Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences as a Mechanism for Institutional Change

Kaatje van der Hoeven Kraft
Whatcom Community College

Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) have been identified as a possible mechanism to address equity and a lack of diversity across STEM (Bangera & Brownell, 2014; Chang et al., 2014; Nerio et al., 2019). Implementation of CUREs at 2-year colleges may be especially effective in this regard, given their more diverse demographics compared to most 4-year colleges and universities (AACC, 2022). At Whatcom Community College (WCC), a cadre of STEM faculty have implemented CUREs in the classroom to address equity gaps at the college. Given these equity goals, our guiding question for this project is, what can the institution do to better support the implementation of CUREs across a broader cross section of STEM faculty?

Through a strategic planning process, we have determined that we need to better assess what kinds of CUREs and other Authentic Learning Experiences (ALEs) are already occurring across campus to learn from early adopters. This initial inventory both helped us appreciate the broad array of authentic endeavors students are already experiencing and is helping us to identify the support structures that need to be in place to institutionalize these experiences. Through these discussions we have recognized the need for specific services on campus that supports faculty across a wide range of opportunities for students that include CUREs. As our college is currently institutionalizing a Guided Pathways (Bailey et al., 2015) approach to student success, we are also examining how we can work within that structure and collaborate with advisors to better inform students about the opportunities to engage in CUREs during their time at WCC.

In addition, through faculty development and interviews we have preliminary data that indicate some key areas that are already supporting faculty in ongoing efforts and identified areas where additional support is needed. Through implementation of faculty learning communities (FLC), we utilized design clinics and have helped to build a supportive community and foster an environment in which feedback is a part of the culture. The purpose of a design clinic is to engage the collective wisdom of the community around a particular challenge of one member, such that everyone contributes their shared expertise and learns from each other ( Through regular FLC meetings, design clinics around specific challenges and mentoring, a core base of faculty have co-developed a common language, support system and collective passion toward CUREs. Preliminary themes from faculty interviews suggest that adjunct faculty and newer faculty need more support structures to build their CURE self-efficacy. In addition, while all faculty agree that CUREs are a way to address equity issues in STEM, what that means and looks like is different in implementation and perspectives.

As we continue with this work, we plan to make both institutional recommendations for supports across a broader range of faculty to develop a deeper cadre of CURE practitioners at WCC and to collaborate with colleagues at other institutions who are working to address equity issues in their STEM classrooms through undergraduate research.


Jennifer Zovar, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA; Eric Davishahl, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA; Lauren Maniatis, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA; Tommaso Vannelli, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA; Melanie Zabel, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA