Camarillo, Calif., March 9, 2011 – Two California State University Channel Islands (CI) faculty, Kathryn Leonard, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, and Brad Monsma, Professor of English, have received a $250,000 grant from the Keck Foundation for CI’s Center for Integrative Studies. The grant will be used to develop an innovative program for CI students to begin developing research and presentation skills from their freshman through senior years.

The program offers an increasingly demanding stepladder of interdisciplinary research courses, allowing students to begin original research projects from their first moment on campus.  By the time they reach the upper levels, CI students will have the problem solving skills and experience to participate in research opportunities that will lead to presentations at national conferences or to publishing in research journals prior to graduation.  A student who has accomplished this type of scholarship will have an advantage when applying to graduate school or interviewing with a future employer.

“This is the most recent example of the innovative and forward-thinking projects that CI faculty are involved in,” stated Provost Dawn Neuman. “CI is a frontrunner with its development of undergraduate research. Such opportunities will give our students a competitive advantage whether they choose to pursue graduate studies or go directly into the workforce.”

The first part of the program will begin in the next academic year with two courses offered at the sophomore level. As an example, “Interfaces: Ocean, Earth, Whale, Human” involves the academic disciplines of chemistry, biology and literary studies to examine whale behavior in relation to representations of whales in literature and history. These interdisciplinary courses are student-centered.  Students, in a collaborative learning experience, share academic research and work under the guidance of faculty. Sub-topics within a freshman or sophomore course may provide a student with a more focused research project at the junior or senior levels.

These courses also reflect CI’s commitment to academic work being civically engaged, which means that students work with a community agency or organization so that both community and the University share the benefit. For example, the Interfaces course will partner with Channel Islands National Park and with the Keiki Kohola whale project in Hawaii. In this way, the courses blend classroom activity with real world experience.

By fall of 2012, the program will involve all four undergraduate years. It will serve as a prototype for a new style of learning and preparation within and across disciplines. Leonard stated, “In this course sequence, students will develop critical thinking together with a sense of wonder at how the universe works.  They will have more advanced research skills, learning to develop a precise statement of a question and the strategy for how to go about answering it.  By starting this process early, they will be much better prepared for more advanced work at upper levels.”

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About California State University Channel Islands
CSU Channel Islands (CI) is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives, and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CI's strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master's degrees. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research. CI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Connect with and learn more about CI by visiting CI's Social Media.