WKU FUSE grants facilitate innovative research

WKU students participated in a Q & A Session as part of the 48th Annual Student Research Conference. 

WKU continues to distinguish itself in the field of research, this time with the Faculty-Undergraduate Student Engagement (FUSE) grants.

“There are not many schools who support student research in this way,” said Ryanne Gregory, coordinator for FUSE in the Office of Research and Creative Activity.

The FUSE grants support undergraduate students’ intellectual development by fostering active engagement in research, creative and scholarly activities, and/or artistic performances. During the fall and spring semesters, students apply for the FUSE grants in hopes of obtaining an award in an amount of up to $3,500.

Students utilize the financial award from the FUSE to cover expenses for research projects locally, nationally and internationally. In the past FUSE funds have been used for materials to complete the project, travel for the student to do initial research on the topic of the project, travel for the student to present at a conference, and travel for the mentor to attend the conference with the student.

Some of the spring 2018 FUSE awards include the impact of anxiety on second year honor students, inefficiency and gender bias in the justice system with Bosnia for victims of wartime sexual assault, new forms of therapies for treatment of pathogens using Graphene Quantum Dots, and inclusive education barriers for those with disabilities.

WKU senior Alexa Hatcher is completing a study with Dr. Nicole Breazeale, Associate Professor in Sociology, titled, “Critical Service Learning at WKU Glasgow Regional Campus: A Path for Marginalized Students to Stay in School and Combat Social Inequality?” Hatcher is a first-generation college student, and this current study is expanding on an original study where students interviewed people in their community about experiences renting in the area. 

The opportunity to research this topic allowed Hatcher to study in a field she truly enjoys. “I Love sociology. After I first developed a sociological imagination, I was hooked,” Hatcher said. “The study of sociology is necessary. We are living in a historic moment where we are facing tons of social and environmental problems of a grand scale—like widespread food insecurity, the decline of communities and families and contamination of our water and food supply. These are problems that sociologists study.”

A group of WKU students and mentors began research this year on the topic of “Puppets? Why, Yes!!: An Interdisciplinary Project Where Art and Opera Theater Meet.” This puppet theatre group combines students of visual art and vocal performance in an interdisciplinary construction of non-traditional stage works through the visual theatre medium of puppetry. The students study the use and culture of puppet types throughout history. Then, they create the puppets and set and develop a narrative performance.

“During this project, every student (and faculty member) has stretched and worked outside of their comfort zones. Every FUSE participant – and several more students we recruited along the way – has seen their professional practice grow and evolve based on new ideas encountered and risks taken,” said Kristina Arnold, Associate Professor in the Department of Art.

According to Arnold, the idea for this project came from Dr. Liza Kelly, Assistant Professor of Music. Together, they serve as the faculty mentors for the FUSE grant. 

“The additional layer is: how have our students integrated this experience and new set of knowledges? While they may not all decide to work with puppets for the rest of their lives – as performers or as visual artists, they universally feel that the puppets taught them each something important about their own art type,” Arnold said.

The first FUSE grants were awarded in spring 2012. In the beginning, the committee received 55 applications. Now, the program receives 65-80 applications each semester, and 40-50 projects are funded. Since its inception, 589 awards have been granted.

The spring 2018 deadline is April 9. Students are encouraged to ask their faculty mentor to review the materials before submission.

“WKU faculty members are passionate about engaging students in meaningful research experiences, and the FUSE program is one important way that the Office of Research & Creative Activity provides support for these endeavors,” said Dr. Cheryl Davis, Associate Provost for Research and Creative Activity. “The FUSE program is designed to provide highly motivated students with a unique opportunity to work with a faculty mentor to develop a project plan, prepare a budget, and compete for funding to support their own research and creative activities.”

All undergraduate students in good academic standing who will reach at least sophomore status at the time of award may apply. Applications are scored in five categories. To ensure students reserve time in their schedule to complete their research, each awardee is added to UC 400: Mentored Research Experience. The course is a placeholder to account for the time students spend on their project in the first months of the award; it does not have a meeting time or location. Beginning in July 2018, projects will have 12 months to complete.

“Students are working hard on this on top of school work load. For them to be able to do something they are passionate about is amazing,” Gregory said.

For information on WKU FUSE, visit www.wku.edu/research/fuse.php or call the Office of Research and Creative Activity at (270) 745-6733.

The mission of the Office of Research & Creative Activity at WKU is to provide outstanding support for the research, service, creative and scholarly endeavors of our faculty, staff and students. Their staff is dedicated to partnering with the university community to increase external support for these activities, while ensuring compliance with federal, state and institutional regulations.

Posted with permission from WKU News