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Publicizing Research Opportunities for All

As long-time readers of the musings may recall, last year the College asked every department to come up with a plan to support the Research Opportunities for All initiative. This year, we’ve received only one major note about it: A comment that funds were available to support Research Opportunities for All in classes [1]. But that’s it. There seem to be no public descriptions of the research opportunities available in each department. That’s strange, particularly since liberal arts and mentored research form one of the three pillars of a Grinnell education identified by Ologie, our marketing firm [2].

As much as I am loath to make more work for department chairs, I do think it is important that we follow through on this commitment. Hence, I am planning a letter to appropriate administrators. A draft follows.

Dear [Someone or other],

I am writing with questions and comments about the Research Opportunities for All initiative. Last year, every department spent a significant amount of time identifying those opportunities and how to prepare students for those opportunities. This year, the only thing I’ve seen about the initiative is a note that funding is available for in-class research experiences.

I find that puzzling, particularly given that Ologie has identified liberal arts and mentored research as one of the three pillars of a Grinnell education. If our marketing scheme centers on mentored research, and the Research Opportunities for All initiative is a core aspect of mentored research at Grinnell, shouldn’t we be telling current and prospective students more about it?

However, we seem to have no public description of how each department is providing these opportunities. The College’s Research Opportunities page at doesn’t even mention the initiative.

I’d like to suggest that we take the logical next step and incorporate the Research Opportunities for All descriptions in public parts of our Web sites. A natural starting place would be the College catalog. In some ways, the new initiative has a similar status to honors within the discipline and deserves promotion in a similar way. A public Web page that lists all of the departmental responses might also be appropriate. I’ve also just discovered that each department has an Opportunities page on the Web site, such as We might also consider putting the information there. In any case, the information should be out there somewhere.

It may, of course, be that Ologie is already making plans for some kinds of publicity. However, it strikes me that publicizing the details, rather than the generalities of Research Opportunities for All is our responsibility, rather than theirs.

I look forward to hearing from you about what next steps are planned and to contributing as I am able.


– SamR

I’ve now written a draft. I’m happy to post this version as my current musing, but I need a day or two to wait and reflect on the tone and content before I send it along. I clearly won’t reach the five sentences limit that some administrators suggest, but this piece strikes me as more of a memo than as the type of email for which five sentences are appropriate.

Postscript: As I was writing this piece, I did a Web search for Grinnell and Research Opportunities for All. All of the top hits were my musings. That’s a bad sign. Even searching on the College Web site brings up one of my musings. Of course, it also brings up the Opportunities pages for many departments [3,4]. We should work on that for CS. I also tried searching for the less-accurate Research Experiences for All [5] I didn’t have luck with that, either.

Postscript: I’m getting sick of writing out Research Opportunities for All. It’s time for an incomprehensible TLA+ [7]. From now on, I will refer to them as RO4A [8]. Or maybe I should use ResOpForAll. No, RO4A is better.

Postscript: I’m reflecting on something related to Ologie. Should I carbon copy Communications on my comment? Careful cogitation compels me to conclude that I should constrain my communications choices [9].

[1] Since CSC 322 is one of the ways the CS department supports Research Opportunities for All, I used those funds to support the alumni mentor visits to CSC 322.

[2] In case you care, here are the three pillars, at least as they were described to me in a message from Communications.

  • Academics: liberal arts and mentored research, powered by constant innovation and creativity
  • Commitment: exploring issues of purpose, responsibility, and justice on campus and beyond
  • Community: bringing together and celebrating diverse perspectives and global understanding

[3] I didn’t realize it, but Computer Science has one, too. We should probably update it to include WGMC, Pioneer Weekend and the Hackathon, the Walker Prize, the Noyce award, and more.

[4] After discovering the opportunities pages, I updated the letter to suggest those as alternate locations for the Research Opportunities for All text.

[5] Research Experiences for All is less accurate because we do not think that every student will want a research experience. It may also be that not all students end up equipped to do a research experience. But we’d like to provide every qualified student [6] with the opportunity to engage in research if they desire.

[6] That is, almost every student.

[7] Three-letter-acronym plus ….

[8] At least after the first time I write it out.

[9] I am unsure as to why I felt the need to attempt to alliterate in that appendix. Sometimes it just happens and I go with the flow [10]. I’m sure that more mature writers avoid such habits.

[10] Or follow my fickle feelings.

Version 1.0 of 2018-03-23.