me.
This reflection is an important contribution; it indicates that not all research is introductory. As discussed in the literature, faculty adding undergraduates to the research process can be risky for a myriad of reasons. If students wish to conduct research at a more advanced level, then it is crucial to understand how an institution can prepare students for those experiences as undergraduates. Similarly, it is important for faculty mentors to carefully consider what research experiences are appropriate for undergraduates, and which experiences are more appropriately considered graduate-level.
Relationships within the Hierarchy of Research
In larger research settings, especially grant-funded research, faculty are not conducting research alone. Often graduate students, post-doctorates, and Professional Research Assistants play an active role in the research process. Not only did the relationship developed with faculty play a substantial role in the experiences of these undergraduates, but the relationships discovered within the hierarchical research structure also contributed to positive student
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experiences. Sally, a Muslim first-generation American in the Work-Study program, discussed
the benefits of being the only undergraduate in a lab with a more advanced research team:
I used to be a very bad public speaker. Presenting at our meetings every Tuesday helped me become more confident in presenting my data and results, and also helped me communicate anything that was troubling in my research, and troubleshoot anything that wasn’t working in my research with my lab team. They would response, help me improve on if I had a technique issue, or maybe the science is not there, or maybe I was just using a bad antibody.
For Sally, being able to discuss her research issues with the research team drastically improved not only her research skillset, but her ability to communicate effectively, especially since English was her second language. Faculty typically only commit a portion of their time to their research, when teaching and service are additional required components of tenureship. Having a structured research environment can be extremely beneficial for undergraduate student researchers, as Principal Investigators are not always available to help guide these students in the research process. While previous literature addresses the benefits of developing meaningful relationships with faculty, little is understood how interactions with other professionals, such as graduate students, can impact the quality of a student’s experience. As discussed previously, faculty take risks by adding undergraduates into the research environment. However, having other individuals serve in supervisory roles allows students to have a knowledgeable support structure; undergraduates can turn to graduate students or other individuals with questions and problems, rather than involving the PI with every minor question. Students can develop meaningful relationships with other individuals and can learn from a larger group of individuals with specialized expertise in their respective academic field.
Peer Relationships
Not only did graduate students, post-docs, and PRAs contribute to the mentorship of undergraduate students, but some students indicated that having undergraduate seniors, who had
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spent several semesters in the lab, helped them grow as aspiring researchers: especially for students in the Entering Research course. Jackie, a first-semester freshman, reviewed her research structure:
It’s definitely been real eye-opening for the idea of research. I got to meet a lot of [undergrads] in the labs who are older and who have been through it. They’re applying for graduate school. I got to learn from them, especially one person in my lab I definitely had a connection to. We talked a lot. I’d ask advice from him. I think that was really helpful, just building a community and learning more about how to communicate with staff, teachers, professors, and being able to be more comfortable with it.
If undergraduates are consistently involved in the research process, then structures will form
where undergraduates in the research setting will have seniority and can help integrate new
undergraduates to the team. Not only does this continue to alleviate strain for faculty and other
researchers who may need to focus primarily on the research, but it allows undergraduates new
to research to interact with peers who are more experienced researchers. As discussed in the
literature, peer-interaction can be a key component of student development and success. In
addition, peer-interaction is an important component of research in that peers are the most
approachable for new researchers wishing to discuss challenges or explore questions regarding
the research.
Peer-relationships are not limited to peer-mentoring; by introducing multiple undergraduates to a research experience at the same time, undergraduates can work together in achieving the goals of the research. Creating a cohort of student researchers can be extremely beneficial to undergraduates. In the Entering Research course, multiple students were paired with the same mentor, but it was not required that the students work together. However, many students discussed how beneficial it was to have a friend in the research structure. Maya, an Ethiopian woman who had only lived in Colorado for three years, was paired with another student in the same research experience. Maya discussed what it was like to work with her peer:
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Me personally, I am not a sociable person. I think it’s because of all of the different culture and different everything, but I believe that this made me to have a good relationship with professionals.. .we ask questions and [our mentor] answers. We have a lot of conversation in his office with our peers and stuff so that’s good experience.
For Maya, an immigrant and non-native English speaker, the thought of doing research with a
faculty mentor was daunting. By experiencing the research process with a peer, it allowed her to
feel more comfortable discussing the research as a group. Allowing undergraduates to rely on
one another can produce confidence and autonomy in the research process.
Understanding the different types of individuals students can interact with inside the
research process can help us understand the quality of experiences provided to students. As noted
by Carpenter and Pena (2017), seeking research experiences can be intimidating for students,
especially for students from traditionally underserved populations who may not be used to
interacting with faculty, who may be of a higher socioeconomic class than their own. Not only
can pay make research more accessible to undergraduates, but it can help grow the research peer
structure, making research more approachable to undergraduates as well.
Development of Self
While others indicated that pay was not absolutely necessary, they discussed in detail how being paid directly impacted their self-esteem and development of self-efficacy. No matter the personal motivation, students indicated that receiving financial compensation directly impacted the quality of the experience and what they learned from participating in a paid research experience.
Self-Esteem
Students who received pay for research experiences via the EUReCA! Program reported positive indicators of self-esteem in relation to their research environment. Being paid allowed students to feel worthy and valued, as if they were an essential part of the research team. Mike,
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who previously worked as an unpaid volunteer, describes how being paid changed his attitude and self-worth:
My responsibilities didn’t change because I was getting paid at all. It changed my attitude, I think, a little bit, and how I interacted with the rest of the lab. I was getting a little, and it’s no one’s fault except for my own, but I was getting a little, I guess, frustrated or something like that towards the beginning of the semester, ‘cause I had put in so much time.. .But it did help me. [Being paid] changed my attitude. I’m not just giving my time in here and maybe getting something back later or something like that. I felt valued, right? And I was getting paid for what I was worth, or paid at least something showing me I was worth something.
Making a commitment as an unpaid volunteer, no matter how valuable the experience, can cause strain for students. As described earlier, in order for students to receive the most from a research experience, they need to devote as much time as possible. Conducting research as an unpaid volunteer requires sacrifice; it can be mentally and emotionally taxing, as students work so hard to receive little short-term return. Even if students could manage to work unpaid, being paid helps alleviate strain and helps students believe they are important. Student participants described in detail how being paid made them feel worthy, important, and validated. Receiving that validation from both their faculty mentors and their institution made them feel as if their experience mattered.
Self-Efficacy
Self-efficacy is defined as the internal belief that one can accomplish a task or goal. Not only did financial compensation allow students to feel as if they were worthy, but it helped developed confidence in relation to their identity as a researcher. Amy describes the moment in which she realized her fellowship had given her the courage to recruit participants for her research:
I was at a punk show the other night, and the female lead singer came up to me and just started chatting with me. We were just talking, and she walked away. I was like, ‘Oh shoot. I should have asked her for an interview or told her that I’m part of this
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fellowship.’ I sort of went off into the comer and chewed over it for a little while. I was like, ‘should I maybe re-approach her?’ And then, I was like, ‘yeah. Yeah. Because I’m a researcher. ’
Amy described that prior to conducting this research, she would have been too intimidated to approach the singer. However, this research experience allowed her to embrace her identity as a researcher and she felt confident in her ability to approach a potential participant for her project. Students participating in the EUReCA! Program frequently discussed these signs of self-efficacy development; their research experiences solidified their desire to continue to graduate programs, or continue research professionally. The program created a more accessible space where students could not only intentionally develop and refine future academic and career goals, but believe that those goals were achievable through getting tangible experience. Understanding how being paid impacted the quality of an undergraduate research experience is important; it not only helps justify future funding for the program, but provides future implications for programs at other institutions.
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CHAPTER VI
CONCLUSION
Participation in undergraduate research experiences has a myriad of benefits. Previous literature indicates that undergraduate research has a positive impact on GPA, the development of positive relationships with faculty, staff, and peers, and the development of self-efficacy. However, research experiences are overwhelmingly unpaid and are not sanctioned by higher education institutions, but rather, are offered by faculty to students in an informal capacity. If we understand the value of undergraduate research and want it to be intensive enough to have the most impact on the student experience, then we need to pay students for their work, as evidenced in this thesis. Being paid was fundamental to improving the quality of the research experience for students participating in the EUReCA! Program; it legitimized the student experience above and beyond that of an unpaid experience. Pay allowed students to make a more formal commitment to their research by allowing them to spend more time on site and taking it more seriously: as a job, versus a volunteer experience. Being paid allowed students to spend more time conducting research, which in turn helps them develop better relationships with their mentors and peers. Being paid allowed students to develop positive psychological traits, such as self-esteem and self-efficacy, and allowed students to cultivate identity as both a researcher and as a valued member of their institution.
Students from traditionally underserved populations disproportionately do not access extra-curricular activities, like undergraduate research. Seeking research experiences can be intimidating for these students, as they may be encountering faculty from a different socioeconomic class than their own, or they may not simply have the level of cultural capital necessary to navigate the extra-curriculum. Providing paid, structured research experiences
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allows students from a wider variety of backgrounds to access these experiences, especially students from backgrounds demonstrated to benefit the most from participation in undergraduate research.
We must understand how students find experiences to ensure equal opportunity. If the majority of students continue to find research experiences via faculty and word of mouth, then a larger effort must be made to post and promote positions to all students. While it makes sense that faculty would be inclined to hire students with whom they already have a relationship, not all students know how to develop meaningful relationships with faculty, inside or outside the classroom. The best way to support students is by making research accessible to as many students as possible, and by helping students understand that research is possible at the undergraduate level as early as possible. Faculty play a crucial role, as both recruiters to and mentors within the program. The findings discussed in this thesis outline that faculty serve as a main source of recruitment and infrastructure should therefore be created that centralizes faculty as key players in outreach. However, faculty recruitment can be problematic, as faculty may be more likely to recruit students out of convenience, such as a student who performed well in a course. Overcoming this institutional barrier for students with less cultural capital can be challenging, and multiple, approachable avenues should be in place to ensure access to students of all backgrounds. Future exploration as to the success of this program should address the benefits and problems experienced by faculty, so that both faculty and student received structured support that produces the most mutually beneficial experience.
Creating structure in the research environment is pivotal to the research experience. Allowing graduate students, professional research assistants, and/or post-doctorates to supervise when possible can be so beneficial to both the student and the faculty mentor. It helps alleviate
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the strain for faculty who may not always have time to support inexperienced undergraduates, and allows students from traditionally underserved populations to feel more comfortable in approaching non-faculty mentors. In addition, involving more than one undergraduate can greatly impact students’ peer interactions and their individual growth. Faculty should also be encouraged to create senior research positions as well to allow for undergraduates to share in the responsibility of training and mentoring other undergraduates. Having other undergraduates in the research structure not only helps peer-to-peer interactions, but can be beneficial to students in developing self-efficacy, especially when seeing senior undergraduates be successful in their advanced positions. As demonstrated by these findings, having a structured research environment in which multiple individuals across various levels of experience greatly contributed to the quality of the research experience.
A certain level of experience is required; while Entering Research students certainly gained a great deal from their research placements, the experience makes more sense when students are better prepared and equipped for research experiences. While faculty feedback given to the program indicated that these students were not ready for research experiences, it was valuable to hear that students also agreed that they were not quite ready to be in an autonomous research experience. The course still offered students a great deal of support and has the potential to negate some of the access issues described in this thesis as an intervention to prepare students for research experiences later in their undergraduate career.
Currently, the EUReCA! Program limits the amount of time a student can work in a specific research experience: two semesters. This was already a push from a one-semester limit, as the funding was aimed to increase undergraduate student participation in research. In order to support a better research structure, students should be encouraged and supported in their research
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experience as long as possible in order to continue growing and refining their skillset. Similarly, by allowing students to spend more time in their research experience, it would allow for the development of a larger research structure, in which undergraduates could play a senior role in helping undergraduates new to research. Commitments should be at minimum one year long, where students enter at the beginning of the year, preferably with at least one other student. This allows students to have a better understanding of their commitment (versus a semester-basis), and makes administration of the program easier. While faculty may not be able to take new students every year, it does allow for students to grow and succeed in a group environment.
Paid research opportunities significantly impact the quality of the research experience provided to students, including the amount of time students can devote to their research, the caliber of meaningful relationships developed with faculty, staff, and peers, and the heightened development of crucial psychological traits, such as self-esteem and self-efficacy. Future research should further explore the relationship between pay and the quality of an undergraduate research experience to better understand the impact through quantitative framework. This method can also help higher education institutions predict student success factors, such as retention and graduation rates, that result from the paid experience.
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Horowitz, J. (2018). Relative education and the advantage of a college degree. American Sociological Review, 83(4), 771-801.
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Lareau, A. (2015). Cultural knowledge and social inequality. American Sociological Review, 50(1), 1-27.
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Sell, A. J., Naginey, A., & Stanton, C. A. (2018). The impact of undergraduate research on academic success. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 7(3), 19-29.
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Full Text

