Student Research Program Proves To Be A SURE Thing

Thirteen students from SUNY New Paltz’s 2012 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) presented their work on Monday, Sept. 10 and Wednesday, Sept. 12.

SURE, which is funded through the provost office, has been giving students the opportunity to gain broad skills in research and development since 2004, according to Director of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Maureen Morrow.

“Students having an opportunity to work on a faculty-mentored research project will gain many things that go beyond what they get in the classroom, like critical thinking and communication skills,” she said.

Fourth-year history major Elizabeth Koza and fourth-year philosophy major Joseph Bacchi were two of the 2012 SURE participants. Koza and Bacchi spent their summers researching specific topics in their respective
academic fields.

Koza said her research advisor, Associate Professor Michael Vargas, suggested SURE to her, and she decided to participate because it gave her an opportunity to continue researching the topic of the independent study she started in November 2011.

Her research topic, “Converso Identities in Late Medieval Spain,” required her to continue to develop her thesis and travel abroad to research.

“My research responsibilities [included] visiting various archives in Barcelona and Madrid to view primary source documents from the period of the Inquisition,” she said. “This… experience was phenomenal [and] at times it was incredibly trying, especially when trying to comprehend the Latin in archival documents, but the end results made everything worthwhile.”

Bacchi said he got involved in the SURE program after hearing that a fellow philosophy major and friend had a good experience with the program and after taking a class on Nietzsche.

“I was on the edge of my seat every class and wanted more at semester’s end,” he said.

Morrow said the student-mentor relationship is an important part of the experience. She said applications for entrance into the program are partly judged by how well the student and faculty mentor work together.

“Certainly there are students who can do it on their own but that’s not the kind of experience we’re striving for,” Morrow said. “The process of talking to someone else about the project reveals so much and it’s really exciting to share their findings.”

Bacchi said SURE was an invaluable experience and that he plans on expanding his research project, “Overcoming ‘Man’: The Great Health & Nietzsche’s Zarathustra,” this semester and presenting it as his honors thesis project.

“It was great to work so closely with such a great professor, and to feel that I was really making a positive contribution to the scholarly conversation surrounding Nietzche’s Zarathustra,” he said. “I enjoyed the work and am excited to continue.”

Morrow said she hopes that undergraduate and graduate students realize there are groups, such as the RHSA and the Student Association, that will provide funding for research and travel expenses.

“I hope people recognize that there’s several ways to get involved and receive funding,” she said. “The earlier in their college career that they’re aware of these opportunities, the earlier they’ll get involved.”

Morrow said she is always thrilled by the quality of the students’ presentations.

“I shouldn’t be surprised every year because the students are so amazing,” she said. “We’ve had the experience multiple times where students go to conferences and they tell me that they were mistaken for graduate or post-doctoral students, and it makes me so happy.”