A cohort of undergraduate students got hands-on experience in community engagement as part of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).
Students participated in mālama ʻāina by assisting in the native Hawaiian plant section and learning about the ahupuaʻa as well as native, canoe and invasive plants from staff at the UH Mānoa Lyon Arboretum.
One of those taking part was UH Mānoa junior dietetics major Gemady Langfelder, whose research involves a mobile health app that tracks fruit and vegetable intake by using carotenoid content as a biomarker to prevent and treat diseases such as obesity. Post graduation plans include obtaining her masters in public health with a focus on nutrition at UH Mānoa and motivating communities to adopt healthier habits and lifestyles.
“It’s been amazing,” said Langfelder. “I’ve met a lot of really cool people, with similar interests and learned a lot about graduate admission in one of the events that was held by SURE.”
Through SURE, UH faculty and staff lead professional development modules to help undergraduate students hone their professional and academic skills while engaging in faculty-mentored research and creative works. Students can confer with their cohort about the challenges, solutions and rewards they experience when working on research or creative projects. SURE helps students build a sense of community and place while they are doing sometimes isolated work during the summer.
“What this program does is it helps students build the other skills they may not necessarily get out of their specific research project, so we’re talking about social skills, their interaction with each other. They’re also developing a passion for engaging with the community,” said Jessie Chen, UH Mānoa UROP program coordinator.
SURE culminates with a two-day symposium, August 1–2, for undergraduate students from all disciplines to showcase their research and creative work projects.
The goal is to ultimately prepare students to be engaged community members and leaders in their professions in Hawaiʻi and beyond post-graduation.