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EXPLORING SELF EFFICACY DEVELOPMENT AMONG PAID UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH ASSISTANTS by REBECCA RENE MINASIAN B.A., University of Colorado Denver, 2017 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Sociology Program 2019

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ii This thesis for the Master of Arts Degree by Rebecca Rene Minasian has been approved for the Sociology Program by Stacey J. Bosick, Chair Lindsey Hamilton Edelina Burciaga Date: May 18 th , 2019

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iii Minasian, Rebecca Rene (M.A., Sociology Program) Exploring Self Efficacy Development A mong Paid Undergraduate Research Assistants Thesis directed by Associate Professor Stacey J. Bosick ABSTRACT As higher education institutions continue to experience high rates of enrollment, it is important to not only understand how students matriculate through universities, but how students spend their time towards degree attainment. Previous li terature acknowledges lower income students are less likely to access the non academic benefits of higher education, such as developing relationships with faculty or participating in extra curricular activities, due to a lack of cultural capital. This expl oratory evaluation of a pilot undergraduate research program describes the benefits of paid undergraduate research experiences as understood by student participants. The goal of the program was to increase undergraduate participation in research while prov iding pay so that students from lower income backgrounds could participate. While previous literature addresses the myriad of benefits received from participation in an undergraduate research experience, this thesis seeks to understand how being paid to pa rticipate in a research experience produces a quality experience above and beyond the expectations described in the literature. The findings in th is thes is indicate that pay is fundamental to the student experienc e, regardless of financial need. While pay does encourage diversity through making undergraduate research experiences accessible to traditionally underserved student populations, pay creates sig nificantly impro ved and inclusive experiences for all students, regardless of financial need. The quality of experience, as evidenced by the amount of time dev oted to research, t he meanin g ful relationships cultivated, and the development of self effi c acy, was directly impacted by financial compensation. Future research sho uld continue to

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iv explore the impact of being paid on the quality of the experience from a quantitative s tandpoint, and should be used to justify growing structured, paid undergraduate research programs across the country. The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publi cation. Approved: Stacey J. Bosick

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v This thesis is dedicated to my grandmother, who has remained a constant rock throughout my educational journey. I also dedicate this thesis to my loving family and my supportive friends, as well as my wonderful colleagues and my inspirational educators at CU Denver. I would not be here today without your amazing support.

