5 Reasons Why You Should Get Involved in the USRI Programme
Written by: Nikhil Pandeya, 4th Year Political Science
In a time when virtual and remote work has come to the forefront in every realm, Western’s introduction of the USRI programme could not have been more suitable. However, this programme offers so much more than just a solution to physical distancing mandates, and the experience presented by this programme will remain invaluable long after we return to a sense of normalcy. The USRI programme is an exceptional experience for all undergraduate students who are looking to enhance their academic careers. Here are 5 reasons why you should get involved!
1. Building a Relationship with Your Professor
What might be my favourite aspect of the USRI programme is the privilege it presents to students to build a strong relationship with their supervising professor, and the mentorship that students can obtain from this relationship. Throughout the summer, as I worked away at my research assignments, I was in regular contact with my supervising professor to ask questions, discuss my progress, and obtain new research assignments. These discussions allowed me to build a stronger relationship with my professor and gave me a unique opportunity to receive strong, personal academic mentorship. My professor got to know me as a student and, through our ongoing discussions over the summer, provided me with invaluable feedback and advice that I am looking forward to using in my future academic career. Students in this programme also have the chance to show their professor their work and work ethic in a very personal way through the completion of their research assignments, which only enhances this feedback that they receive from their professors. The guidance that students receive from their professors in this programme, where professors and students get to know each other personally while working together over the summer, is one of the things that make the USRI programme a truly unique opportunity for academic mentorship.
2. Enhancing Your Research Skills
Students have a fantastic opportunity to enhance their research skills through this programme. Working as a student research intern entails assisting brilliant professors with their academic research. As a student, this means that you will likely conduct types of research that you have either never done before or that you have done, but on a much larger scale. As well, you are being supervised while you do it by a professor who is an expert in that kind of research. Some of my assignments have included conducting large literature reviews and creating large data sets, which have helped me become a more diligent worker, improved my attention to detail, and taught me new ways to approach academic research. In short, the research experience offered in the USRI programme is sure to leave you better equipped to tackle future academic or professional work than you were at the start of the programme.
3. Discovering New Interest Areas
During the USRI programme, each student works with a professor to complete assignments on topics related to their research specialty. What many students (including myself early on in my undergraduate career) often fail to appreciate is how broad so many research topics and subtopics truly are. Taking a deep dive into a topic or research area might open your eyes to something that interests you – something that you might never have had any prior reason to investigate. If you suddenly find that you have a passion for an area of study, you might decide to focus your future courses on that topic, or you might start looking into future career options in that area. By prompting students to get acquainted with new areas of study through working with one of their professors, the USRI programme does a fantastic job at providing students with an opportunity to not only learn something new about their academic discipline, but to also potentially learn something new about their own interests and passions.
4. Go Behind the Scenes
Students read academic research all the time – almost daily, in fact. Academic research is what each syllabus is made of, and students are used to being on the receiving end of that information. The USRI programme gives students a special chance to get to see the other side of the research coin. In the programme, students help professors conduct the type of academic research that becomes the journal articles that are assigned as course readings. Getting to see how these articles are made is a fascinating experience and is sure to help students navigate academic research more swiftly in the future. The next time you’re doing one of your readings and you become confused about why the author included some information, or what argument a section is trying to make, your USRI research experience might just help you see what the author sees, making this programme not only helpful to your future efforts, but your current academics as well.
The USRI programme is part-time and caters to students’ schedules. Students have the opportunity to gain all of the incredible experience that this programme has to offer while still having time for other commitments. Many of my friends who are in the programme and I are also volunteering, taking courses, or working in other positions while conducting our research. It is manageable for students who are good time managers. This programme captures all of the aforementioned benefits and offers them to students in a way that works with their schedule, which is the cherry on top of an already superb programme.
Western’s USRI programme is designed for students. While it provides an ideal at-home work experience to students, it goes far beyond just that. It is a special chance for students to obtain skills that are hard to come by in everyday course work. These skills will remain applicable to future efforts, but are also presently useful for undergraduate work. As well, the unique opportunity it provides students to build a solid relationship with their supervising professor is invaluable. Being able to gain all of these benefits in a part-time capacity is why this programme works so well. My experience with Western’s USRI programme has been exceptional and rewarding, and that is why I encourage you to get involved!