The Role of Research in Your Educational Experience
By Coyte G. Cooper, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor in Sport Administration
For students at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, the goal should always be to earn an education that transforms perspective in a way that is life altering. At the core of this educational experience is the coursework that you take while pursuing your degree. However, it is important to note that these classes are simply a foundation for you to get your career started on the right foot. In today’s competitive marketplace, it is critical for each student to focus on obtaining unique skill sets that will differentiate them in the job search process. One of the best ways to do this is by seeking out additional experiences that allow you to accumulate knowledge while also building your resume in specific areas. For the purposes of this blog entry, we will focus solely on the potential role of getting involved in research while an undergraduate student at one of the top public institutions in the United States.
What are the Benefits of Research Experience?
The first thing to mention about research experiences is that they offer the opportunity to better understand important areas of specialization within your field of student. In the Department of Exercise and Sport Science alone, this involves innovative areas such as following: impact of concussion in sport (Athletic Training/Sports Medicine), influence of exercise on obesity (Exercise Physiology), and the role of leadership in sport organizations (Sport Administration). While this is just a small sample of the areas being researched, you can clearly see that there is great potential to gain knowledge that will help enhance your career in the future. In addition, with the quality of faculty and staff at UNC, getting involved in research can also provide you with solid one-on-one time with individuals who can truly add value to your education and professional career moving forward.
How to Get Involved in Research?
If you are interested in getting involved in research, there are a few specific things that I would recommend as you seek out experiences. First, identify the career paths that you feel like you could be truly passionate about. This is important because it will allow you to narrow down the potential careers that are most intriguing to you, and as a result you will be far more efficient when seeking out valuable research experiences. Once you have done this, it would be wise to spend time looking over faculty profiles on the Exercise and Sport Science (EXSS) website to determine individuals and/or research areas that would interest you. In addition, you can scan the EXSS promotional boards in Fetzer and Woollen to find both faculty research samples and potential research opportunities. This information gathering process will put you in a prime position to enhance your chances at a successful connection when you touch base with faculty members.
The Finishing Touch: Creating a Collaborative Connection
It is safe to say that most faculty members want to work with high quality students who have a proactive mindset. In other words, they are most likely to invest time in individuals who have a drive to go out and get the things they want. Ultimately, it is these students who will add the most value to research projects. What better way to demonstrate this trait than by actively reaching out to inquire about getting involved in research initiatives? In addition, it would be wise to ask if the faculty member would be willing to meet with you to discuss their research line in your initial contact with them. If you are passionate about working with a specific individual, let them know that you are willing to volunteer in any project to help get your foot in the door. And as you go through this process, be persistent if getting involved in research is something that you are passionate about. This is a mindset that will benefit you far beyond your initial experiences volunteering in research while at UNC.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @coytecooper