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vi TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 1 II. LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 6 III. DATA AND METHODOLOGY ................................ ................................ ....................... 11 IV. RECRUITMENT AND MOTIVATORS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PROGRAM ................................ ................................ ............... 14 V. CREATING A QUALITY RESEARCH EXPERIENCE ................................ ................. 20 VI. CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 30 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 3 4

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1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Higher education institutions are viewed as the gatekeepers to the American Dream; students who dedicate time and money towards their degree believe they will secure a better, more financially prosperous future for themselves (Brand & Xie, 2010; Binder, Da vis, & Bloom , 201 6 ). Growing specialized job markets have necessitated a college degree for employment that maintains, at least, a middle class socioeconomic status (Horowitz , 2018). As students are entering college at rates higher than ever ( Tinto, 2012 ), it is important to understand not only the rates at which students matriculate through universities, but the latent functions produced by this mass enrollment. As discussed by Horowitz (2018), this dramatic increase has not only diminished the value of a four year degree, but growing competition for high skilled occupations has engendered greater risk for underemployment among college graduates. Now, more than ever, it is important for sociologists to understand who is at most risk for underemploymen t, and how the time spent obtaining a degree prepares students for employment after graduation. Not only are students matriculating through college at record rates, but this mass enrollment is characterized by traditionally underserved student populations from diverse backgrounds, such as students from working class backgrounds, students of color, first generation students, and non traditional students (Kuh, 2008 ; Tinto, 2012 ). However, these students are not often equipped with the same level of instituti onal knowledge as their affluent , White counterparts (Lareau, 2015; Thiele, 2016 ). Similarly, the exponentially rising cost of a higher education is also of paramount concern; students are facing student loan debt at higher rates than any previous generati on, placing an enormous financial strain on students ( Nazaire & Usher, 2015 ). This strain is often compounded by the aforementioned issues: students from

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2 certain backgrounds will have a harder time navigating institutions, and may not be gaining the experi ences necessary to find gainful employment after graduation. Higher education institutions have, to some degree, acknowledged the issues experienced by students from marginalized backgrounds. Roughly one decade ago, the Association of American Colleges a nd Universities (AACU) compiled a seminal report outlining a group of teaching and learning practices evidenced to improve student retention and graduation: h igh i mpact p ractices (Kuh, 2008). High i mpact p ractices include, but are not limited to, f irst y ea r s eminars, i nternships, u ndergraduate r esearch, and s enior c apstones. Perhaps the most momentous discovery outlined in this report is the empirical demonstration that participation in a h igh i mpact p ractice produces positive effects, especially for studen ts from historically underserved populations (Kuh, 2008). Effectually, the lower graduation and retention rates of traditionally underserved student populations could be combatted with the utilization of High Impact Practices. In the United States, 261 hi gher education institutions are categorically described as either a Research 1 institution or a Research 2 institution, meaning that these institutions The Carnegie Classif ication of Institutions, 2018 ). If faculty at these institutions are required to maintain some research productivity, then integrating undergraduates into the research process should be an easy and natural fit. As outlined by Kuh (2008), u ndergraduate r ese arch, as a h igh i mpact p observation, cutting edge technologies, and the sense of excitement that comes from working to rgraduate research can be mutually beneficial for both the student and the faculty mentor; while faculty have a larger pool of intellect to

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3 contribute to the research project, students are able to apply skills and knowledge gained through real experience. Similarly, undergraduate research is a unique experience that fosters deeper, more meaningful relationships with faculty . D eveloping substantial relationships with fac ulty can have a big impact on student success, including the development of self efficacy, grade point average, Chemers, Zurbriggen, Syed, Goza, & Bearman , 2011; Sell, Naginey , & Stanton, 2018; Stuber, 2009 ). However, for traditionally underrepresented students, navigating these relationships can be especially challenging, as faculty are likely to belong to a higher social class and hold majority group identities (Aries & Seide r, 2005). In addition, undergraduate research opportunities may be limited and faculty may not actively promote research positions. Students are often responsible for seeking opportunities in an informal capacity: approaching faculty members and asking for any research opportunities they may have available. This method systematically limits the access to undergraduate research opportunities, as students from traditionally served populations are more likely to have the cultural capital to successfully seek o pportunities ( Lareau, 2015; Thiele, 2016 ). Compounding these issues is the fact that undergraduate research opportunities are traditionally unpaid and conducted on a volunteer basis. Participating in an unpaid research experience is a privilege not all stu dents can afford, especially at urban research institutions that experience higher rates of enrollment for non traditionally aged students and first generation students who may need to work jobs to support families or help pay for college and related expen ses ( Nazaire & Usher, 2015 ). As the only urban public research university in Colorado, the University of Colorado Denver has acknowledged the need to increase undergraduate participation in research. This was,

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4 in part, motivated by the diverse student po pulation at CU Denver and the desire to better support students seeking research experiences. Thus, three pilot undergraduate research programs were launched in the Summer 2018 semester as entry points for varying levels of student experience, from no prio r research experience to experienced undergraduate scholars. All three programs were created under a parent program, EUR CA! : Education through Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (Table 1.1) . Table 1.1 EUR CA! Program Participants, Summer/Fall 2018 Female Students of Color First Generation Entering Research (n=18) .72 .67 .44 Work Study (n=37) .68 .35 .4 0 * Fellowship (n=17) .76 .47 .38* *Proportion of students with known first generation status An sophomores in research. The EUR CA! Program provided scholarships to all students w ho demonstrated financial need and paired students with faculty mentors so that students had th e opportunity to tangibly understand the research process. The largest EUR CA! program is the Work Study program. Federal Work time jobs for undergraduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn m oney to help pay education U.S. Department of Education, n.d. ) . The EUR CA! Program provided partial funding as required by Federal Work Study , allowing faculty to hire part time undergraduate research assistants at no cost. Lastly, a Fellowshi p Program was developed: a competitive stipend award for advanced students conducting research under a faculty mentor. All new programs will face challenges as they attempt to develop best procedures and practices; conducting an empirical evaluation to sel f assess the initial success or failure of a program is crucial for sustainability. Previous evaluations have collected descriptive data of the student participants to illustrate program growth. However, this evaluation includes the rich

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5 narratives of stud ent participants to address the perceived benefits of participating in a University supported paid undergraduate research experience .

