In early November 2005, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) released the first report from its Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) campaign-Liberal Education Outcomes: A Preliminary Report on Student Achievement in College. As this report states, "For liberal education outcomes, evidence should \ividly depict the rich and complex nature of student accomplishment as knowledge and skills are built over time and across disciplines." Undergraduate research, the theme of this issue of Peer Review, is a promising educational innovation from which college leaders might draw evidence of achievement of the more sophisticated learning outcomes we now seek for today's students.
While working on this issue, I had the opportunity to reflect upon my own undergraduate research project that I undertook with the guidance of a three-member faculty committee during my last year as a student at Hampshire College, a member of the Greater Expectations Consortium on Quality Education. Since its inception in 1970, Hampshire has required all students to design, implement, and complete an undergraduate research project prior to graduation. Known at Hampshire as the Division III project, this independent study project must deal with a complex set of questions, concepts, skills, and abilities. My Division III project focused on the development of a prospectus for and prototype of a periodical magazine for African American adolescent females. No publication for that audience existed at that time.
The initial phase of my project involved researching and reviewing the magazines that had been published specifically for African American audiences. This task required me to spend several hours combing the special magazine collections at the Library of Congress. At the same time, I studied the periodicals that were published for young women at that time and I measured the presence of African American women in those magazines. After establishing a historical and a marketing perspective for this project, I designed a simple survey instrument to administer to black adolescent women in Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Springfield, Massachusetts. I found that initiative and persistence were key attributes needed to complete my research. One of the most challenging aspects of the entire project was locating willing participants for the test groups. …