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2023 - Good Fellows

Tags: Academics | Student Profile
Published 06/26/2023
The first CURIC fellowship cohort

The first CURIC fellowship cohort

"Student-led research of this caliber just isn't done at the community college level," shared Mia Hardy, PhD, assistant professor of sociology and founder of the new Center for Undergraduate Research, Innovation, and Creativity (CURIC). "It's rarely done at the four-year college level." But now, Elgin Community College offers students a unique faculty-mentored research and engagement opportunity.

The first CURIC fellow cohort consisted of 12 students. Fellows commit to one semester or one year, and Hardy pairs students with a faculty member to guide and assist them throughout the research process. A central theme of the CURIC program encourages students to research subjects that embody the students and their interests.

Student Brynn Brancamp's research involved analyzing the personal experience and the cultural perspective of one who is transgender. "I was interested in CURIC because it seemed like a great stepping stone and turning point in my career to perform an autoethnography on my own life," said Brancamp.

Brancamp aims to use the research topic to make a difference in the lives of others. "That's part of CURIC and innovation, to better understand not only what I've gone through but understand a greater scope of what others have gone through."

"These projects are mind-blowing, with resource allocations students can utilize to help their projects come to fruition," said Hardy. One resource for each project is a $500 discretionary grant, which students can use for project materials to help carry out the research. Fellows also receive a $250 credit to their student accounts for each semester of participation.

Karina Santana focused her research project on the urban community college student perception of academic and career successes. "I looked into factors that might contribute to students' struggles with education, specifically minority students," said Santana. "As a person of color, my research was eye-opening. This journey provided so much educational growth, which is very important to me."

Santana worked beside fellow students Mariah White and Ariana Puebla. "I never did anything like this before, and I wanted to make more connections in the school," said White, a first-generation college student. "This research showed me that feeling supported is one of the most important factors in student success. When someone backs you up and encourages you, it motivates you to continue your education."

For Santana, White, and Puebla, support from faculty mentors Hardy and Marisol Rivera, PhD, assistant professor of history, affords them more than just research skills. "The energy was great, and the center showed me the kind of people we, as students, get to work alongside. There was so much support," said Santana.

Rivera became a CURIC faculty mentor to pay forward her mentors' critical influence on her education. "As a student, it was a blessing to have mentors who took the time to share their experiences and explain to me the expectations at the higher levels of education," said Rivera. "Being a mentor to these students has been a great experience. Seeing them acquire and apply skills they will use throughout their academic and professional careers is one of the most fulfilling experiences of being an educator."

The experience the CURIC fellows receive is significant and prepares them for academic research beyond ECC. "CURIC connected me with educators I may not have met here at ECC," said White. "They gave me different perspectives on what direction I can take as a first-generation college student. Before CURIC, I didn't have that push that made me realize I can do all these things as a mother and a full-time student."

ECC CURIC fellows, faculty mentors, and project titles:

1-Tracy Altheide, Faculty Mentor, Professor Glenn Earl

The Value of Competency-based Education Resources for Returning Students

2-Emma Bell, Faculty Mentor, Assistant Professor Mia Hardy, PhD

Privilege in the Juvenile Justice System: A Qualitative Examination of Lived Experience

3-Brynn Brancamp, Faculty Mentor, Instructor Brian Bohr

Swimming Against the Stream: A Critical Performance on Gender Fluidity

4-Taina Caraballo, Faculty Mentor, Adjunct Faculty Christopher Newman, JD

The Patterns of History: The Perception and Control of Disease Outbreaks


Recidivism and the Illinois Prison System

5-Tiffany Jensen, Faculty Mentor, Professor Liddy Hope, PhD

Researching the New Recovery Support Specialist (RSS) Program in Human Services and Accompanying Tracking Mechanisms

6, 7, 8-Chuck Harder, Melanie Thomas, and Lisa White,

Faculty Mentor, Professor Joseph Rosenfeld, PsyD

The Neuroscience Underpinnings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous

9, 10, 11-Ariana Puebla, Karina Santana, and Mariah White,

Faculty Mentors, Assistant Professor Mia Hardy & Assistant Professor Marisol Rivera, PhD

Community College Students’ Perceptions of Factors Impacting Academic and Career Success

12-James Monroe, Faculty Mentor, Adjunct Faculty Christopher Newman

Analyzing the Development and Use of the French Meunier A6 Rifle