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6 CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW As higher education is experienc ing mass enrollment from students of diverse backgrounds, it is important to understand the complex varia nce in the student experience : socioeconomic status is a strong predictor of th e colligate atmosphere . Students from worki ng class backgrounds are more likely to be first generation college students , meaning that they are the first person in their family to attend college (Aries & Seider, 2005) . However, students from these backgrounds are often not equipped with the same kno wledge as their affluent counterparts; navigating institutional rules, both formal and informal, can be challenging . In a follow up study to her famous Unequal Childhoods ethnography, Annette Lareau investigate d the cultural capital necessary to navigate post secondary institutions. She discovered that when it came to understanding both formal and informal rules in middle class students were much more prepared than their lower class counterparts (Lareau, 2015). Middle class youth are systematically set up for success, as they inherit intergenerational cultural capital from their parents; it is easier for them to navigate higher education systems. Lareau discove red that educational success did not solely stem from classroom knowledge; students needed to know how to successfully navigate institutions through informal knowledge of institutional rules and practices. Not only do we need to understand how students matriculate through universities, but we must understand the experiences students gain outside the classroom as they prepare for employment after graduation. Stuber (2009) argues for the examination of the extra curriculum; she finds that experiences suc h as internships and undergraduate research are

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7 spaces in which students gain access to social and cultural resources, and that students of privileged backgrounds are most likely to find and access these experiences. This finding supports Lareau in that st udents from certain backgrounds understand what experiences to pursue in service of reproducing their class background. R apid increases in enrollment in higher education institutions have not only forced marginalized students to matriculate through instit utions systematically designed to support the traditiona lly served student populations , but has caused institutions to think critically on how they can adapt to the changing socioeconomic backgrounds of their students . Providing structured experiences as p art of the extra curriculum is an important way for students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds access to spaces traditionally reserved for students with the necessary cultural capital to navigate finding and securing extra curricular experiences. According to Tinto (2012), positive student interactions with faculty, staff, and peers, both an academically and socially, are associated with college success. Undergraduate research is a great experience in which students can gain the necess ary experience to pursue future academic and career goals , and it provides a structured space in which students can experience meaningful interactions with faculty, staff, and peers . Sell et al. (2018) found a positive association between research particip ation and grade point average (GPA) , even when controlling for high GPA predictors such as high school GPA, number of years in college, and first generation status. Similarly, students who had participated in research experiences earlier in their undergrad uate coursework had higher GPAs that those who began research as upperclassmen (Sell et al. , 2018). This finding indicates that earlier participation in research may directly improve student success as measured by GPA. Donley and Paige (2018) investigated how hands on research experiences promote the demystification of the research process, and that the collaborative team environment

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8 directly impacted how students connected their research to real life. Research is often conducted in within a team environmen t, where multiple individuals of varying levels of expertise will contribute to the overarching project. Students wi th access to these individuals will benefit from these interactions ; students not only gain a real sense of how leadership and teamwork operate within the research environment, but the teamwork model helps students develop self efficacy through being an active team member ( Chemers et al . , 2011) Self efficacy is the internal belief one has in their ability to succeed in a specific situation or task (Bandura, 199 7 ) ; it is the self perceptions individuals develop through interactions and experiences with others and impacts how individuals approach goals, tasks, and challenges (Tinto, 201 7 ). Participation in undergraduate research expe confidence that they can, and will, succeed in future academic and career aspirations, especially when those goals intersect with the skills gained from the research experience (Chemers et al . , 2011). As self efficac y is not innate, higher education institutions should support experiences, such as undergraduate research, that help develop self efficacy in order to support student achievement during , and after , college. While the benefits of participating in undergraduate research are plentiful, arguably the most beneficial aspect is the relationship developed between faculty mentors and undergraduate students. Faculty play a critical role in the overall success of undergraduate students, especially for studen ts like first generation students who may not have opportunities to develop natural relationships with faculty (Carpenter & Pena, 2017). Griese, MacMahon, and Kenyon (2017) explored the relationship between faculty /student relationships and found that posi tive mentor relationships strongly impacted student learning gains. This finding is especially important for underrepresented students in higher education, as they are the least likely to cultivate a meaningful relationship with faculty ( Thiele, 2016). Tin to (2012) discovered that meaningful

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9 relationships developed on campus between students and their peers, faculty, and university staff were positively correlated with student satisfaction and retention. Similarly, the ab sence of meaningful ties was discove red as a predictor of disenrollment (Tinto, 2012) . Engaging undergraduates in research not only provides benefits to the student, especially students from traditionally underserved populations, but it provides benefits to the institution as a way to improv e retention and graduation rates. Integrating undergraduates into the research process can be risky; the training process can experience (Gillies & Marsh, 2013). Similarly, by the time undergraduates are prepared for the research environment, they may be close to graduating, causing high turnover in undergraduate research positions (Gillies & Marsh, 2013). However, the students most likely to pursue research opportunities are the students interested in finding research opportunities, meaning that those who are not interested in research do not typically pursue research opportunities (Gillies & Marsh, 2013 ; Nazaire & Usher, 2015 ). This key finding suggests that students who fin d research opportunities truly want to participate in the research and are seeking these opportunities voluntarily. However, as previously noted, it is important for institutions to understand which types of students are more likely to seek research experi ences because they know to seek them; institutions must implement interventions aimed towards traditionally underserved populations that make undergraduate research more accessible in order to help educate these undergraduates as to the benefits of partici pating in an undergraduate research experience. As outlined by Thiele (2016), elite students did not appear to have the necessary cultural capital to engage in student faculty relationships successfully and the refore were not predisposed to maximize the benefits of these interactions

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10 Not only do economically disadvantaged students lack the institutional knowledge necessary to navigate undergraduate research experiences and cultivate meaningful faculty relationships , but students who need to work jobs are typically unable to participate in the extra curriculum (Nazaire & Usher, 2015). In a pilot work study undergraduate research program, Nazaire and Usher (2015) found that their institution provided fun ding to students academically prepared for the level of engagement necessary, and increased the participation of women, first generation, and minority group students. This finding reflects that intersectional identities are present in higher education, and that these students disproportionately come from lower class backgrounds. Similarly, noting that students who sought experiences displayed academic preparedness is crucial. As previously discussed, undergraduate research can place strain on faculty ; faculty need quality, prepared students for success. Students may not be motivated by the paycheck, but rather the paycheck may help open opport unities for students who were previously unable to participate in undergraduate research experiences. Due to the inequalities present in higher education, especially along class lines, it is important to explore the benefits of undergraduate research in t he context of financial compensation. While previous literature addresses the benefits of undergraduate research and advocates for paid experiences , the literature does not address the benefits of paid research opportunit ies as experienced by students. Thi s thesis seeks to produce data that directly show the benefits of paid undergraduate research experience s as experienced by students.

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11 CHAPTER III DATA AND METHODOLOGY Overview The University of Colorado is a diverse campus ; over half of enrolled underg raduates are female, 44% of all undergraduate s are students of color, and 50% of the freshmen cohort in the Fall 2018 cohort were first generation ( The University of Colorado Denver, 2018) . The purpose of this program evaluation is to better understand the unique experiences of students participating in a pilot undergraduate research program at the diverse CU Denver campus . I seek to understand the self perceived benefits of participating in a university funded undergraduat e research program as interpreted by the student participants. I explore how participation in the program impacts student skill development, as well as their development of professionalism and self efficacy. Similarly, I seek to understand both the profess ional and personal impact that a paid research experience can have on an undergraduate student. This exploratory evaluation takes a qualitative approach; semi structured interviews were conducted as the primary data source in order to better understand the aforementioned student experiences. Design and Methods This evaluation is concerned with understanding how the EUR CA! Program impacts the structured interviewing was chosen as the appropriate methodological approach because it allows participants to have the freedom to discuss what they deem as most relevant to their experience in tandem to prepared questions designed to incite discussions of their experiences in the program itself.

