Growing Faculty Research for Students' Success: Best Practices of a Research Institute at a Minority-Serving Undergraduate Institution

By Godreau, Isar; Gavillán-Suárez, Jannette et al. | Journal of Research Administration, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

Growing Faculty Research for Students' Success: Best Practices of a Research Institute at a Minority-Serving Undergraduate Institution


Godreau, Isar, Gavillán-Suárez, Jannette, Franco-Ortiz, Mariluz, Calderón-Squiabro, José M., Marti, Vionex, Gaspar-Concepción, Jessica, Journal of Research Administration


Introduction

Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain for ~400 years until 1898, when the US occupied the Island. Transformations ushered in by World War II changed the overtly colonial relationship between the Island and the US to die current Commonwealth status as a non-incorporated US territory. Island-born Puerto Ricans are US citizens and most wish to maintain close political and economic ties to the US. However, most Puerto Ricans also view themselves as a distinct group with common history, culture, and heritage (Dâvila, 1997; Duany, 2002; Morris, 1995). Both Spanish and English are official languages in Puerto Rico, but mainly Spanish is spoken. Because the Islands economy is heavily dependent on US industry and federal funds transfers, mainland events such as the recent economic recession adversely affected this US territory. Currendy, Puerto Ricos per capita income is ~$15,200 (half that of Mississippi, the poorest state), and the unemployment rate is 15.4 percent (Alvarez, 2014). Tie resident population is estimated at 3.6 million (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013), while almost 5 million Puerto Ricans are now living in the US (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011).

Since 1903, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) has been die sole public institution charged with the mission to "develop the latent intellectual and spiritual enrichment of our society fully," so diat "the intellectual and spiritual values of exceptional personalities that surge from all its social sectors, especially from those less favored in terms of economic resources, will be put to the service of the Puerto Rican community" (UPRRC EGCTI, 2015, our emphasis). With a total student population of61,967 students, the UPR system has to implement this mission across its eleven campuses: three ofwhich are graduate and eight ofwhich are primarily undergraduate. The University of Puerto Rico at Cayey (UPR-C) is one of the UPRs eight undergraduate campuses. It offers 27 bachelors degrees in Natural Science (Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and the Natural Sciences General Program); Social Sciences (Psychology and Mental Health); Arts (English, Literature, Humanities, Foreign Languages, Literature and Linguistics) and Professional Schools (Education and Business Administration). Enrollment trends from 2005 to 2009 varied from 22% to 33% in Natural Sciences, including the Natural Sciences General Program, 24% to 27% in Business Administration and from 13% to 14% in Social Sciences. General fall enrollment at UPR-C has increased 5.39% from 3,634 in 2005-06 to 3,830 in 2009-10. Practically all students (99%) are Puerto Rican (UPR-C Assessment Office, 2013a, 2013b; U.S. Department of Education, 2012) and the majority (67%) is female. Most UPR-C students come from the municipalities that surround the town of Cayey, located in the central mountainous area of Puerto Rico (see Figure 1).

Consistent with UPR's overall mission, UPR-C offers quality educational opportunities to lowincome students of its service region who meet the University's admissions criteria. The majority of incoming UPR-C full-time undergraduate students (75%) received Pell Grants and more than half ( 56.9 %) proceed from public schools. The average GPA for incoming freshmen is 2.87. Fulltime attendance status in 2013 was 93%. The campus has 164 full-time faculty and 32 part-time professors, 90% of whom are Puerto Rican. One hundred twenty-nine are tenured or tenuretrack, and 67 are faculty with non-tenure adjunct positions; approximately 79% of all tenure and tenure-track faculty have a Ph.D.

This faculty along with administrators and staff are charged with fulfilling three UPR-C missions, which together emphasize providing a quality education that integrates: 1) interdisciplinar)' approaches, 2) research, and 3) community engagement (UPR-C mission, 2006). The Institute of Interdisciplinary Research (HR) (http://webl.oss.cayey.upr.edu/iii/) supports this mission. Six overarching aims developed in 2004 guide the IIR initiatives: 1 ) to promote interdisciplinary research; 2) to produce knowledge that is relevant to Puerto Rico and to the UPR-C service region; 3) to facilitate research at UPR-C; 4) to promote research-informed curricular innovations; 5) to provide a supportive environment for researchers and students; and 6) to disseminate results of the research projects it sponsors. …

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