A traditional education emphasizes a teacher-oriented style of learning. Wise professors communicate wisdom to students who absorb the knowledge presented to them. In this paradigm, as Will Durant, the historian and philosopher put it, “education is the transmission of civilization.”
The alternative, and increasingly popular, educational model is student- centered. At the College of Mount Saint Vincent, Provost and Dean of Faculty Guy Lometti believes that an active learning environment, one in which students test the knowledge they have gained in research projects, fosters “high levels of academic achievement and enables students to get from where they are to where we want them to be.”
Dr. Lometti describes Mount Saint Vincent as a school where instructors and students are frequently on a first-name basis, a “small institution that prides itself on its ability to foster student-faculty interactions.” The College “provides unique opportunities for students to do cutting- edge research,” saysDr. Lometti. “Student research is something that the institution, and its faculty, both value highly.”
Dr.Omar Nagi, assistant professor of sociology and director of the Center for Undergraduate Research, believes that research-oriented learning is an emerging trend nationally. One-on-one interaction between facultymembers and students is important in assisting students in developing research strategies from scratch, says Dr. Nagi. At Mount Saint Vincent, “many students present original ideas and original work in classes,” says Dr. Nagi.
The Center for Undergraduate Research was founded in 2010 to enable students to carry through the research they’ve started in class and prepare it for public presentations, he says. Nationally, many large research institutions and elite colleges subscribe to the student-learning approach and have established programs and processes similar to the Mount’s Center for Undergraduate Research. At Mount Saint Vincent, the impetus behind the creation of the Center was a desire to increase the number of students presenting their research at professional conferences.
The goal is to have students in such disciplines as psychology, history, communications and economics to engage in original research and then present their discoveries at local, regional and national conferences in their respective fields. Associate Professor and Chair of the Division of Natural Sciences James Fabrizio is a firmbeliever in the necessity of in-depth research as a crucial component of a liberal arts education. Dr. Fabrizio deems the nearly 20 science students who develop their own research projects each year as “usually the best students in the COVER STORY program.
"Unlike the research completed at large research institutions, at the Mount, all student research is conducted by undergraduates, says Dr. Fabrizio.When an experiment is undertaken, students learn how to complete the necessary science that yields significant results. In cases where an experiment leads to the development of a publication, the student researchers’ names are included, says Dr. Fabrizio. Science students at the College have a strong tradition of engaging in research, says Dr. Lometti.“Now other disciplines are encouraging students to do research outside the classroom,” he says.
Sociology major Jamelia Bastien ’12 is not only a dedicated student researcher, but is also an active member of the campus community. She is the administrative vice president of Student Government and a member of CMSV Players drama club and the Dolphin Dolls dance troupe. In addition, she serves as vice president of Haraya, the College’s pan-African club, and Universal Tongues, a group that unites individuals who speak a variety of languages. It is important to Ms. Bastien to discuss issues so as “to make everyone more aware of their culture.” Her research focuses on the effects of stereotyping and labeling. In April 2010, she participated in the National Association for Ethnic Studies student conference in Washington D.C., where she presented the paper, “Labeling Theory and Patterns of Acceptance and Rejection of Stereotypes.”
Ms. Bastien’s hypothesis was that if you assign someone a label, then that person’s behavior mirrors that stereotype. She chose this particular line of research because she was interested in how the labeling process “applies to myself andmy peers every day.” Her results were acquired from a pilot survey that she designed. Her findings are based on an initial 30 respondents. Ms. Bastien aims to collect 50 to 100 additional responses this spring. Ms. Bastien was pleased to receive feedback on her work, and will continue to refine it as a senior. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school for sociology.
For Alexandria Bobe ’11, the College’s intimate size and welcoming feel were crucial in making her decision to attend Mount Saint Vincent. Coming from the East Bronx, she liked being close to home on a beautiful campus. Her individual research is closely aligned with the Department of Biology’s focus on molecular and cell biology. In the future, Ms. Bobe hopes to delve into translational research, a combination of research and clinical practice that concentrates on particular diseases. After completing the Minority Summer Student Research Opportunity Program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine last summer, she presented work relating to insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This summer, she will return toAlbert Einstein and continue her research. During her time at the Mount, Ms. Bobe hasn’t spent all her time in the library or the science labs. She has served as co-president of the Environmental Club, co-vice president of the Science Club, and is currently secretary of the Mount MDs, the College’s pre-medical club.
Since her sophomore year, she’sworked as a lab assistant in the Microbiology Lab. She has also participated in a program organized by Cross-Cultural Solutions, a not-for-profit organization, which enlists volunteers for education and childhood development projects in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Ms. Bobe characterizes her overseas journeys in Costa Rica andGuatemala as fun, interesting learning experiences. In Guatemala, she assisted staff in pediatric andmaternity clinics. This year, Ms. Bobe traveled to Costa Rica to provide similar medical assistance. Even with her extensive involvement in research and co-curricular activities, Ms. Bobe has excelled academically, making the Honor Roll every semester. She is sure that her research at Mount Saint Vincent will facilitate her future professional success; ultimately, she plans to apply for a Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences.