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12 Participants All students who were involv ed in any of the three pilot EUR CA! programs during the Summer 2018 semester and/or the Fall 2018 semester were invited to participate in the present evaluation. Students who had entered the EUR CA! Work Study program partway into the Fall 2018 semester were excluded from participating, as they had not accrued enough hours at the time of the interviews to properly discuss the impacts addressed in this evaluation. In total, thirty students from the EUR CA! Work Study program and all ten students from the EUR CA! Fellowship program were invited to participate. Students were recruited via email, where they were advised on the purpose of the evaluation and notified of the potential risks if they chose to participate. Students who chose to participate were i nvited to sign up for an interview slot via signup.com. The Sign Up form was private; students could not view the names or any other personal information belonging to the other participants. All seventeen students enrolled in the EUR CA! Entering Resear ch Internship course during the Fall 2018 semester were invited to participate in the evaluation. Students enrolled in this Entering Research course were recruited in person during their class period on November 30 th , 2018. Similar to the email recruitment for the work study and fellowship students , students in the Entering Research course were notified of the purpose of the evaluation and advised of the potential risks if they chose to participate. Students were assured that participation would be confiden tial and would not impact their standing in the program, nor would it impact their grade in the course. Students who chose to participate were able to sign up for an interview time slot in person with the Principal Investigator , and a follow up email was s ent to confirm their interview time.

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13 Interviews Fifteen interviews in total were conducted with students across all three of the pilot programs, roughly 25% of the total eligible participants (Table 3.1 ). All the interviews took place Table 3.1 Descriptio n of Participants Female Student s of Color Student Participants (n=15) .67 .47 during the last two weeks of the Fall 2018 semester. Interviews were conducted inside my office at the Experiential Learning Center on campus and lasted from thirty to sixty minutes. Interviews were audio recorded ; all in terview recordings were transcribed and the original recordings were Limitations First and foremost, as this is an evaluation of a program . The structure of the EUR CA! Program is unique and is considered a pilot program. Given the uniqueness of the pro gram and that participation is limited to students enrolled at CU Denver, the findings in this thesis do not constitute as generalizable research. The findings in this paper are relative to the program and its host institution. While this research cannot b e assumed true for the experiences of all undergraduates participating in research experiences, it can inform future research as well as future implementations of undergraduate research programs at other universities.

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14 CHAPTER IV RECRUITMENT AND MOTIVATORS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PROGRAM Overview of Findings The decision to pursue research at the undergraduate level is complex; some students may have a clear understanding that participating in a research experience is necessary for future career goals, while others may use undergra duate research as an avenue to explore academic and/or career paths related to their field of study. This understand ing, known as cultural capital, indicates how and why students seek research experiences. Understanding how and why students seek undergraduate research opportunities impacts how programs can provide access to opportunities. Since the EUR CA! P rogram facilitated structured paid research opportunities for undergraduate s , it is important to understand how students accessed these paid opportunities and the role being paid played in the decision to pursue research. Recruitment The Role of Faculty P revious literature indicates that faculty do not typically actively seek undergraduate research assistants; rather , students tend to seek research opportunities via their own individual determination. S tudents participating in the EUR CA! Program indicated that faculty played a significant role in recruiting undergraduates to the program. Jimmy, a non traditional Veteran, chronicled his experience in finding his first undergraduate research opportunity: Actually, mine came through getting the job offer. I met [faculty mentor] at a math open house when I was first talking about this program and switching into a math major. She said that she was looking for work study students, and she had applied for funding through EUR CA!. She directed me to apply though [the program]. By recruiting Jimmy directly, the faculty mentor made research a viable option, as Jimmy was not planning on seeking a research opportunity prior learning about this position. The faculty

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15 member still required Jimmy to apply f or the position, ensuring that the position was not just awarded to him and allowing all other students who had applied to the position to be considered. Faculty recruitment can be important, especially for students who either do not know how to seek resea rch opportunities or do not know that research is an option at the undergraduate level. In fact, almost every single student in the Entering Research course was recruited directly to the course via outreach from the faculty instructor. Recruitment and outr each allow research to become more accessible to all students, rather than relying on individual student determination to seek research experiences. Not all students were openly recruited to the program; some students were previously working in labs and recruited by their current faculty mentors. However, faculty still served as a primary resource in helping students receive pay for their research experiences. Amala, an Indian American who had received a Fellowship, had previously worked for pay in a lab outside the EUR majority of her time was spent cleaning and completing repetitive tasks, rather than primarily researching: a job, not a research assistantship. Amala describes how she found out about the fellowship: My PI (Principal Investigator) got the email from [the Director of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities] and she said this sounds like something interesting. If you want to do this, I will definitely help you out and sponsor you. I thought this sounds really interesting and it would look good on my resume. It would really give me a chance to develop [research] of my own. application, knowing that if she were to be accepted, Amala would no longer work as an employee, but would rather be focusing on her own research project. Faculty frequently

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16 demonstrated the willingness to provide paid experiences for students and actively supported students in gaining more meaningful paid research experiences. Motivators The Know How: Cultural Capital and Finding Research While the majority of students discovered the EUR CA! Program through faculty, students described various reasons for seeking research experiences. Some of the students in the EUR CA! Program described various levels of institutional know how: the cultural capital necessary to navigate finding and securing undergraduate research experiences. As previously men tioned, Mike was working in his lab unpaid prior to the EUR CA! Program. He describes how he first found his opportunity after taking a course with his faculty mentor: ike the content. And so, I kind of developed a relationship with her and towards the end of the semester just asked her if she had any positions open for a researcher, and she said yeah. bit intimidated. It was of view, for a med school application, it looks good. In this quotation, Mike describes not only how he felt comfortable approaching his prof essor to ask for a research position, but he knew that securing a research position was necessary if he hoped to continue his education through medical school. Even though his faculty mentor helped him receive an hourly wage through the EUR CA! Program th e following semester, Mike still demonstrated that entrance to research was still a result of his individual determination to find a research experience and the level of comfortability he felt with faculty interactions. Students, like Mike, frequently sta seek research experiences is not characteristic of all students just those with higher amounts of cultural c apital who understand what purpose research experience serves in the context of higher

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17 education. Edward, a Native American freshman enrolled in the Entering Research course, talks about his motivation for taking the course: I figured why not start the fi Even when descri bing his motivation for choosing his faculty mentor, Edward mentioned that working in an O Chem lab just sounded more prestigious. Knowing how to find and secure research experiences is a form of cultural capital in higher education, and some students demo nstrated more ease in seeking experiences than others. Not all students had the know with all to seek research experiences. Some students indicated that they were unaware that research was a possibility at the undergraduate level, and often times, an opp ortunity simply presented itself without the student actively seeking it. Allen, a non traditional student, first learned about the EUR CA! Fellowship through his honors program, which requires a research experience: allowed to do research or that, that was an opportunity or an option. Even though Allen needed a research experienc e for his program, he still was unsure how to approach finding a research experience and the support from a faculty member helped him secure an experience. Many students indicated that they thought research experiences were reserved for faculty and gradu ate students and completely unavailable to undergraduates. Olivia, a sophomore in the Entering Research course, described her motivation to enroll: I got an email from [the instructor] and I ignored it at first because I had already got my classes set, b ut then I realized oh I have 13 credits. I was like I just need one more credit. what it was honestly. I read it was an internship program and I was like, I have no idea

