Find Out What It's Like to Be An Excel Research Scholar
First-generation college student Shannon Heitkamp began her freshman year at UST knowing that she eventually wanted to pursue graduate-level study.
What she didn’t know was that she’d be able to get a taste of it before earning her undergraduate degree—thanks to the Excel Research Scholars Program.
“This summer, I am going to the University of Michigan—I’m very excited about that,” Shannon said. While there, she’ll participate in the university’s Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), which includes graduate-level research alongside a faculty research mentor.
“I’m a little nervous about it, since it’s my first time living that far away from home, but I think the Excel Program has prepped me really well,” Shannon said. “I don’t think I would have felt as confident about going if I hadn’t gone through this program.”
As an Excel Research Scholar, Shannon spent the summer after her sophomore year conducting research alongside faculty mentor Dr. Susan Callaway. She also attended a variety of seminars about research, presentation skills, the graduate school application process, and more together with her classmates in the 2013-2015 cohort of Excel Research Scholars.
“The first weekend the five of us were all together, we talked about what it means to be a learning community, and I think we all just grabbed on to that really well,” Shannon said. “I think that community aspect has been really important to shaping where I’ve gone. Having that support is great, and we’ve definitely made some lifelong friendships.”
This support system—from the four other classmates in her cohort, as well as the writing support, presentation training and academic counseling provided by the program’s staff—has given Shannon a strong foundation for her future research experiences.
In summer 2013, Shannon’s research focused on the experiences that international students have—both with writing academically in English, and also with conversational English. In spring 2014, as a Collaborative Inquiry Grant recipient, Shannon had the opportunity to work with Dr. Callaway again. This time, her research focused on how perceived differences between writing consultants and the students they are serving could affect a consultation.
“Dr. Callaway was great—she was so supportive in all different aspects of my research experience, not just the academic aspect,” Shannon said. “If I came into a meeting all flustered and stressed out, she’d help me take a step back and evaluate what needs to be done,” she said.
Shannon also had an informal mentor from the Economics side of her major: Dr. Monica Hartmann. “Dr. Hartmann has helped me brainstorm ways that I can combine both the qualitative side of my English major with the quantitative side of my Economics major,” Shannon said. “She’s also been really great in helping me discover programs like the one I’ll be doing through the University of Michigan.”
Through the Excel Research Scholars Program, Shannon has found herself going further academically than she had previously imagined. “The Excel Program has completely changed how I view college, my work ethic and my own research, as well as what I’m capable of,” she said. “It’s been really empowering.”