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NMSU Lab Offers Research Opportunities

November 2
6:00 AM 2016

New Mexico State University are getting hands-on experience with research that will benefit not only their overall learning experience, but the learning experiences of those using outreach programs offered by the university.

Six undergraduate and graduate students from various disciplines are working at the STEM Outreach Alliance Research Lab, or SOAR Lab, which is housed at NMSU's College of Education. The lab came about in the spring as part of the reorganization of the Alliance for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.

Karen Trujillo, director of The Alliance, said students involved with the SOAR Lab are working with other program directors across NMSU to gather data on outreach programs, analyze them and present their findings in order to improve those programs.

SOAR Lab students are also collecting data on teacher vacancies statewide as part of a report on the teacher pipeline. That analysis will offer a portrait of what subjects and locations in the state are in most need of teachers.

What makes the SOAR Lab unique, Trujillo said, is that students and faculty are researching the impact of the educational outreach programs using mixed methods, something that has not been done before. Students are gaining experience in both qualitative and quantitative research methods. In class, many times students only receive experience in quantitative research.

Besides the teacher vacancy report, students are working with the College of Engineering's NM Prep summer program for middle and high school students; Upward Bound, the STEM Outreach Center and Mathematically Connected Communities in the College of Education; and Arrowhead Center's Innoventure program.

Trujillo said she received 30 applications from NMSU students who were interested in working at the SOAR Lab, signaling a need for immersive research experiences.

The other students working at the SOAR Lab are Shubhasmita Pati, a master's computer science student; John Kulpa, a psychology doctoral candidate; Germain Degardin, a graduate student in curriculum and instruction; and Sabrina Jamison, an undergraduate student majoring in secondary education.

By being involved with the SOAR Lab and helping program directors and faculty, students also have opportunities to publish articles and present at conferences. Trujillo said she hopes the SOAR Lab will eventually become self-sustaining, with directors involving the lab with their programs from the very beginning.

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