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18 what it was. While some students indicated knowing how important research can be for an undergraduate career, Olivia admitted that she did not know why she enrolled in the course and had no expectations for the research experience she would receive. She did not know that research was an important learning opportunity; rather, she just needed to fill space in her academic schedule. extremely valuable to provid ing equal opportunities. Institutions must acknowledge that not all students will know how to find research opportunities and they must ensure that opportunities are easy to find. Being Paid: Motivations for Research Being paid served as a motivator for several students participating in the program. While some students indicated that, without pay, participation would have been impossible, others indicated that the skills and knowledge gained from the experience were imp ortant regardless of pay. However, being paid significant ly improved the quali ty of the experience for all students , as discussed in the next chapter . Nina c onsidered her ability to take the Entering Research course without the scholarship: or if I financially able to pay for it, I would have definitely tried it out. Th at financial part Even though Nina knew that taking this course would be extremely beneficial to her education, she discusses how grateful she was to receive the scholarship, as the cost may have preven ted her from enrolling in the course. For Amy, being paid was supposed to supplement her income, but it actually allowed her to quit her job as a server so that she could devote more time to her research:

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19 I ended up quitting the café halfway through the s emester because I was like, I want to be table, so I need to go do this for six hours or seven hours. While being paid was certainly a motivator for Amy, it also all owed her to rely on the EUR CA! Program as her main income source, so that she could gain relevant experience to her field. However, not all students indicated that being paid was essential; Lauren, a scholarship recipient, described her motivation for ta king the Entering Research course: was the experience that mattered more within my undergraduate college career, than the nts about it and they also concurred with me. Several of the participants indicated that being paid was not the main motivator for participation in the program; the experience was more important than the money. However, pay still played a crucial role in improving the quality of experience that these students received. This is a key finding; student participants indicated that they were primarily seeking research opportunities to gain the experience, but being paid allowed for a more quality experience. This is consistent with literature in that students who want research experiences are the most likely to seek opportunities. Truly expanding the program and providing opportunities to students of all backgrounds should incl ude interventions geared towards helping students understand, at a basic level, that research is possible at the undergraduate level. However, understanding what motivates students to seek paid research experiences is only one part of the equation; as disc ussed in previous literature, we must also understand how being paid impacts the quality and perceived benefits of the research opportunity .

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20 CHAPTER V CREATING A QUALITY RESEARCH EXPERIENCE Ove rview of Findings Being able to accept a voluntary unpaid research position is a privilege, and can be nearly impossible for undergraduates experiencing financial strain. The core of this thesis explores the role financial compensation plays in the research environment, and how university funded research o pportunities greatly improve the experiences of undergraduates through interviews with students participating in a pilot undergraduate research program. These semi structured interviews produced several themes that encapsulated the role financial compensation playe d in . Being paid impacted the quality of the experience; it allowed for a more serious time commitment, helped students develop more meaningful relationships with mentors and peers, and promoted the development of self esteem an d self efficacy. Time is Money Undergraduate students have busy lives, often needing to balance class attendance, related coursework, jobs, and personal commitments. Paid experiences in the EUR CA! Program impacted how students managed their time, the process, as well as the amount of time they were able to dedicate to research. Time Spent on Site Several students indicated how being paid impacted the amount of time they were able to dedicate to research throughout the semester. While unpaid, volunteer based undergraduate research assistants may not prioritize research over other academic and person al commitments, students who received financial compensation for their research experience noted that being paid allowed them to dedicate more time to their research. When asked what it was like to receive the

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21 paid EUR CA! Fellowship, Amy, a non tradition al student, described how research became a priority: I think the incentive to pull tons of hours at a time would probably not have been as much l like [being paid] definitely made it top of the priority list quite a bit [because it was] a really good incentive to get it done. Sam, a n immigrant employed as a work study research assistant, previously worked as a volunteer in his lab. Sam described how his time commitment changed: volunteer, I feel like [I just did] whatever. I might come in to some the [paid] research position, I was in [the lab] almost every day. While both students indicated that management of an unpaid position was possible, being paid for their research experience had a significant impact on the quality of the experience simp ly by the amount of time being paid allowed for them to spend on site. Similarly, it impacted how they prioritized their time; these students indicated that being paid allowed for them to prioritize research as a commitment and it held them accountable for their work. While previous literature does address the benefits of participating in undergraduate research, little is understood about the benefits received from spending more time on site. As described by these student participants, being paid impacted t he amount of time they could spend conducting research, which allowed for a more meaningful experience. It is an unfair expectation to ask students to donate several hours of research time per week without pay, as this can cause strain for the students. Si milarly, without pay to hold students accountable, it is easy for students to hold research as a lower temporal priority, as described by Sam. In addition to being able to devote more time to research, students were able to gain a better sense of just ho w long the research process can take. Many students indicated that one

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22 semester was simply not enough time to become fully involved in the research process, as research can take years to develop methods, culminate findings, and publish results. Nina, a fir st generation Black woman in the Entering Research course, described being unable to conduct research in the lab: nstitutional Review] board that had to like that. Nina described all of the benefits she had still received from this research experience throughout the semester, d espite being able to start working on the new project. She developed a more comprehensive understanding of how slow moving research could be and it impacted her decision to continue pursuing research. Per the stipulations of the scholarship , Nina was requi red to devote at least three hours per week to research. While being on site was mandatory, Nina quickly discovered that a four month long semester was simply not enough time to dive into the research process . Not only did the amount of time spent per week impact the quality of the experience, but as described by Nina, the total duration of the undergraduate research experience c an impact the quality of the experience as well. Developing Meaningful Relationships Previous literature indicates that meaningful relationships develop ed in the structured research environment , especially with faculty, can have a lasting impact on the trajectory of ts participating in the EUR CA! Program indicated that being paid impacted the quality of relationships they formed with faculty, peers, and other individuals in the research structure, such as graduate students and Professional Research Assistants (PRAs) .

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23 Faculty Relationships Developing meaningful relationships with faculty can be intimidating for undergraduates, especially for students who may be encountering faculty from different socioeconomic or racial backgrounds. Students who participated in the EUR CA! Program reflected on relationships with their mentors; being paid allowed these students to dedicate the time necessary for the cultivation of a more meaningful relationship. Mike, a non traditional student, had also previously worked in his lab a s an unpaid volunteer. When describing how being paid impacted his mentor relationship, he reflected on the positive changes: I actually developed, almost, to be honest, a more personal relationship than a research For Mike, becoming more involved in the la b allowed for him to develop a deeper relationship with his Principal Investigator. Students indicated that faculty participating in the EUR CA! Program truly encompassed what it means to be a mentor, not just a faculty member conducting research. Faculty went above and beyond to support their undergraduate student research assistants, from helping them choose graduate programs to giving life advice. The EUR CA! Program provided faculty and students a structured space in which both parties could cultivate a meaningful mentor/mentee relationship . Discovering that students had previously worked as unpaid volunteers allowed for unexpected analys es, such as the amount of time spent on site. Similarly, students described how being able to spend more time on sit e , in comparison to their unpaid experiences, allowed for deeper, more meaningful relationships to be developed with their faculty mentors . As discussed in the literature, developing relationships with faculty can be crucial for student success and these relationships can impact student retention and graduation

