By Kayla Lemay
Dr. Jenny Shanahan appears to fill the role of Director of Undergraduate Research well if you look into her office, where floor to ceiling bookcases can be found filled to the brim.
Based on the growth of the Undergraduate Research program in the past four years that she’s held the position, it’s obvious she does.
In four years, the program has grown from giving around 75 semester grants a year, to giving more than 200 of those grants to undergraduate students looking for money to complete research projects.
From small research projects to a full-blown 10-week summer research program, there is a research grant for any student looking for a chance to complete research they find interesting. And Shanahan oversees it all.
Shanahan came from St. Mary’s University in Minnesota, where she taught American literature and oversaw the honors program. Four years ago, she had the opportunity to move to Bridgewater and take over as the Director of Undergraduate Research.
“I had gotten involved in a larger national organization, called CUR, the Council on Undergraduate Research,” Shanahan said. “Bridgewater was already active and well known in CUR.”
Shanahan works with the grants themselves, by deciding what grants to give with the allotted money she has. She also helps students prepare their applications and connect with faculty advisors.
The Undergraduate Review is also something Shanahan works on year-round, and it’s published each April. Filled with student work, this is the main way students will have their work published. Students can also have their work published on their website or be featured on Bridgewater’s main website.
Each year the Mid-Year Symposium is held in December, and the Student Research Symposium is held in April. The Mid-Year Symposium this past December had 623 presenters. The Student Research Symposium in April is expected to have around 500 presenters.
Shanahan works on planning both of those events, by determining the schedule, the speakers, and all of the other finer details in order to make sure it runs smoothly.
“We offer support for faculty who mentor students in these research projects,” Shanahan said. “We have some events for faculty who have not mentored students before, and some faculty development is more focused.”
They also offer workshops to help students with presenting their research at national conferences, such as what to wear and how to present.
“Undergraduate research helps students, especially those who want to go to professional schools, like law or medical school,” Shanahan said. “To have a significant research project and to use that in their applications, it really makes a difference.”
When Shanahan took the position, she wanted it to focus more on student development.
“For example, I’ve created a Powerpoint that’s available on our website, on how to create an academic poster. Students don’t always have to come to a workshop,” she said.
Shanahan has taken her work very seriously, and those she works with have been very happy about working with her.
Kathy Frederick, the Administrative Assistant in the Undergraduate Research office, said, “Everything that Dr. Shanahan does, she does for the students. She does a great job.”
“I have not looked back once,” Shanahan said. “I always say that I have the best job on campus.”