Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

The Discovery Camp: A Talent Fostering Initiative for Developing Research Capabilities among Undergraduate Students

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

The Discovery Camp: A Talent Fostering Initiative for Developing Research Capabilities among Undergraduate Students

Article excerpt

Introduction

One of the critical success factors for a university is its ability to sustain a rich and vibrant research environment. This factor is often demonstrated by a regular listing of high quality research-based publications, a steady stream of completed PhD theses and the offerings of postgraduate courses that facilitate the development of such research skills. However, in order to achieve these goals, a university also has to recruit high achieving undergraduate students who can be inspired to move on to commence post-graduate research-based studies. So the key question is this: What can a university do to attract and inspire these budding researchers to consider moving on to post-graduate research-based courses? This paper describes an initiative developed by a university department that aims to engage high achiever undergraduate students in small scale collaborative research projects and through these experiences inspire them to move on to graduate study.

The School of Information Management (SIM) at Victoria University of Wellington has one of the highest student enrolments in undergraduate courses in the university. The two main directions of the SIM courses are Information Systems (INFO) and Electronic Commerce (ELCM).

Despite the high undergraduate numbers, the throughput percentage to postgraduate Honours (Hons) study is very small. In addition, with the generally large classes, lecture and tutorial presentations tend to be pitched towards the slightly-above-average student, rather than at the top students. It is thus a challenge to stimulate the latter while aiming to motivate the rest of the class to higher academic achievement. Various interested and concerned staff members had held informal discussions about this but a more formal, coordinated and directed approach was needed.

The SIM Talent Fostering initiative was thus established as a coherent set of systems and processes to foster student talent (Gandz, 2006). The initial steering group comprised six staff members and the Director of the Undergraduate Programmes--all acting on a voluntary basis. The overriding goal of the initiative is to attract top quality students and nurture them through their undergraduate years so that they develop a passion for information systems (IS) and various aspects of the discipline, including research. As a result, a good potential class of honours students should emerge--or enthusiastic practitioners with strong bonds to the school.

A number of sub-initiatives to realize the goal were identified:

* A discovery camp for talented undergraduate students

* A boot camp for talented high school students in their final year.

* A young scientist research mentoring programme

* Awards for top achievers in INFO and ELCM 300-level courses

* Arrangements of internships with local industry

* Conducting exeunt focus group interviews with final year students not pursuing graduate studies

* Ongoing customer relationship management with undergraduate students

* Establishment of informal groups nurturing international and Maori/Pacific Island students

These would be planned to occur at different times of the year, with the Discovery Camp being the first specific event.

This paper reports on the first of the listed events and proceeds as follows. Section 2 briefly reviews existing literature. Section 3 presents the objectives and organization of the event, followed by experience reports in Section 4. Section 5 reflects on the experiences and Section 6 concludes the paper with a discussion of the experience.

Prior Literature

Talent development has been recognized as an important activity for businesses (Gandz, 2006). While the aim in the event presented here was to develop candidates for graduate studies, the techniques of talent development in business remain applicable. …

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