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24 rates. Being paid allowed students to devote enough time on site to produce more meaningful relationships with their faculty mentors. However, not all students were equipped to participate in research at the level expected by the mentors; students from the Entering Research course, who were the least experienced and spent the least amount of time with their mentors, reported the least developed mentor relationships. Lauren descri bed her experience with her mentor: I think he was more prepared to get someone who is in to O Chem and he could just guide them into synthesizing and doing a bunch Chem, which is totally reasonable. But I still think, like I said, that analyzing papers and the O Chem knowledge was very beneficial to me. This reflection is an important contribution; it indicates that not all research is introductory. As discussed in the literature, faculty adding undergraduates to the research process can be risky for a myriad of reasons. If students wish to conduct r esearch at a more advanced level, then it is crucial to understand how an institution can prepare students for those experiences as undergraduates. Similarly, it is important for faculty mentors to carefully consider what research experiences are appropria te for undergraduates, and which experiences are more appropriately considered graduate level. Relationships within the Hierarchy of Research In larger research settings, especially grant funded research, faculty are not conducting research alone. Often graduate students, post doctorates, and Professional Research Assistants play an active role in the research process. Not only did the relationship developed with faculty play a substantial role in the experiences of these undergraduates, but the relations hips discovered within the hierarchical research structure also contributed to positive student

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25 experiences. Sally, a Muslim first generation American in the Work Study program, discussed the benefits of being the only undergraduate in a lab with a more ad vanced research team: I used to be a very bad public speaker. Presenting at our meetings every Tuesday helped me become more confident in presenting my data and results, and also helped me communicate anything that was troubling in my research, and trou bleshoot anything that on if I had a technique issue, or maybe the science is not there, or maybe I was just using a bad antibody. For Sally, being able to discuss her research issues with the research team drastically improved not only her research skillset, but her ability to communicate effectively, especially since English was her second language. Faculty typically only commit a portion of their time to their resear ch, when teaching and service are additional required components of tenureship. Having a structured research environment can be extremely beneficial for undergraduate student researchers, as Principal Investigators are not always available to help guide th ese students in the research process. While previous literature addresses the benefits of developing meaningful relationships with faculty, little is understood how interactions with other professionals, such as graduate students, can impact the quality of As discussed previously, faculty take risks by adding undergraduates into the research environment. However, having other individuals serve in supervisory roles allows students to have a knowledgeable support structure; undergradua tes can turn to graduate students or other individuals with questions and problems, rather than involving the PI with every minor question. Students can develop meaningful relationships with other individuals and can learn from a larger group of individual s with specialized expertise in their respective academic field. Peer Relationships Not only did graduate students, post docs, and PRAs contribute to the mentorship of undergraduate students, but some students indicated that having undergraduate seniors, who had

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26 spent several semesters in the lab, helped them grow as aspiring researchers: especially for students in the Entering Research course. Jackie, a first semester freshman, reviewed her research structure: opening for the idea of research. I got to meet a lot of [undergrads] in the labs who are older an for graduate school. I got to learn from them, especially one person in my lab I definitely helpful, just building a comm unity and learning more about how to communicate with staff, teachers, professors, and being able to be more comfortable with it. If undergraduates are consistently involved in the research process, then structures will form where undergraduates in the research setting will have seniority and can help integrate new undergraduates to the team. Not only does this continue to alleviate strain for faculty and other researchers who may need to focus primarily on the research, but it allows undergraduates new to research to interact with peers who are more experienced researchers. As discussed in the literature, p eer interaction can be a key component of student development and success. In addition, peer interaction is an important component of research in that peers are the most approachable for new researchers wishing to discuss challenges or explore questions regarding the research. Peer relationships are not limited to peer mentoring; by introducing multiple undergraduates to a research experience at the s ame time, undergraduates can work together in achieving the goals of the research. Creating a cohort of student researchers can be extremely beneficial to undergraduates. In the Entering Research course, multiple students were paired with the same mentor, but it was not required that the students work together. However, many students discussed how beneficial it was to have a friend in the research structure. Maya, an Ethiopian woman who had only lived in Colorado for three years, was paired with another stu dent in the same research experience. Maya discussed what it was like to work with her peer:

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27 culture and different everything, but I believe that this made me to have a good relationship with professionals ask questions and [our mentor] answers. We have a For Maya, an immigrant and non native English speaker , the thought of doin g research with a faculty mentor was daunting. By experiencing the research process with a peer, it allowed her to feel more comfortable discussing the research as a group. Allowing undergraduates to rely on one another can produce confidence and autonomy in the research process. Understanding the different types of individuals students can interact with inside the research process can help us understand the quality of experiences provided to students. As noted by Carpenter and Pena (2017), seeking resear ch experiences can be intimidating for students, especially for students from traditionally underserved populations who may not be used to interacting with faculty, who may be of a higher socioeconomic class than their own. Not only can pay make research m ore accessible to undergraduates, but it can help grow the research peer structure, making research more approachable to undergraduates as well. Development of Self While others indicated that pay was not absolutely necessary, they discussed in detail how being paid directly impacted their self esteem and development of self efficacy. No matter the personal motivation, students indicated that receiving financial compensation directly impacted the quality of the experience and what they learned from partici pating in a paid research experience. Self Esteem Students who received pay for research experiences via the EUR CA! Program reported positive indicators of self esteem in relation to their research environment. Being paid allowed students to feel worthy and valued, as if they were an essential part of the research team. Mike,

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28 who previously worked as an unpaid volun teer, describes how being paid changed his attitude and self worth: attitude, I think, a little bit, and how I interacted with the rest of the lab. I was getting a little giving my time in here and maybe getting something back later or something like that. I felt valued, right? And I was getting paid for what I was worth, or paid at least something showing me I was worth something. Making a commitment as an unpaid volu nteer, no matter how valuable the experience, can cause strain for students. As described earlier, in order for students to receive the most from a research experience, they need to devote as much time as possible. Conducting research as an unpaid voluntee r requires sacrifice; it can be mentally and emotionally taxing, as students work so hard to receive little short term return. Even if students could manage to work unpaid, being paid helps alleviate strain and helps students believe they are important. St udent participants described in detail how being paid made them feel worthy, important, and validated . Receiving that validation from both their faculty mentors and their institution made them feel as if their experience mattered. Self Efficacy Self effi cacy is defined as the internal belief that one can accomplish a task or goal . Not only did financial compensation allow students to feel as if they were worthy, but it helped developed confidence in relation to their identity as a researcher. Amy describe s the moment in which she realized her fellowship had given her the courage to recruit participants for her research: I was at a punk show the other night, and the female lead singer came up to me and just

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29 Amy described that prior to conducting this research, sh e would have been too intimidated to approach the singer. However, this research experience allowed her to embrace her identity as a researcher and she felt confident in her ability to approach a potential participant for her project. Students participatin g in the EUR CA! Program frequently discussed these signs of self efficacy development; their research experiences solidified their desire to continue to graduate programs, or continue research professionally. The program created a more accessible space w here students could not only intentionally develop and refine future academic and career goals, but believe that those goals were achievable through getting tangible experience. Understanding how being paid impacted the quality of an undergraduate research experience is important; it not only helps justify future funding for the program, but provides future implications for programs at other institutions.