In his first two years at the Mount, scholar-athlete David Guerrero ’11 received the Academic Excellence Award for maintaining a 4.0 grade average. As a sophomore, he was also honored with the Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.Mr.Guerrero has been inducted into a number of honor societies and is a member of the College’s volleyball, cross-country and tennis teams. His success extends off-campus as well.At the American Society of Cell Biology meeting in Philadelphia in 2010, he was recognized with a Certificate of Excellence honoring his presentation of cellular research undertaken for the Population Council at Rockefeller University. He also made a public presentation at the annual 2010 Drosophila Conference in Washington, D.C. Since his freshman year, the biology major and pre-med student was mentored by Assistant Professor of Biology Janet Rollins. Mr.Guerrero conducted biochemical research in her lab all four years at the Mount, which he continued at Rockefeller University.He completed a competitive research internship at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. While at the College, Mr. Guerrero has been a member of the Science Club, the Environmental Club, and the Mount MDs. He also volunteered for charitable activities offered through the CampusMinistry, which included service-learning trips to the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. The Mount’s alternative spring breaks are organized in conjunction with Concern Worldwide, the College’s charity, an international humanitarian organization dedicated to reducing suffering and ending extreme poverty in the world’s poorest 28 countries. After graduation, Mr. Guerrero plans to continue his research at Rockefeller University before applying to medical school. His ultimate goal is becoming a surgeon.
Bronx native Sasha Paulino ’10 discovered a welcoming environment when she visited the Mount and subsequently decided to attend the College nearly five years ago. As an undergraduate, Ms. Paulino, who is currently enrolled in the M.S. in Urban and Multicultural Education program, majored in history with a concentration in education. She produced amajor research project, Education in Post-World War II America: The Effects of Social, Economic and Political Unrest on Education Reform, which she then presented at the 2010 National Association for Ethnic Studies Conference inWashington,D.C.As part of her graduate studies, she is engaged in research that assesses conflict resolution in the classroom. While her undergraduate thesis tackled a broad educational theme, her graduate research relates to her student-teaching experiences and focuses more narrowly on one aspect of student conflict in the classroom. By investigating how to facilitate conflict resolution among students, Ms. Paulino aims to improve the educational and socialization process.
Following a rigorous selection process, Ms. Paulino was awarded a three-year Jeannette K.Watson Fellowship, which enabled her to complete internships with the NewYork Historical Society and Material for the Arts, a not-for-profit organization that provides thousands of New York City arts and cultural organizations, public schools, and community arts programs with supplies to run and expand their programs. In 2009, she traveled to the Dominican Republic to work as a volunteer with American Language Partnership International, an organization that designs, implements, and consults on English language programs for Dominican high schools, private businesses, and companies serving the Dominican Republic’s tourism industry. Although shewasn’t always a straight- A student, Ms. Paulino says that, during her time at the Mount, “my whole outlook on education changed.”
Senior Ana Uruena ’11 is a member of four honor societies and has made the Honor Roll every semester at theMount. The biologymajor and biochemistry minor is also a student employee in the Admissions Office, where she fields inquiries from prospective students and performs administrative tasks. Ms.Uruenamatriculated at the College after beginning her undergraduate studies at the Central University of Venezuela. The Caracas native decided to look for colleges that emphasized research, rather than clinical practice. Targeting schools within the New Yorkmetropolitan area, she decided to attend Mount Saint Vincent, drawn to the College’s collegial feel and small class sizes.
Ms.Uruena has completed research internships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In summer 2009, Ms.Uruena studied a gene necessary for muscle formation at Sloan-Kettering. Last summer, while at M.I.T., she researched a gene required in sperm and egg development. She also presented her research at two national conferences, the Drosophila Conference in Washington, D.C., held in April 2010, and the annual Biomedical Conference for Minority Students held in November 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she received an award forOutstanding Presentation in Developmental Biology.
At Mount Saint Vincent, she was president of the Science Club and editor of the science newsletter, The Monthly Mole. Next year she will begin her doctoral studies in genetics and developmental biology at the University of Texas Southwestern.
Dr. Fabrizio takes pleasure in the fact that so many of his students have attained their post-graduate goals. Out of the five who applied to medical school, three have been admitted, and one is still awaiting a response. Another was accepted into a post-bachelor’s program at Harvard.
“When students show they’ve done research, it’s an incredibly strong factor in applying to graduate programs,” says Dr. Lometti. Conducting research facilitates better understanding in the learning process and enables students to learn how to formulate a question and gather the evidence to answer that question, he says. At Mount Saint Vincent, Dr. Lometti believes that a significant and growing body of faculty sees the benefit of student research on the undergraduate level.