Elon University is known for the vast amount of opportunities for learning and growth that it offers to its students. Such opportunities range from exotic study abroad courses to career development to service learning, but one of the most valuable, though often overlooked, is research.

With the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR) occurring this past weekend and SURF Day approaching in the coming weeks, it is an appropriate time to recognize the research students have done and think about other ways to get involved. 

The university defines research as “activities undertaken by an undergraduate student with significant faculty mentoring that lead to new scholarly insights and/or creation of new works, add to the discipline and involve critical analysis of the process and/or outcome of the activities.” Currently, approximately 25 percent of students participate in mentored undergraduate programs.

For many, the term undergraduate research immediately brings about thoughts of conventional or stereotypical research with beakers and chemical reactions, but students of any discipline can engage in undergraduate research — including the kind not in a laboratory. 

One of the biggest problems with research at Elon is the fact that many students do it simply to fulfill a requirement or gain credit for an Experiential Learning Requirement (ELR). Elon College Fellows and Honors Fellows are required to complete research as a part of the program, and many students conduct research to simply be able to graduate as fellows.

However, it is important to remember that the university establishes such requirements for a reason. Students must recognize the numerous ways that research can help them and the greater community.

Through the ELR, Elon hopes to encourage experiential learning for students through giving them opportunities to incorporate experiences into their education across a number of different fields. Research is considered one of these experiences because it allows students to take what they are learning in the classroom and ask new questions, form predictions and reach conclusions.

Conducting research is necessary in answering important questions that can further academic disciplines or contribute toward solving bigger issues. Instead of looking at it as simply a requirement, students must look at the bigger picture to realize what their research can accomplish.

In addition, research should not only be viewed as something done as an undergraduate, but also as a career. Many professors at Elon continue to conduct research in their career. Often, results from research in a number of different fields yield answers that can help people, a goal that so many college students have for themselves. 

The research students conduct in college can be used as the groundwork for further research in their professions. It can be much more than just a requirement if students take the time to develop research proposals to their full potential and take the time to reach out to professors who will help their ideas flourish.

The university also places a large emphasis on the mentoring process during research. Through research, students have the unique opportunity to work intimately with their research mentor. This chance to learn from an experienced professor in a one-on-one setting is so valuable to the learning process and is a privilege that is rare for students not pursuing research.

When we consider the opportunities for research Elon students are given, the percentage of those participating in research should be much higher than just 25 percent. The opportunities are here to give students a multi-dimensional learning experience, and they should be utilized.