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30 CHAPTER VI CONCLUSION Participation in undergraduate research experiences has a myriad of benefits . P revious literature indicates th at undergraduate research has a positive impact on GPA, the development of positive relationships with faculty, staff, and peers, and the development of self efficacy. However, research experiences are overwhelmingly unpaid and are not sanctioned by higher education institutions, but rather, are offered by facu lty to students in an informal capacity. If we understand the value of undergraduate research and want it to be intensive enough to have the most impact on the student experience, then we need to pay students for their work, as evidenced in this thesis. Being p aid was fundamental to improving the quality of the research experience for students participating in the EUR CA! Program ; it legitimized the student experience above and b eyond that of an unpaid experience . Pa y allow ed students to make a more formal commitment to their research by allowing them to spend more time on site and taking it more seriously : as a job, versus a volunteer experience. Being paid allow ed students to spend more time conducting research, which in turn help s them develop better relationships with their mentors and peers. Being paid allowed students to develop p ositive psychological traits, such as self esteem and self efficacy, an d allowed students to cultivate identi ty as both a researcher and as a valued member of their institution. Students from traditionally underserved populations disproportionately do not access extra curricular activitie s , like undergraduate research. Seeking research experiences can be intimidating for these students, as they may be encountering faculty from a different socioeconomic class than their own, or they may not simply have the level of cultural capital necessary to navigate the extra curriculum. Providing paid, structured rese arch experiences

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31 allows students from a wider variety of backgrounds to access these experiences, especially students from backgrounds demonstrated to benefit the most from participation in undergraduate research. We must understand how students find exp eriences to ensure equal opportunity. If the majority of students continue to find research experiences via faculty and word of mouth, then a larger effort m u st be made to post and promote positions to all students. While it makes sense that faculty would be inclined to hire students with whom they already have a relationship, not all students know how to develop meaningful relationships with faculty , inside or outside the classroom. The best way to support students is by making research accessible to as ma ny students as possible, and by helping students understand that research is possible at the undergraduate level as early as possible. Faculty play a crucial role , as both recruiters to and mentors within the program . The findings discussed in this thes is outline that faculty serve as a main source of recruitment and infrastructure should therefore be created that centralizes faculty as key players in outreach. However, faculty recruitment can be problematic, as faculty may be more likely to recruit students out of convenience, such as a student who performed well in a course. Overcoming this institutional barrier for students with less cultural capital can be challenging, and multiple, approachable avenues should be in place to ensure access to students of all backgrounds. Future exploration as to the success of this program should address the benefits and problems experienced by faculty, so that both faculty and student received structured support that produces the most mutually beneficial experience. Creating structure in the research environment is pivotal to the research experience. Allow ing graduate students , professional research assistants, and/or post doctorates to supervise when possible can be so beneficial to both the student and the faculty mentor. It helps alleviate

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32 the strain for faculty who may not always have time to support inexperienced undergraduates , and allows students from traditionally underserved populations to feel more comfortable in approaching non faculty mentors. In addition, i nvolving more than one undergrad uate can individual growth. Faculty should also be encouraged to create senior research positions as well to allow for undergraduates t o share in the responsibility of training and mentoring other undergraduates. Having other undergraduates in the research structure not only helps peer to peer interactions, but can be beneficial to students in developing self efficacy, especially when seeing seni or undergraduates be successful in their advanced positions. As demonstrated by these findings, having a structured research environment in which multiple individuals across various levels of experience greatly contributed to the quality of the research ex perience. A certain level of experience is required ; while Entering Research students certainly gained a great deal from their research placements , the experience makes more sense when students are better prepared and equipped for research experiences. W hile faculty feedback given to the program indicated that these students were not ready for research experiences, it was valuable to hear that students also agreed that they were not quite ready to be in an autonomous research experience. The course still offered students a great deal of support and has the potential to negate some of the access issues described in this thesis as an intervention to prepare students for research experiences later in their undergraduate career. Currently, the EUR CA! Prog ram limits the amount of time a student can work in a specific research experience: two semesters. This was already a push from a one semester limit, as the funding was aimed to increase undergraduate student participation in research. In order to support a better research structure, students should be encouraged and supported in their research

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33 experience as long as possible in order to continue growing and refining their skillset. Similarly, by allowing students to spend more time in their research experie nce, it would allow for the development of a larger research structure, in which undergraduates could play a senior role in helping undergraduates new to research. Commitments should be at minimum one year long, where students enter at the beginning of the year, preferably with at least one other student. This allows students to have a better understanding of their commitment (versus a semester basis), and makes administration of the program easier. While faculty may not be able to take new students every y ear, it does allow for students to grow and succeed in a group environment. Paid research opportunities significantly impact the quality of t he research experience provided to students, including the amount of time students can devote to their research, the caliber of meaningful relationships developed with faculty, staff, and peers, and the heightened development of crucial psychological traits, such as self esteem and self efficacy . Future research should further explore the relationship between pay and the quality of an undergraduate research experience to better understand the impact through quantitative framework. This method can also help higher education institutions predict student success factors, such as retention and graduation rates, that result from the paid experience.

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34 REFERENCES Aries, E., & Seider , M. (2005). The interactive relationship between class identity and the college experience: The case of lower income students. Qualitative Sociology, 28 (4), 419 443. Bandura, A. (1997). Self efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: Freeman. Bi nder, A. J., Davis, D. B., & Bloom, N. (2016). Career funneling: How elite students learn to Sociology of Education, 89 (1), 20 39. Brand, J. E., & Xie, Y. (2010). Who benefits most from college? Evidence for negative selection in heterogeneous economic returns to higher education. American Sociological Review, 75 (2), 273 302. Carpenter, A. M., & Pe a, E. V. (2017). Self authorship among first generation undergraduate students: A qualitative study of experiences and catalysts. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 10 (1), 86 100. Chemers, M. M., Zurbriggen, E. L., Syed, M., Goza, B. K., & Bearm an, S. (2011). The role of efficacy and identity in science career commitment among underrepresented minority students. Journal of Social Issues, 67 (3), 469 491. part icipating in a research project on campus sexual assault and misconduct. Teaching Applied Science, 12 (1), 46 58. Federal Work Study jobs help student earn money to pay for college or career school (n.d.). Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Depar tment of Education. Retrieved from https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/work study Gillies, S. L., & Marsh, S. (2013). Doing science research at an undergraduate university. International Journal of Arts & Sciences, 6 (4), 379 390. Griese, E. R., McMahon, T. R., & Kenyon, D. B. (2017). A research experience for American Indian undergra duates: Utilizing an actor partner interdependence model to examine the student mentor dyad. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 10 (1), 39 51. Horowitz, J. (2018). Relative education and the advantage of a college degree. American Sociological Review, 83 (4), 771 801. Association of American Colleges and Universities. (2008). High impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter . Washington, DC: Kuh, G. D.

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35 Lareau, A. (2015). Cultural knowl edge and social inequality. American Sociological Review, 80 (1), 1 27. Nazaire, D. W., & Usher, B. M. (2015). Leveraging federal work study to support undergraduate research. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 36 (2), 9 17. Sell, A. J., Naginey, A., & Stanton, C. A. (2018). The impact of undergraduate research on academic success. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 1 (3), 19 29. Stuber, J. M. (2009). Class, culture, and participation in the collegiate extra curriculum. Sociolo gical Forum, 24 (4), 877 900. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education (n.d.). About Carnegie C lassification. Retrieved from http://carnegieclassifications.iu.edu/ The University of C ol orado Denver ( 2018 ). 201 8 F acts. Retrieved from http://www.ucdenver.edu/about/WhoWeAre/Documents/CUDenver_factbrochure.pdf Thiele, M. ( 2016). Resource or obstacle? Classed reports of student faculty relations. The Sociological Quarterly, 57 (2), 333 355. Tinto, V. (2012). Completing college: Rethinking institutional action. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Tinto, V. (2017). Through the eyes of students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 19 (3), 254 269.